The concept of basal stimulation was developed by professor Andreas Fröhlich, a German special education specialist who worked with children with severe combined somatic and mental handicaps. Fröhlich showed that the innate (basal) abilities of every human being in the area of perception provide a sufficient starting point for promoting and stimulating perception and communication.
The entire concept is based on findings from the fields of education, physiology, anatomy, neurology, developmental psychology, and nursing. Its basic principle is to mediate sensation using the person’s body and, by stimulating his perceptions, to enable him to better communicate with his surroundings. Its basic elements include movement, communication and perception, and the integration of these elements. It respects each child’s individual personality to the maximum possible extent.
Basal stimulation promotes the overall development of our pupils who are limited in terms of communication, perception, or movement.
We know that if a person’s surroundings are for whatever reason insufficiently stimulating, they can suffer from sensory deprivation. When accompanied by a lack of movement, this is called sensory-motor deprivation. In this regard, professor Fröhlich speaks of secondary damage to the intellect resulting from massive sensory and motor deprivation.
Using the various techniques of basal stimulation, we provide children a much-needed daily dose of stimuli from their own bodies and their surroundings. This promotes the density of dendritic arborization and the creation of new dendritic connections between neurons. The method respects a person’s various developmental stages and is based on personal experiences with one’s own body from the period of prenatal development. Basal stimulation helps our pupils to feel the limits of their own bodies, to experience it personally, and to sense the world around them and the presence of others. It also promotes good interpersonal communication. A good teacher will carefully watch the child’s reactions in order to get feedback as to whether he is working with the pupil at the proper level. Much emphasis is placed on the character of touch. If it is unexpected and without meaning, the child will be startled, unsure or afraid. One should touch the child with sufficient determination, self-confidently and with the proper intensity. If we do so, we can expect our actions to be received positively, to establish much-needed live communication, and to thus pave the way for the further education of our handicapped pupils.
The method’s techniques are divided into basic and extended elements of stimulation. The former includes somatic, vibrational and vestibular stimulation; the latter includes optical, auditory, olfactory, oral, and tactile-haptic stimulation.
During individual teaching, the stimulation of the various areas mutually complements each other. The most commonly used are various physical positions, massage to stimulate breathing, overall or partial stimulating or relaxing baths (massage), manual vibration of the joints in the arms and legs, and rocking or swaying. Other approaches include placing interesting objects into the child’s hands using assisted grasping, and getting to know different materials and surfaces. In view of our pupils’ severe handicaps, it is a good idea to include facial massages, especially the area around the mouth, in order to facilitate food intake. Other activities are aimed at the development of sight, hearing, smell, and taste.