Archive for November, 2008

Our paradigm shift

As some families just started their ABR adventure in Montreal, I’d like to share my thoughts about our paradigm shift between traditional therapy and ABR,. A couple of months after we started ABR, I read Kuhn‘s book ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolution‘,  a book that meant a lot in science history and in my personal story. This book allowed me to explain what happend when we changed therapies. It allowed me to understand this proccess fully and gave me some wisdom to handle it better.
We may live it in different ways, but the main story is the same. I’m sharing this because it helped me a lot when we started ABR. Changes are hard, but they are easier if we understand them. I know this post is quite long, but I just can’t take anything out. I must say that I’ve removed most formal references and quotes to make it more friendly. On each subject, I first write about Kuhn’s theory and then how it applies to our paradigm shift. Here it goes…
Our story begins in a periods of what is called normal science. That means there is only one paradigm to work with: conventional therapies. It characterizes for being unquestionable and hegemonic. It means there is a widespread consensus about methods and terminology.
Then comes a period of crisis. It occurs when anomalies are found or an absolute failure of the model is declared (Barber, 1965). In our cause, crisis was motivated by the second one. First, because traditional therapy simply wasn’t working, the problem wasn’t been solved or even getting better, she just get worse. This means the model is not effective. Second, because different profesionals explain same facts with very differents explanations, we didn’t perceive theoretical coherence. The theory could be molded to anyone’s point of view.

However, for years we overlooked this problems because we didn’t know a different paradigm. As Kuhn says, you can only leave one paradigm once there is another one to replace it. It takes just the feeling that something is wrong to lead to a revolution. System failures are usually non explicit, but their consecuences happens beyond our level of awareness. Finally, that a paradigm sees it’s usefullness diminish and it’s vagueness raises is a clear source of crisis. This crisis is the beggining of a search for a better paradigm.

Then is the third period of science: the start of a new paradigm. Between paradigms is a transition period which is never easy or fast. We found a new therapy, dramatically different and highly effective. Our new paradigm was ABR Therapy and it fits all characteristics needed in order to stand for a new paradigm according to Kuhn’s theory.

First, and probably most important of everything for us as parents, in Kuhn’s words, ABR seems to solve the puzzle better than it’s competitors. This therapy is not perfect, and neither should be, but it is much more effective than others at solving the problem. This therapy can revert physical damage in kids with a motor disability, something unthinkable in the old paradigm.

This is not enough for a paradigm to become established, it must also occur something fundamental: the new paradigm must be simplier, more understandable and approachable. This reflects in our story fully, we never understood the old paradigm, things seemed to just happen because of my daughter’s potential and effort. But even more importantly, we didn’t have an explanation of what was happening to our child. Questions such us what is spasticity, why she has clonus, hips subluxation had no answer, if somebody said anything it was to blame the unknown paths of the brain. With ABR we finally understood somewhat what happens to her body, there is now a clear and simple explanation to most of our questions and ABR includes many issues that in the other paradigm are treated independently of her physical problem, for example, strabismus and epilepsy.

Inevitably, after this explanation everything else seemed meaningless to us, as usualy happens after a paradigm shift. Kuhn says ‘chamanic unscientific activities’, I’d call traditional therapy ‘torture’ mostly because of it’s methods. Now things were clear, we understood what was happening and even better, we could work it out. Shifting paradigms was so easy for  us, we didn’t even need to think or talk about it, we had no doubts.

Now that things were clear, we could understand it and work on it, it was easy to make the decision of changing therapies, we didn’t even need to talk or think about it. It was unquestionable. You may say the minute we hear ABR’s introduction, we have made the shift once and for all, as paradigmatic shifts are. In Kuhn’s words: “Due to it’s incommensurability, transition between competing paradigms can’t be made one step at a time forced by logic and neutral experience […] It must be all at once or not all” (Kuhn, 1970: 150).

There was not going back. Life was different now. When we came back home, we had to re-structure our lives. We fired all therapist, we made a special bench for ABR that along with our own hands and some towels would be all our tools now. We throw away and forget about the old ones: prone stander, DAFOs, Botox, streching… They were all hapilly in the past, none of them was plecent for our daughter and it was always difficult as parents to push her into them.

This meant ABR not only in theory is simplear, but also in practice. Our daily routine became more normal, our home more hommy, and my daughter finnaly had time to go to preschool and start making friends. Pretty soon, we changed theory, tools and goals, now we can imagine a very different future. All this means that for us paradigm shift was complete.

Our personal crash with traditional therapy then happened. First, we thought ABR would be a great complement to other therapies, but it opposed our existing therapies. This fulfilled Kuhn’s requirement that new paradigms must completely oppose old ones, they must speak a different language, their explanations must be incomprehensible between each other. “Differences between successive paradigms are both necessary and irreconcilable”. There really was no way to dialogue between both paradigms and, therefore, working together turned out to be impossible.

ABR is a new therapy and none of our old therapists had ever heard about it. Nonetheless, almost every single one of them reject it dramatically. We have been and continue to be harshly criticised by some local profesionals, and some parents to, for our choice. Today I see this as a positive thing, because a competitive paradigm must be rejected by normal science in order to be stablished as the new paradigm. I also understand this is a natural part of the process, science itself wouldn’t exist if scientists didn’t have this level of commitment and trust with their working paradigm. Besides, those who have been instructed under one paradigm and have worked with it for several years, tend to reject paradigm shifts and have a restricted scientific view point, as said by Kuhn.

According to this theory, it usually takes one generation for the paradigm shift to happen. For this reason, science must work without any urgency, but this doesn’t make any sense. There are urgent problems and that doens’t mean they should not be studied, just the opposite. No parent of a special child would be releaved to know that next generations will have a better rehabilitation. Our kids need a solution now. We need a solution now. Fortunatedly, for us that solution is ABR and we just cannot wait until the scientific community decides to change its paradigms. We also get to choose.


  • BARBER, Bernard. 1963. Reviewd work(s): The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn. American Sociological Review, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 298-299
  • KUHN, Thomas S. 1970 (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The University Chicago Prees, Estados Unidos.

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