Category Archives: NACD Families

Mark Turner – Breaking New Ground & Making New Records

Mark Turner, trick skiing at the 2015 World Disabled Water Ski Championships, Sacramento, California

Mark Turner, trick skiing at the 2015 World Disabled Water Ski
Championships, Sacramento, California

One of the great rewards of my work is hearing updates from families I’ve seen in the past. Now that I have been working with kids for fifty years, some of these kids are actually getting fairly old themselves. I recently heard from one of the families I worked with in the 80’s and surprisingly, also heard from two other families that I hadn’t seen in decades on that same day. It was a very nice day!

When Mark Turner’s mother wrote to me to let me know about the terrific things Mark was doing and to thank me for the help we had given her when he was a young boy, I was surprised, as I was immediately able to picture Mark, his Mom and to recall specific events from his evaluations. At NACD we all refer to the kids as “Our Kids”—not patients, clients, labels or diagnoses. The families of “Our Kids” are “Our Families”. I don’t know to what degree most of the families perceive others on our team or me as part of their families except for obvious exceptions, like those who refer to me as “Uncle Bob”, but we do feel like part of theirs and feel honored to be able to help them and participate in their children’s development.

Mark is doing great and breaking new ground for those with disabilities, but I will let his mother tell a bit of his story. Needless to say, I am very proud of Mark and his Mom and really appreciate their taking the time and reaching out to me. I hope they can be an inspiration for others, they have been for me.

—Bob Doman

The following is a testimonial provided by Chyril Turner and is reposted from The National Association for Child Development – Testimonials – Mark Turner:

It is natural for parents to feel concerned about how to help their children live fulfilling lives. Parents of children with special needs have additional concerns. My son, Mark Turner, was nine days old when he became paralyzed due to complications related to a congenital heart defect. He is now 39 years of age and enjoys a very rewarding life. We attribute a good deal of his success to the program developed by Bob Doman and the National [Association] for Child Development. I am so grateful for all the recovery Mark has experienced on this program and have the peace of mind that comes from seeing him achieve his dreams. Mark’s story is shared in the hope of inspiring others to believe in themselves, do the rigorous work that it sometimes takes to meet life’s challenges and to follow their own dreams.

Mark’s paralysis occurred in the lower portion of his body. He was originally placed on a traditional physical therapy program that utilized the best practices traditional medicine had to offer at that time. He made good progress and yet, when he was two years old, I was shocked to learn that the next phase of his program would be occupational therapy. The new goal would be to teach him to cope with his special needs. The widespread belief at that time was that significant neurological return was not likely to occur after two years from the time the paralysis began. Giving up hope for recovery was unacceptable, leading me to search for a program that would further the neurological development that he was still experiencing. Eventually we connected with NACD.

Bob Doman and his team, taught Mark’s brain about the part of his body that did not adequately receive neurological signals. Mark participated in the NACD program for about twelve years and made significant progress. One of my favorite examples occurred when he was about four years old. He was sitting in the seat of a grocery cart facing me and talking excitedly about something. All the sudden, he started moving one of his legs from side to side. Wow! He had moved this same leg from front to back, but never side to side! It still touches my heart to recall this precious moment.

While on the NACD program Mark developed a great deal of confidence in his physical abilities, and his self-esteem was significantly enhanced. He came to believe he could do anything he wanted to do in life and Bob was one of the biggest supporters of Mark’s ever growing confidence.

When Mark was 13 years old, he began participating in disability waterskiing. He loved it and his desire to improve his skills also became a strong teacher of his brain. Every time he would set a goal to reach his next challenge in slalom, trick and jump skiing, his brain had to figure out how to use his body in a new and very specific way related to each type of skiing.

Mark eventually became a national champion and was a member of the United States Disabled Water Ski Team competing in five world events. This provided the opportunity to travel throughout many countries, including England and two world events in Australia. He received the title of World Champion in slalom skiing, and has held two world records in this event. He has also held the title of Best All Around (slalom, trick and jump) for his division.

Mark is now making world history in a new way. A few years ago, he was doing exhibition skiing at tournaments for skiers who do not have physical disabilities. Exhibition skiing is a very important way to get the word out about disability skiing. While he was watching the other skiers, Mark realized he had a good chance of competing and placing. He has become the first skier in the world with a disability to win medals in his age category at tournaments for skiers with regular needs. Currently, he has placed in the top tier at the state and regional levels and has skied in the national championships.

In addition to his focus on tournament skiing, Mark works full-time for a major international travel company. He also serves as a volunteer at clinics, where he teaches people who have paralysis, amputations or visual impairments to learn to ski. He provides individual coaching as well for established skiers with or without special physical needs. Mark is also one of the co-creators of a contemporary documentary film about the history and empowerment of disability water skiing, H2O Effect: Disability Water Skiing From Beginning to World Championships! Here is a link to this 33 min. film:

Much of Mark’s incredible drive and self-confidence can be directly attributed to the tenacity he developed while participating in the rigorous NACD program. He and I would like to thank the team at NACD for all they have done, and to thank everyone who has supported this extraordinary organization in any way. To all the parents of children in programs at NACD, may you experience the kind of peace of mind and joy that we have found with NACD guiding the way.

Sincerely,
Chyril Turner

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

You don’t have to be perfect.

This insightful and profound statement is coming from this soon-to-be eighteen-year-old lovely, trilingual, beautiful and wonderful young lady who just happens to have Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome)—Arianna Dinwoodie-Palmes.

Arianna lives in Barcelona, Spain. She reads and speaks fluent Catalan, Spanish and English. She attends a school where classes are taught in Catalan and Spanish. She learned English from her dad, who is from the United States. She takes a theater class once a week with “typical” kids, personally takes care of enrolling in the course every three months and pays for all her classes. She also does gymnastics with kids who have some learning challenges. She lives in an inclusive world. She navigates the very big, chaotic city of Barcelona on her own, taking public transportation to and from school while meeting with friends for movies, lunch and other social events. She loves Zumba, singing and doing research projects on the Internet and is very concerned about ecology and pollution. She is finishing high school this year and is looking forward to trade school next year, focusing on administration, sales and customer service. She is a happy, caring, typical teenager, who also happens to have Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome).

The video (see above) was Arianna’s idea and she wrote her own scripts. These are her unedited thoughts and words—in three languages! Arianna’s level of function makes her normal. Arianna’s insight, personality, smile and overall goodness make her exceptional—exceptionally wonderful!

You don’t have to be perfect.

Such a simple, obvious, but profound statement, particularly when viewed in light of the still staggering numbers of fetuses identified as having Down syndrome that are aborted. Recent research states that in the U.S. there is a termination rate of 67% of fetuses following a prenatal diagnosis of DS. None of us are, none us will ever be and none of us need to be perfect.

Somehow our enlightened, educated and politically-correct society has created and perpetuated the myth that some of us are not miracles of creation, that we do not have limitless potential and thus are condemned by myopic prejudice to be deprived of the right to live; or are often condemned by perceptions of limited potential and given limited “appropriate” opportunities that are commensurate with the perceptions.

Arianna is one of our NACD kids. She has been on one of our TDI Targeted Neurodevelopmental Intervention Programs since she was a year old. She and thousands of other NACD kids are reflections of what can be, given the opportunity. Defining opportunity as having dedicated proactive parents who, when given the tools and the vision, can truly provide their child with an opportunity. We all need to be perceived as having unlimited potential and giving the opportunity to achieve, but we also need to realize that, “You don’t need to be perfect.

After all, isn’t being less than perfect what defines us as being human?

—Bob

Two A’s and a B and Lots of Smiles

I believe we are at about thirty-three thousand feet and the pilot is about to tell us all to stay put as we enter a storm system over the Rockies. I’m heading home. Today was my last day on a two-city trip. On this trip I saw adults and kids in Cincinnati and St. Louis.

As I’m heading home I can’t help but smile as I think about the kids and adults I’ve seen over the last two weeks and all we shared.

NACD Bob Doman Blog - AllyMy trip started off with Ally. Ally is one big giant perpetual smile. She smiles as she comes in the door, she smiles as I speak with her parents about what a “turkey” she can be, she smiles after she shows me her walking and she smiles and waves goodbye—“See ya Bob.” Ally is twelve and is now, after lots and lots of work, starting to walk on her own. She is in a typical classroom and doing well academically. She still needs large print, but reads well. She talks up a storm and is generally a delight, although she loves to torment her mom and dad. I first saw Ally when she was 10 months old. Ally was shaken by her babysitter when she was four and half months old and severely brain damaged. By the time I saw her, just months after her injury, she had shunts in both sides of her brain to relieve the pressure, had suffered retinal hemorrhages and essentially had no vision, was diagnosed with infantile spasms (severe seizures), was on two different seizure medications and was recovering from breaks to both legs and her left arm. Devastating, but Ally’s parents are exceptional folks and have worked wonders with her. Every time I see Ally I remember where she was; and although she has many pieces yet to be put together, she is a trooper, doing great and smiling!

NACD Bob Doman Blog - Abby - Down SyndromeSt. Louis started with Abby, a seven-year-old ball of fire. She runs in the room with her mom and throws her arms around me and gives me a big smack on the cheek. Abby has Down syndrome, but it surely isn’t slowing her down. She’s in a typical 2nd grade class—academically and socially right there with her peers. But I’d be willing to bet that Abby generates more smiles and warms more hearts per minute than 99.9% of the kids on the planet. Typically, when she leaves her evals she turns, waves, throws me a kiss and impishly says, “Bye, Bobby.” More smiles!

Today, my last day of the trip, I saw Brae who just started on program in February and today her two sisters came in for programs. Both of the girls are going to be absolutely brilliant. Brae has a genetic disorder that has the long name of Inverted Duplication Deletion 8p. To her family and me, she is just cute, fun, smiling Brae with unlimited potential. Today she came in and from across the room looked at me, eyes focusing and working together, converging and gave me a huge smile—a smile that remained in place throughout our time together. Today I got to see her walk by herself without as much as a finger of support. Big deal! Gargantuan deal—wonderful!  I also got to hear her talk. Big deal! Gargantuan deal! And I got to see her smile, I got to see her mom smile and when they left, her mom gave me a big hug and we shared the miracle of her girls. Brae and her sisters made my day special. Another in a stream of literally thousands and thousands of wonderful days filled with incredible people.

 

 

As I sit here in the plane and think about the trip and the incredible range of issues that needed to be addressed, I ponder, as I do in virtually every waking moment and through most of the night, how do we do this better. I know there are a lot of things our kids and adults aren’t doing yet, that we need to figure out and work on, but as I review our time together, we had smiles—big smiles and lots of them. Wherever they or their children are on their voyage, however far we are striving to go, everyone of them, everyone of the parents were smiling about who their kids are today, valuing them for who they are and appreciating where they are on their journey. We were all thankful for them.

We see kids for who they are, for what they can do, for what joy we can bring to their lives and what joy they can bring to ours and others’ and we all share in the joy of watching them grow. I feel humbled and privileged to be able to participate in the process.

Thanks!
—Bob

Fletch Rocks!

Meet Fletch. This little guy has been on an NACD program since he was one and is another great example of what kids can do if given the opportunity.

Fletch is fun, happy and at age three-and-a-half during his last evaluation was processing almost five digits, was reading over a hundred words, understanding basic math concepts, conversational and excelling physically.

This video of Fletch on the climbing wall was his very first time climbing—the very first time! On his second climb, he went to the top of a 55-foot wall. Fletch’s ability to do this well on his first attempt as a three-year-old (and according to his instructor, better than most of his twelve-year-old students) is a reflection of Fletch and who he is, but also of his superior processing skills. Short-term memory, working memory, and executive function permitted him to look at the challenge and understand that he was going to be safe and that it was going to be fun. Watching him on the wall is a reflection of his focus, attention, planning, organization of his motor skills, proprioception, and maturity.

Fletch is a great kid with a great future and another NACD kid who is showing people what is possible.

The key to development and education is building the foundation and helping the child realize their potential. Fletch is unique. All children are unique, and they all have incredible potential. We need to help everyone understand that the key is building the neurodevelopmental foundation, turning children onto learning, providing them with opportunities, then standing back and getting out of their way.

– Bob

A New Beginning – Arielle Doman

NACD Blog Bob DomanMy son Laird and his lovely wife Sadie have gone and done it, they have brought a baby girl into my family at last. I have two great sons and three grandsons, but have really wanted a granddaughter. Granddad was ready for a girl. My first granddaughter (wow!) Arielle is a beautiful little girl, just 4lbs 11oz. at birth, strong and healthy and after her first week doing spectacularly well.

In the case of our little Arielle, the first thing I do when I see her is smile—actually it’s probably more of a big grin. She is just such a wonderful miracle, and I am so happy to have her with us and thrilled for my son and his wife. After I do the silly grin thing with her, I do what I do with all babies.

When I look at babies, and my little granddaughter is no exception, I have to bite my tongue to not say “what?” out loud. In reality I generally lose the battle and just say it—“what?” Then look around to see the expressions on people’s faces as they wonder what I’m doing asking questions of a tiny baby, “what is going on in that new little brain?”

Yesterday, as I watched Ari stare at my face and start tracking me as I moved from side to side I couldn’t help but wonder what she was processing. You don’t pay attention to something unless you are actually processing something. Is her brain perhaps already putting together the first pieces that are going to build into a uniquely special Arielle composite that is going to be Granddad? I think so. Then I ask myself the question, “what can we help you become?”

I believe she was born with a lot of things, her genetics are going to have a great influence on how tall she will be, what color hair she will have, how much she favors my son or his wife, and to some extent her personality is probably a bit hardwired. Certainly there are some unique innate intelligence and intelligences that are hardwired as well. But, I don’t believe these things have a lot to do with Ari’s or any other child’s potential to have a happy, wonderful life or to be smart, educated and free to pursue her passions. How close she comes to realizing the dream of a wonderful life is going to be primarily a reflection of her opportunities, not her genetics. My son and his wife realize this and were ready to assume this tremendous responsibility before they made the conscious decision to bring her into this world. They are going to be fantastic parents and I will be delighted to take this journey with them, as will the rest of her family. Children bring to families a lot of responsibility, tremendous love, hope, joy, and a bump or two (or a hundred) to keep it interesting.

I don’t wish to be prejudiced, but I have got the darn cutest little granddaughter on the planet and its really going to be tough to not spoil her really bad, but then again you can’t really give a granddaughter too much love—right?

As I ponder Arielle’s future and what she is going to bring to our lives and we to hers I can’t help but be a bit sad thinking about all of those children who have virtually no opportunities, let alone wonderful opportunities. We need to acknowledge this imperative and figure out ways to make some changes.

A special thanks to little Ari from Granddad—I really appreciate your being aware of my travel schedule and coming early so I could be there to help welcome you into the world.

And, now for the rest of the story…

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