Category Archives: Anecdotes

Stuck in a Rut

It’s still snowing in Utah—it’s April, what happened to spring?

I recently had the opportunity to teach a friend visiting from the warm climes of the south how to drive in our Utah snow. To be honest, I’m not sure there was a lot of teaching; it was more like a lot of shoveling, and with the aid of some helpful ice fisherman, a lot of pushing and pulling to get the car out of a ditch.

For her first snow-driving lesson, I decided to pick a place without other vehicles, buildings, or people to run into. So we went up to a nearby lake and used the road leading to the boat ramp. It had just snowed and there was about a foot of new snow on the road. The road to the ramp looked perfect. Only a few ice fishermen had driven on it, so the snow was still rather pristine and there was not much of a tire path created in it yet. When I put my friend behind the wheel, my instructions were for her to get a feel for the snow, experiment with a little acceleration, stopping, starting, little movements right and left—to just get a feel for it all, but to stay in the center, watch out for the ditches on both sides, and drive to the end of the road. She did really well. Actually she did really well for about 10 seconds. Without any real ruts yet in the road, and with only a couple squiggly pickup tracks, it only took a tiny turn off center and a little acceleration to put us in the ditch. It would have been a whole lot easier for her if there had been good ruts in the snow. Once she was stuck in the rut, she could have easily moved forward and reached our destination.

The idiom “stuck in a rut” is all about negative connotations, but I think we need to reexamine and perhaps change the meaning to something like: to establish a path, a direction, develop a plan, and stick to it.

I had about eight months last year when I was stuck in a diet/exercise rut. I established a really good diet and exercised and lost about 25 pounds and felt great. As long as I was stuck in my rut I was super. Unfortunately the holidays came, lots of entertaining folks at home and in restaurants while on the road and just a bunch of stuff. I kept wiggling out of my rut, then lost it altogether and gained most of the weight back and lost the corresponding health benefits. I haven’t been in a rut, I’ve been out of the rut and need to get back in it. Hopefully I think I am back now.

Think about changing your perception. Create a path for your children, for yourselves, and work hard to find and get stuck in your rut. You might get to where you want to go a whole lot faster.

The Right Tool For the Job

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
–Abraham Maslow

autism_articleMost days confirm the reality that you really can’t have to many tools in your toolbox. Today I saw a fourteen-year-old “autistic” young man. Zach has been on program for a number of years and has done quite well in most respects. His parents have been quite pleased with his development and changes, particularly the changes that have occurred in the past year and most significantly in the past three months, when the pieces really started coming together at an accelerated rate. Zach has come from being a constantly stimming, DSA (Debilitating Sensory Addiction) out-of-it, unmanageable, difficult, non-communicative child to a boy who goes everywhere with his family, interacts socially, and has become a fun, interactive member of his family.

At NACD we have over 3000 tools (methods and techniques) that we can pull out of our toolbox when we create a program for a child. Our challenge is to look at the child globally, then look at the various issues to be addressed, determine priorities, evaluate the time and manpower that can be dedicated to the child, and then apply what we feel are the best tools for the job. Most programs for children like Zack incorporate tools to address their health and diet, gross and fine motor issues, sensory issues, hearing, vision, auditory and visual processing, speech and language, behavior, cognition, and academic function. We could easily use 20-30 different tools in each program.

Part of the process for us is to constantly evaluate, replace, and add to our toolbox. Our perception as an organization is that we can never help a child or a family fast enough or take them far enough. Being an international organization and being able to view the results of the application of many tools with thousands of children covering the full spectrum of ability and disability aids in this process. Through the years, although we have this huge toolbox, we are constantly identifying issues for which there are no adequate tools and thus set out to create the needed new tools.

During this past year, and particularly the last three months, we have all seen not just a Zachary who is progressing, but a Zach who is changing. His affect is now that of a typical child; his DSAs have diminished dramatically; he is engaged; and his speech and language have improved about 1000%. This dramatic change was started with a recommendation from us a year ago that the family purchase Zach a fantastic new tool, the iPad. Prior to Zach’s discovery of one of the greatest tools ever created for our special needs children, there was nothing that Zach could do independently or appropriately engage with or in. He needed to have someone engaging him every waking minute of the day, or he would fall into his DSA pit. Zach’s family was successful in teaching Zach to play with the iPad, starting off with 5-10 second exposures to basic cause and effect apps and then gradually increasing the frequency and duration of exposure, as well as the complexity and variety of apps. During this period Zach was able to start using our NACD Simply Smarter Kids-Memory app. With the development of Simply Smarter Kids we had for the first time a tool in our toolbox to actively work on Zach’s short-term memory and working memory. Although we have dozens of 1:1 processing activities as well as software and online programs to address these processing issues, we did not have a really great tool to use with a child at his level of function. With the proper tool we were able to really start teaching Zach how to process what he heard and saw and to think and raise his global level of maturity. Simultaneously we used our TSI (Targeted Sound Intervention): Focused Attention program, which helped Zach to separate and isolate words and language from the world of background noise and interference. Once we had Zach really hearing language and getting his auditory processing moving, we were able to use our new NACD Home Speech Therapist—Speech Therapy for Apraxia app with Zach so that he is now developing the ability to speak and even sing intelligibly. Today was a good day. I’m delighted with the changes in Zach and his prospects for the future, and I’m really pleased with the effectiveness of the new tools in our toolbox. All problems are not nails and hammers can’t fix everything; and it is so sad and tragic that so many practitioners are so content to keep using the same tool over and over again and keep trying to pound that nail.

Learning Isn’t Tough

Learning isn’t tough. It actually can and should be fun and easy. It never ceases to amaze me how our schools can take learning, which can be so much fun and comes quite naturally to all of us, and make it all so very difficult, so painful, and fail so many of our children in the process.

I just saw one of our families who came out to Utah for their two “typical” girls to go skiing on the “best snow on Earth” and to get their evaluations and new programs. Both parents work full time and manage the girls and their short programs as they can. Both of the girls have been doing program since they were about two months old. The girls showed me their stuff at their evaluations, and both are doing very well; but big sister GiGi really showed off. GiGi had an auditory digit span of 5, and her reading tested out at the level of the average child in the nation in the middle of third grade. She has excellent language skills, is quite conversational, bilingual, and was skiing independently on her first day ever on the slopes. GiGi, during her little sister’s eval, sat quietly and read to herself, quite the mature young lady. All and all a great child whose little sister isn’t going to let her get too far ahead. One other rather significant piece of data in the equation is that GiGi is only three years old!

I also just received an email from Lyn Waldeck, one of our evaluators based outside of Dallas. Lyn has raised and home schooled five boys, while working with/for NACD since 1993. Lyn’s boys have all done exceptionally well, and she and all of us at NACD are very proud of all of them. Today’s news was that Grant, Lyn’s youngest, will be starting college classes this fall at fourteen! Grant attended school this year for his first and only school experience so he could get his feet wet in a classroom before taking college classes. He will be attending a really cool STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) school and will be off and running, chasing after his very successful big brothers.

We have seen many of our NACD kids enter college at fourteen and go on to have very successful college experiences and excel in their professions. Learning isn’t tough, but school often is. Someday we might succeed in fixing our very broken educational system, but in the meantime, parents, you had better take charge. Whether your child attends school or not, parents still need to assume the primary responsibility for their child’s education, and, of course, a little NACD program and guidance never hurts.

We are really proud of all of our exceptional children and their exceptional parents.

Related links:

“Raising Expectations”
NACD Guide to Child Development & Education – NACD Bookstore

Light at the End of a Marathon

Congratulations and thank you, Roxane! Roxane ran the entire marathon, not walked and ran, but ran the entire marathon and also raised $1,400 for our scholarship fund. But the biggest event was Roxane’s epiphany. I would like to share with you her own words describing her wonderful experience:

“A personal note about the race that I’d like to share with you. Before the race, I hugged my daughter Mila for making me so strong and allowing me to achieve such a grueling athletic performance. On race day, I received a very big gift. One I could call: ” And with the running, came the healing” …in a very unexpected yet beautiful way. As I walked to the starting line, my shirt proudly said “Mom of 4. My special-need kid rocks.” I realized how much I, as a mourning parent -you know, we all have to move on past the loss of a “perfect” child – needed this final step in my healing. Yes, we helped Mila overcome many of her challenges. Yes, she surpassed all of our expectations. But there was one thing I forbade myself to do for a long time. Maybe out of shame, maybe out of guilt, or to protect her, or for reasons still unclear to me: I did not want the world to know that she had a genetic disorder. I did not even discuss it with many of our family members. I kept it in the hiding from a lot of people I knew. Yet, there I was, walking around 25,000 random strangers letting the world know that my child was different. And that was OK. That was more than OK…that was my very personal running leitmotif. Many people out there were running for cures, lost ones, personal records…and I was running with a bold statement about my own daughter on my shirt, finally letting go of the shame, getting an immense pride out of it. And guess what, that statement healed my soul and also made sure I would run all the way. And for once in my life, that “special-need” label did not drag me down or expect more of me…it made me take off, it took me one step above them all. And with the running came the healing. Final step of a long mourning process, first step of a great marathon race.

Thank you, NACD, and thank you, Mila.”

And thank you, Mila and Roxane. Our NACD moms and kids are the best!

Related Links

Read Roxane’s very personal account of her marathon experience here

Read about her fundraiser here: Part 1 Part 2

Here Comes Super Bowl XLVII – CTE Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Here Comes Super Bowl XLVII- CTE Chronic Traumatic EncephalopathyNext Sunday a huge percentage of our population will be watching the Super Bowl. I won’t be one of them. I will actually be seeing kids in Cincinnati, or I would probably be one of the millions watching the game. I honestly try to watch the Super Bowl more as a piece of cultural literacy than out of a great passion for watching the sport. My passion for organized football ended in junior high school in my very first and last “organized” football game. My coach directed me to go in and “take out” a player on the other team. I proceeded to walk off the field, never to return.

This morning, Sunday January 25, on ABC News- This Week, I heard George Will make some meaningful statements about football, statements that mirrored my own thoughts. George Will said, ”The most important letters in football are not NFL, but CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the cumulative impact of brain damage of small unrecognized, unrecorded impacts in a game that is inherently dangerous.”

My boys wanted to play football, but I would not permit it. Spending your life trying to fix brains tends to give you tremendous respect for an intact healthy brain. If we are fortunate enough to have healthy children, we really need to do everything we can do as responsible parents to protect and nourish that brain. We parents are responsible. These decisions as to whether our children engage in inherently dangerous activities are not their decisions to make; they are ours. In like manner it’s not our children’s decisions as to whether they eat healthy food or do the things that are required to learn responsibility or to develop their brains or become educated. As adults they can make all the decisions they want; but responsible parents do not abdicate important life altering decisions to children who are ill equipped to be making such life altering choices. As parents you can decide whether or not football is safe and establish your own opinions on nutrition, education, and everything else concerning your children; but you need to be the one making the decisions, not your children. In the end you are responsible for the consequences; they just have to live with them.