LETTER TO THE EDITOR from Heather Brooks
“Why is it so hard for him to do his schoolwork?” That is the question my husband and I asked every school day for the first four years of my son’s school life. Our daughter, three years older than our son, had no problem doing what was expected at school. So why couldn’t he do the same?
J. Cole is an extremely bright and articulate kid. As parents, we knew how smart he was. So, we were bewildered when despite many types of rewards and consequences he still was struggling with his work in K-2nd grades. His troubles with peer relationships began in 2nd grade. He was very sensitive and would often complain that he was being picked on by other kids. He was overwhelmed by the amount of work he was required to complete, but his teachers all said that he wasn’t being rebellious. We were at a loss.
In his second grade year, we had him evaluated for ADD. The evaluation consisted of a form completed by his teachers and my husband and I. Because we are both pharmacists, we resisted the idea of medicating him. Along with the side effects medication brings, we thought it seemed like a patch job, not a permanent solution. The evaluation forms revealed a diagnosis of ADD, primarily inattentive type. We finally decided we had no choice but to medicate him. His struggles were affecting his peer relationships and his perceived self-worth.
I cannot convey the frustration, anger, and confusion we experienced during that time. There were many fights, lots of tears, and such a helpless feeling. During the spring of his third grade year, I felt that there was more to his story than ADD. I decided for a complete psychological evaluation, to confirm or refute the ADD diagnosis and to discover any other problems we might be missing. My thoughts that year were, “I can’t let him enter adolescence, with all the hormonal fluctuations that brings, with the inability to cope he has now.”
After the psychological testing, we had this: a confirmed diagnosis of ADD, a superior ability to reason and comprehend, and a slow processing speed that was a significant weakness and could not be credited to ADD alone. The psychologist recommended a visit to an occupational therapist to assess fine motor issues. She also recommended special accommodations with his schoolwork. We went to the occupational therapist for evaluation and received a recommendation for a certain type of therapy. She gave us a brochure and said to go home and explore their website. So I did. And after about a week of considering it, I decided that I couldn’t not invest the time and money it would take to do the therapy. My thoughts were, “Ok, if it doesn’t work then I’m out some money and time. If I don’t do it, then I’ll always wonder what could he have accomplished? How much stress and frustration would this take away from our lives, especially his?” As an educator, I qualified for the training, and so began our experience with Integrated Listening Systems, or ‘iLs’.
We started the program with J. Cole in November of 2012 and within three months, his STAR reading level had risen by 2.5 grade levels. His STAR math rose by 1.5 grade levels. His motor coordination also improved noticeably, especially evidenced with jumping jacks. You may be thinking, ”He couldn’t do jumping jacks?” Yes, before iLs he could not do two in a row with out his arms and legs getting confused.
We decreased his ADD medications to about two days a week. His emotional regulation improved. He was less overwhelmed. In August of this year (we completed the program in March), we were riding along in the car and out of the blue he began to tell me how nice it was that since doing iLs, he could understand what I was saying with the radio on. “Umm, what? You mean you used to not be able to understand me with the radio on?” He said that after starting iLs, he could better hear what the teacher was saying.
The reason for that change is the improvement in auditory processing in J. Cole’s brain. He can now filter out many of the sounds around him resulting in better attention and better emotional regulation. Many of his struggles began to make sense to me as I learned about how iLs works and witnessed the changes in him. For example, from the time he was a toddler, noisy situations would often result in a “meltdown.” All that noise would overwhelm him and result in an inability to cope. Apply that to the lunchroom at school (very noisy) and it begins to make sense why he was having social problems, which coincidentally mainly occurred in the lunchroom.
Why am I telling J. Cole’s story? Simply because my conscience and my faith will not allow me to withhold this information from others. This summer, iLs launched a Home Supervision Program, which allows better access to the program. I have completed the Home Supervision Program training and can now help others with this awesome therapy.
It can help with ADD or ADHD, autism, dyslexia, emotional regulation disorder, reading and expressive disorders, and sensory processing. And if you want to talk to me about how it could work for you or your child, send me a message through my Facebook account – Brain Training 4 Life, LLC – and I’ll reply back.