Author Archives: Charles

Fit for the Brain: Buy this, Not that! – The best mat for tummy time

Coach John Wooden, former head basketball coach at UCLA, won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including a record seven in a row. Coach was fond of saying that it’s the little details that are vital to creating success on the court and in life. His wisdom also applies to the development of young children. I’ve got a little details tip for you today that can make all the difference in getting your little one’s mobility off and running… or should I say crawling? Assuming that the brain is functioning well, every newborn baby is an athlete in the making. The mobility pathway that eventually leads to elite physical performance begins at birth and what happens in the first year of life is critically important. I have written about this in a couple previous articles – Mobility – the Key to Brain Development and Olympic Performance and Brain Development.

In the early months of life the main mobility objective is to develop good head and trunk control and for your baby to become comfortable with being in the prone position (on the tummy). But the grand prize is crawling on the tummy for transportation. And this is where paying attention to little details can make a huge difference.

Crawling on the tummy is difficult work! Your baby has to move across the floor with the entire torso in full contact with the surface. Naturally, this causes a lot of friction, thus making movement more difficult. To the extent we can reduce friction, we can make crawling easier. Try crawling on a plush carpet compared to a linoleum floor and you will see what I mean. So, what to do?

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“It’s the little details that are vital.                       Little things make big things happen.”           Coach John Wooden

The answer lies in the little things. In order to facilitate movement we need to minimize friction with a surface that is smooth (like linoleum) and firm, but not hard. We’ve done the research and tried all kinds of surfaces in our work with children who have mobility problems. The best product we have found for them and for little babies is the Tumbl Trak Tumbling Mat. It is smooth, firm (but not hard), colorful, measures 4 ft x 8 ft and folds neatly for storage. The mat comes in two thicknesses, 1-3/8 in or 2 in. For little babies, the thinner mat is perfectly adequate. If you’d like to use the mat for tumbling when your child is older then the 2 in mat is the way to go.

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Many parents place their babies on cloth baby gyms or soft foam ABC play mats or tiles. These may be cute and comfortable but they are entirely unnecessary and make movement more difficult, not easier. Cloth baby gyms usually have a mobile overhead so parents tend to place their baby on the back so baby can see the mobile. That’s nice for vision but it interferes with mobility because babies move on the tummy not the back. A cloth baby gym is fine when your baby needs a break from tummy time and you can also use it in conjunction with the Tumbl Trak Mat to provide an incentive to move forward. Foam ABC play mats or tiles make for a cute room decoration and they cushion falls nicely but they also make movement difficult because they have a rough non-skid texture which creates friction. You have to be careful how you use this equipment. Our advice is don’t waste your money on things your baby doesn’t need especially if they interfere with good brain development.

The Tumbl Trak Tumbling Mat is not cheap. So, think of it as an investment in your child’s future. Nothing influences human brain development and organization more than mobility and how that happens in the first year of life is critical to everything that follows. Your investment will pay huge dividends for years to come.

Let us know how it works for you and feel free to write with questions.

Other related Posts:

Disclaimer: We are in no way affiliated with Tumbl Trak and they do not compensate us for recommending their mat. If you follow the Amazon link in this post we do receive a small portion of the sales via Amazon Affiliates. Any money made from those sales goes directly to supporting the mission of the Reach Family Institute.

It’s RESULTS that count!

This month, we are highlighting Rosalie Kisling, one of our Home Program graduates. Rosalie’s story is one of incredible transformation. We tell her story because everybody knows a Rosalie. You know a Rosalie! Most often, the Rosalies of the world suffer in quiet obscurity. They function just well enough to fly under everyone’s radar and yet poorly enough to fall through the cracks.

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We work with kids across the functional continuum from profound brain injury to above average ability. Most people think the kids at the low end of the continuum are the ones who have the hardest time of it. But that’s not true. It’s the kids like Rosalie who have the hardest time. The truth is society looks at kids with severe developmental difficulties and forgives them for their problems.  Society looks at a kid like Rosalie and finds her wanting. She looks like other kids. She can do everything other kids can do, just not as well. If she doesn’t perform as well it must be because she is lazy or dumb or a troublemaker, etc. etc. Eventually, those simple learning and behavior difficulties become major learning and behavior difficulties with complicated psychological and self-esteem issues that haunt her for a lifetime.

But, what if that view is wrong? What if the root cause of mild difficulties is the same as the root cause of severe difficulties? What if learning and behavior difficulties have an easily understandable cause, and what if that can be changed?

Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

Rosalie was born in April 2001, the third of four children. Rosalie’s mom was concerned about her development from early on.  At 18 months, a developmental psychologist evaluated her and concluded she was at a 9-month level physically and 11 months mentally. The psychologist recommended early intervention. So, Rosalie began early intervention and from 18 months to 3 years old she was followed by occupational and speech therapists and then discharged. At the age of 4 ½, still having difficulties, she was evaluated at Oregon Health Sciences University where they determined that developmentally she was within 1 month of her age. When mother asked about her learning difficulties she was told there was nothing to do about that until she was in school.

Rosalie attended 2 years of preschool and 1 year of kindergarten with children 1 year younger than her. Going into 1st grade, Rosalie was seven years old and behind her five year old sister in reading and math abilities.  So, before 1st grade started her parents asked for help from her school and were told once again that she had to wait. This time she would wait until she was in 3rd grade when the school would administer standard tests for reading and math. At that point the school could determine if she qualified for special services.

Outraged by the suggestion of once again waiting until her child became a bigger failure before getting help, Carrie reached out to the children’s doctor. He recommended they contact the REACH Family Institute as he had a patient diagnosed with Autism who was following REACH’s Home Program with impressive results. Carrie contacted us and we saw Rosalie for the first time in August 2008.

At the Initial Evaluation, her parents main concerns were her learning difficulties, her low self-esteem and her immature behavior. In our functional evaluation, we found Rosalie’s lowest area of function to be her level of understanding. She had no understanding of abstract concepts which explained her difficulties learning to read and learning math despite the fact that she had been kept back in school by 1 year.

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Rosalie’s behavior was very immature and unpredictable. She had major tantrums, what her mom called “meltdowns”, many times a day. Rosalie had very low self-esteem to the point that although she could speak she would not do so with people outside her home. Even in school she rarely spoke. Rosalie had very few friends and the friends she did have were all much younger than her. Finally, Rosalie had poor coordination and poor balance and often did all she could to avoid engaging in physical activities.

Rosalie followed the REACH Home Program for 5 years. We focused on the development and organization of Rosalie’s brain. Why? Because that was the problem. Rosalie’s learning difficulties, her behavior problems, her low self-esteem were all rooted in poor brain development. So we treated the cause. And Rosalie flourished. Learning became easier, she became a voracious reader (how about a Harry Potter book in one weekend?), the “meltdowns” diminished, coordination improved and along with these changes Rosalie’s confidence increased. It took time and hard work but gradually Rosalie blossomed. The big goal then became a successful transition from elementary to middle school, something that can be challenging even for kids who are doing well. In 2013, once Rosalie successfully made the transition to middle school we knew she no longer needed us and she was off program. It was such a great victory!

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So, where is Rosalie today? We asked her mom, Carrie, for an update so we could feature her in this newsletter. Here, in italics and unedited, is what she wrote:

Hi Conceicao and Charlie,

I’m not exactly sure what format you want this in, but I’ll just use descriptions and you can put it in paragraphs, cut and edit or whatever you want.

School – Rosalie is in 8th grade now. She has all A’s and one C (due to an assignment that all of the class did poorly on. She has the opportunity to re-do it, but we are working on getting her to do that. 🙂 ) Conferences were just a couple of weeks ago. All her teachers say she is a hard worker, good listener, and is very quiet. 🙂 Seriously – they all mentioned that she is very quiet – unprompted. I got a kick out of that. 🙂 She asks for help when she needs it, but is hesitant to engage in group or whole class discussions. (So was I at that age!) I am so proud of her! She’s gone from a struggling student to a competent, confident one who works hard and does well!

Band – Band is a class at school, but she is enjoying it. She plays the clarinet. She got selected to be part of the honors band! And is taking leadership a bit in this class. She is a peer tutor (8th graders help 6th graders after school one day a week.). She is also going to participate in the annual solo and ensemble competition. She’s doing a duet with a fellow clarinet player.

Ballet – This past summer, Rosalie decided to try ballet with one of her best buddies. She wanted to do it in the summer, because there was no performance involved. 🙂 At the end of the summer, she was enjoying ballet so much, she decided to continue, and will perform with her class in May in the showcase. It’ a pretty big recital! One would never know she used to lack coordination! She is so graceful, and just seems built for ballet. She says some of the new moves are difficult, and she has to work harder than her classmates to figure them out, but can laugh at herself and keep trying. 

Japan – Ever since Katie went to Japan in 8th grade, Rosalie has wanted to go. She interviewed for the trip last year, but didn’t get selected. We had pitched it as a practice year, so she was not in the least discouraged. This year, she once again applied for the trip. She had to write an essay about why she wanted to go, what she could contribute, and what she could bring back to tell her friends. She had to have two teacher references, and do an interview with a teacher, answering questions about the trip. She did a good job on all those, and she and her sister Natalie both get to go this year! 

Rosalie is very responsible! She does her homework right when she gets home, lays out her things for the next day before she goes to bed, and keeps her room clean. She loves to read – spends hours at it. One of her favorite things to do is to take her iPod outside, put on some music and dance away as if she hasn’t a care in the world, and as if no one is watching her. 🙂 I love to watch her – she really feels the music. She likes to dance in the vineyard. 🙂 She also loves to swing. Being outside is Rosalie’s happy place. 🙂

Sometimes it takes Rosie a bit more thinking to process something, or understand something (like a sports game), she still likes to know our plans (doesn’t like not knowing what’s going to happen) and she has teeny tiny silent tantrums when she’s not happy – usually because I’ve asked her to do something she doesn’t want to do at the moment. 🙂 (What 14 year old doesn’t quietly stomp their foot, slump their shoulders, sigh or roll their eyes once in a while?!) 

So that’s about it! Sorry if this is too long! And I hope it’s not too difficult to edit. 🙂

Thanks for all you do! We attribute Rosalie’s success to your caring, diligent work with her and us, and all we learned from you both! Yes, I know….you will say she and we are the ones who did all the work. 🙂 But we couldn’t have done what we did without your love, knowledge, support, wisdom and teaching. THANK YOU!!!!!!

Love, Carrie

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These are the kinds of changes that are possible for nearly all children who struggle like Rosalie once did. There is absolutely no reason why any child must endure the pain and suffering that goes along with learning and behavior issues.

We chose Rosalie to demonstrate what can happen when we focus on ability rather than diagnosis, when we work on changing the brain rather than treating symptoms, when we shoot for real progress rather than accommodation, and when we empower parents with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed as their child’s most influential teachers.

But, the important point is that Rosalie’s results are not unique. Every child who experiences difficulties in learning and behavior is a child who can benefit greatly from the REACH Home Program. All it takes to change the trajectory is to make the decision to focus on the right things and for parents to get involved. Surely you know a child who sounds just like Rosalie. Please share this story with that child’s parents. You may just save him or her a lifetime of frustration and failure.

World Congress of Families IX

The World Congress of Families (WCF) is an international network of pro-family organizations, scholars, leaders and people of goodwill from more than 80 countries that seek to restore the natural family as the fundamental social unit and the ‘seedbed’ of civil society (as found in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948).

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Conceição and I have been actively involved in pro-family work since the early 1980’s. The reason for this is really quite simple. Much of our work involves trying to help children with developmental difficulties. Those kids need every advantage they can get if they are to overcome the obstacles that lie in their path. So we always shoot for ideal circumstances because they give us the best chance of success. Our experience working with children demonstrates clearly that the key element in successful physical, intellectual, emotional and social development is the family. There is something about the anthropological reality of the family bond that increases a child’s chances of doing well in life. Modern science teaches us much about the neurobiology that underpins this family bond. It tells us that each parent brings unique gifts to the table, gifts that cannot be replicated or replaced. We need to recognize that and celebrate it.

We defend every child’s right to life also for very practical reasons. Many people view the children we work with as drains on society. In a materialistic, utilitarian culture it just doesn’t make good sense to spend resources on those who do not produce. It’s true, many of our kids will never be productive citizens in the materialistic sense. Because of this our kids are on the front line of the “life” issues. They are the first victims of abortion and often are victims of infanticide. We fight against this for many reasons but primarily because it is based on a false premise. Life is full of mysteries and this is surely one of them. Despite functional difficulties, every child has a life purpose, every child has value.

IMG_5831Our families (parents, brothers and sisters, etc.) and their wider community get to see this on a regular basis because they change along with their child. The growth experienced through working with a brain-injured child is, I suppose, unique to each individual. Although I have been under its spell for four decades, I still find it difficult to describe exactly what happens when one works nose to nose with a brain-injured child. It is not an earth shattering event, but rather something that happens quietly, beneath the surface of the daily activity. It is an experience that somehow makes one a bit more human and a bit more humane. I like to think of it as food for the soul – spirit nourishing spirit. Truth is, in one of life’s great paradoxes, I think the brain-injured children of the world are our most precious natural resource. This is not because of what they can do because, obviously, so many of them can do nothing in a functional sense. Rather, it is because of what they do to us. When one sees the amazing impact these children have on the lives of everyone around them; when one sees that this impact often continues long after they have left their earthly existence; there is little else that needs to be said about their dignity and worth. That’s why we fight to protect them!

This was our first time back to the World Congress of Families since I spoke at the World Congress of Families II in Geneva, Switzerland in November of 1999. It was an exciting and exhausting week at the magnificent Grand America Hotel as guests of the Sutherland Institute of Salt Lake City. The week was filled with stimulating lectures, meetings with leading pro-life and pro-family advocates and non-stop networking with families and professionals. We did interviews for the Christian Broadcasting Network, the C.L. Bryant “America on the Edge” radio show, and the “Watchman on the Wall” TV program with Errol Naidoo, President of the Family Policy Institute in South Africa.

There were many highlights. Here are just a few. 

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  • Nic Vujicic, an internationally renowned motivational speaker from Australia who was born without limbs, gave an incredible presentation on overcoming life’s challenges.
  • Several fantastic presentations on mother/baby bonding and the neurobiology of fathering and mothering. Best of all, we made great connections with those professionals.
  • And finally, another in what we have come to call a series of “God-incidences” in our life. On the final evening, Conceição was waiting in line with thousands of other attendees for the closing event, what would turn out to be a sensational concert by “The Piano Guys”Conceição Solis - Version 2She struck up a conversation with the woman standing behind her and the woman asked Conceição if she had ever heard of “The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential” in Philadelphia. Conceição answered in the affirmative and explained how she came to the US in 1977 to train at the Institutes and worked there for several years. The woman then told Conceição that she had done the Institutes program with her son starting in 1979. Once inside the concert hall Conceição introduced this woman to me, we exchanged pleasantries and contact information and promised to stay in touch. A few days after we returned home Conceição received an email with the picture to the left attached. That’s Conceição, age 24, teaching this family their intelligence program at their Initial Evaluation! What are the chances that the two of them would randomly meet again some 34 years later?

It’s RESULTS that count!

 

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It is our great joy to introduce you to Isaac. We are sure you will find his story inspirational.

Isaac is nine and a half years old and the older brother of Raquel. We saw him for the first time a year ago. Isaac came diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition that placed him on the Autism spectrum. Of course, we pay little to no attention to those labels as they tell us nothing about who Isaac really is and how he functions.

Isaac’s parents first suspected his difficulties when he was about two years old but there were red flags almost from the very beginning. In reviewing his birth history, we learned that he had a prolonged labor, cord strangulation and fetal distress. He was very irritable as a baby. As he developed into a toddler, he had sensory hypersensitivities particularly in tactile function. At about two and a half years of age he learned to read on his own, an early indication that despite some difficulties he was a bright little guy. Speech was very late in developing, with first words coming at around two years. Most concerning was Isaac’s social development. He could not get along with other children.

Isaac’s mother gave us the following list of functional problems.

1. Isaac’s behavior was volatile and unpredictable. He averaged 2 to 3 major tantrums or emotional meltdowns per day. Meltdowns often lasted an hour and he could become very violent. Almost anything could set him off. Particularly upsetting to him were situations where the spotlight shined on him. Ask him a question, complement him in front of a group and look out! A perfectionist, if he tried to do something and did not succeed, look out! Isaac’s mom expressed her real fear that these emotional outbursts would escalate and become more violent as he grew into his teen years.

2. Isaac often became obsessed with thoughts. Once he had a thought in his mind, he could not get rid of it.

3. He had a poor understanding of cause and effect.

4. His understanding of spoken language was very literal. He could not “read between the lines”.

5. He had great difficulty expressing himself verbally, particularly with regard to his feelings.

6. He had frequent absences where he completely tuned out.

7. He had great difficulty reading social cues in people and had very few friends.

8. He was very cautious physically. He had problems of coordination and balance. Anything that was high or fast was a problem. He could not ride a bicycle.

9. He had almost no self-confidence in his abilities.

Based on our evaluation of Isaac’s neurological function, we designed a developmental program for Isaac which consisted of brain organization activities like tummy crawling, creeping (hands and knees), walking and balance activities. Along with his physical program, Isaac also had several intellectual development programs to improve his understanding. Additionally, we stressed the importance of good nutrition and suggested, based on Isaac’s symptoms, that he eat a gluten-free diet.

About one month after we saw Isaac, his mom posted the following message on the REACH Facebook Page. “My 8 year old son Isaac started the REACH program about a month ago and I am amazed at the progress he has made in such a short amount of time. He went from 2 or 3 extreme meltdowns per day to maybe 1 per week. This is remarkable with being home for the summer and having to deal with his 5 year old sister! LOL. He is also trying new things! From new foods, to giving people more hugs, to taking more risks at the park. His awareness of others and social communication has improved tremendously as well. I am beyond grateful for all your help and guiding my son to his true potential”.

In May, we saw Isaac again for re-evaluation and the changes in him were amazing! Significantly, his behavior improved dramatically. His meltdowns decreased from one per week to virtually none. His mom reported that the last tantrum was on Valentines Day and there was a very understandable explanation for it. So, no tantrums in three months compared to 2 or 3 tantrums per day at the beginning. Also, now when he did have a tantrum, it was much less intense and quickly diffused. Instead of being completely out of control for up to an hour, now Isaac can pull himself together in a matter of minutes. Isaac is now in control of his emotions!

We also saw a big improvement in Isaac’s general understanding and as a result it is much easier to reason with him. Mom also reported that he is much more creative and uses his imagination a lot more. Along with increased understanding, there has been a big improvement in language. Isaac’s speech is much more spontaneous and he is much more comfortable expressing his feelings.

We also saw tremendous improvements in Isaac’s mobility. His coordination and balance are much better resulting in better crawling (now in cross pattern), creeping and running (also in cross pattern). He runs faster and his movements are much smoother. In addition, Alex can now hop and skip, and is much more adventurous and willing to take physical risks. The change in his self-confidence is almost unbelievable! American Ninja Warriors you’ve been put on notice!

Along with all of those functional changes, Isaac is chewing much better and his appetite has greatly increased. Finally, he no longer has any absences at all… completely eliminated!

What an incredible joy to be a part of helping Isaac develop into the delightful boy he has become! When we think back on the first day we met him it is almost unbelievable that he could have changed so much in one year. Knowing that his parent’s fears for the future have turned into hopes just makes his transformation all the sweeter. Bravo for Isaac and his mom, dad and sister for doing the hard work that made it possible!

 

The REACH Difference

Parents searching for information on child development and answers for their children who struggle with developmental problems are faced with many options. Especially today, when so many people have jumped on the “brain plasticity” bandwagon, it can be difficult to sort out the experts from the pretenders.

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One of the most common questions we get is “What makes the REACH Family Institute’s method (Holistic Brain Development) different from other approaches to child development”? There are many ways in which our approach is different but here are five significant differentiators that separate REACH from everyone else.

Experience

The REACH difference starts with experience. Charles and Conceição Solis, the directors of REACH, are pioneers in the field of child brain development. Long before former President George H. W. Bush declared the 1990’s as the Decade of the Brain, Charles and Conceição were teaching parents how to transform their children’s lives by taking advantage of the phenomenon of brain plasticity. For 40 years they have guided parents all over the world.

Their work with children spans the entire range of functional ability, from the child in coma to the above average child, and includes work with such diagnoses as profound brain injury, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, developmental delay, learning disability, dyslexia, epilepsy, ADD/ADHD and many others. While most of their work involves infants, children and young adults, they have, on occasion, worked with adults, the oldest being a 75 year-old grandfather of a child on program. With their help he regained the ability to walk after two years of immobility following a stroke!

They have taught parents of every social class, from uneducated and poor families in the worst slums of South America to highly educated and well-to-do families in cosmopolitan cities like Rio de Janeiro and Paris. They have consulted for a former President of Venezuela in La Casona (the Venezuelan White House) and members of Pope John Paul II’s Swiss Guard in Vatican City.

In addition to teaching parents, Charles and Conceição also trained more than 200 professionals in the REACH Method. These professionals include doctors specializing in Pediatrics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, Psychologists, and Special Education Teachers. By training other professionals Charles and Conceição’s work has reached many thousands of very poor families who had no hope for their children.

Results Oriented

The achievement of each child’s highest potential through the development of the whole brain is our one and only goal.

All children can benefit from the REACH Method. When children function well, it enhances ability and accelerates development, increasing a child’s chances of success and decreasing the possibility of developmental problems developing later in life. When children have developmental difficulties, it often enables them to overcome their difficulties and achieve their highest potential.

We are only interested in transforming children’s lives. We have no interest in teaching a child with difficulties how to live within the confines of his/her problems. That is simply not good enough. It’s a disservice to the child and the parents, it’s negative and pessimistic, and it is woefully self-limiting.

We have too much respect for the amazing miracle of the human brain and the incredible potential within every child to waste even one minute doing anything but shooting for the stars. Living up to that standard is a pretty hard thing to do. But, quite frankly, we have no choice! When we shoot for the stars we might not make it there… but we know we will go much farther than if we do otherwise. Our kids and families deserve no less.

Focus on the Brain

Here at REACH we have a laser focus on one thing and one thing only, the development of the human brain. The reason for this is simple – all physical, intellectual, and social ability is the direct result of the natural and orderly development of the brain. Therefore, optimum brain function is a prerequisite to the achievement of one’s potential.

The REACH Method takes advantage of brain plasticity, the human brain’s extraordinary ability to change its anatomical structure and functional organization (physiology) in response to experience. While Charles and Conceição Solis have taught this principle to parents for decades, the medical and education communities are just now beginning to appreciate its significance.

The importance of brain plasticity is incalculable because it means that functional ability can be created where it does not exist and improved where it does.

  • Children with learning difficulties can become successful learners.
  • Children of below average ability can become children of above average ability.
  • Immobile children can learn to move and, eventually, to walk.
  • Cortically blind children can learn to see.
  • Neurologically deaf children can learn to hear.
  • Well children of average ability can become children of exceptional ability.

It means that every child born has vastly more potential than we ever dreamed possible!

We, along with parents, create these changes often. We see brain plasticity in action. Obviously, we cannot guarantee success; nevertheless, we know the potential for it exists. Which means there is always hope, even for children with profound brain injuries. To deny this hope is to deny biological reality.

Because the REACH Method is directed at the development of the human brain, it applies to children across the spectrum of functional ability from the child who is comatose and therefore has no ability to the child who is above average in physical, intellectual, and social ability.

Children are Children First

When we evaluate a child with developmental difficulties our focus is on ability rather than diagnosis. The entire purpose of our evaluation process is to discover that child’s level of functional ability in six areas – vision, hearing and understanding, tactile ability, mobility, language and manual ability. We want to know what the child can do, how that compares to what we might expect for his/her age and how we can help him or her to do more.

In a world where children are regularly labeled with a long list of diagnoses and where the focus of attention is on disability rather than ability, parents are usually greatly relieved to discover that we waste not one minute compiling a list of all of the things their child cannot do.

The reason for our focus on ability is really quite simple – it’s how the process of brain development works. Babies are born with certain primitive abilities. As the baby uses these abilities, the brain changes. As the brain changes, higher levels of ability emerge. As the baby uses those abilities, the brain changes. This is an elegant illustration of how function (seeing, moving, feeling, etc.) determines structure (new neurons, dendrite growth, etc.). It’s a basic law of nature.

So, for us, children are children first. How they measure up in terms of their level of functional ability is simply a reflection of their degree of brain development and organization. Every child sits somewhere on a “continuum” of brain organization depending on how well developed the brain is. When seen in this light, the limitations imposed by labels disappear and are replaced with a positive outlook based on the dynamic nature of brain organization.

Family Centered

Of critical importance to mothers and fathers is the sense that they have some measure of control over their child’s well being. This is so deeply engrained that it is part of the very nature of being a parent. Whether caring for a sick child, helping with a difficulty in school, dealing with a problem in behavior or teaching a child how to throw a ball, parents naturally want to be involved.

However, for parents of a brain-injured child, this natural desire to be of help is frequently suppressed. Consequently, a difficult situation becomes worse as the parents, perhaps for the first time in their lives, feel completely powerless and, therefore, can only see themselves as inadequate. There is nothing in the world more painful or more frustrating.

Here at REACH, we turn that typical situation on its head. By design, the REACH Method empowers parents with the knowledge and confidence they need to transform their child’s life. We do this for two reasons. First, it is the family’s responsibility to develop, educate, and care for all of its members. Second, because parents are the first and most influential teachers any child will ever have. There is no greater or more dynamic learning team than that of the family.

There is a very simple reason for this. Parents love their children more than anyone else in the world. We, at REACH, have loved, in our own way, virtually every child we have seen. But the quality of a parent’s love is different from our love. It is not very scientific to talk about love. You can’t measure it with a ruler; you can’t put it on a scale and weigh it. Nevertheless, we have watched it work miracles for many years. It just makes good sense to take advantage of something like that!

Hopefully, this post helps to distinguish the work of the REACH Family Institute from other organizations working with children. We firmly believe that our approach and results stand head and shoulders above the many options parents must weigh. Perhaps you see the world of children the way we do. We’d love to welcome you to our family.

Vive la difference!

It’s RESULTS that count!

From the very beginning of our work with children, we challenged establishment doctrine regarding virtually every aspect of child development. We did so because we found the status quo wanting. We believe we have much better answers for the development of children, answers anchored in a deep understanding of how the human brain develops.

That said, in the end, REACH exists to transform children’s lives. It is not our theories about brain development that count but rather our results.

With that in mind, each issue of our newsletter will feature a child on program and the results achieved. We hope these stories of the REACH Method in action inspire you as they inspire us.

Gulian - Version 2

We want to introduce you to Gulian (right). He was born in August of 2008, the second child in a family of two boys. As a baby, Gulian had very poor muscle tone, a weak grasp, a weak cry and he slept a lot. His parents described him as being “too good”. For us, all of these symptoms raise red flags! Nonetheless, aside from an early diagnosis of epilepsy, Gulian’s development was considered “normal” and no therapy was prescribed.

Gulian came to REACH just after his fifth birthday. At that time, from a neurological perspective (which is the only perspective that matters!) he was functioning at about the level of an 8-month-old baby. He was what we lovingly call a “nobody home” kid. His eyes were vacant, there was no sparkle. It was as if… well, as if there was nobody home! Part of the reason for that “nobody home” look was the three powerful medications Gulian was taking for his seizures. While they sometimes suppress the seizure activity, they almost always suppress everything else.

Our evaluation of Gulian revealed a long list of functional problems. He had very poor vision, understanding at about the level of an 8-month-old, and tactile problems. He had very poor muscle tone, and any attempt at moving resulted in significant trembling. He could not crawl on his tummy, although he could creep a bit on his hands and knees like a bunny. Gulian still could not walk. He could make some sounds but had no words of speech. Gulian’s hands were flaccid so he had a very weak grasp and essentially no functional use of his hands. Finally, there were many physiological problems. He had severe constipation. He drooled. He had a poor ability to swallow and chew, which resulted in him often choking on his food.

Based on this evaluation of Gulian we designed a program to accelerate the development of his brain and thereby increase his rate of functional development.

Six months later, we saw Gulian again and the change in him was astounding!

The first thing we noticed was a significant increase in his awareness. Gulian was more “tuned in”, more present. He was more curious, more interested in what was going on around him. His eyes had life, sparkle! There was somebody in there! Now there was “somebody home”!

The second thing that was obvious was that Gulian was walking! For 5 years, he struggled to learn how to move and never learned to walk. We got him walking in 6 months! What a thrill to see him taking steps and to see the joy written all over his face. His parents kept it a secret from us, as they wanted to see the look on our faces when he gave us his first demonstration. Gulian was much stronger, had better muscle tone and was trembling much less. He also had better coordination and much better balance.

Gulian’s vision improved – a perfect pupil reflex, much better visual pursuits and now, eye contact! His function tactile improved – reaction to pain, hot and cold temperature extremes, reaction to pleasant tactile sensations. Gulian’s understanding improved dramatically. He could follow simple instructions, was playing with toys, entertaining himself and showing interest in playing with others.

Gulian’s ability to communicate with sounds improved and he started saying two words consistently and with meaning. His manual function improved. Along with the rest of his body, his hands became stronger and with that his grasp improved and became more sure and he started using his hands more.

Then there are the physiological changes. Gulian was no longer constipated. His drooling decreased, his chewing and swallowing significantly improved and as a result, he was choking a lot less.

In the year that has passed since then Gulian has continued to progress beautifully.

His vision keeps getting better and he now has perfect visual pursuits, better convergence, a less obvious strabismus and much better visual acuity. He now has normal response to pain and light touch. Gulian follows instructions better, watches TV and can follow the program and smiles and laughs appropriately at the dialogue. Gulian now has more of a brother-to-brother relationship with his older brother and he now plays with the family cat.

As his walking ability continues to improve, Gulian is becoming more confident and more adventurous. This is the direct result of better balance and coordination. The muscle tone in Gulian’s hands is now normal and he is using his hands a lot more.

Gulian’s chewing ability continued to improve and, as a result, he has a much bigger appetite. His seizures have decreased significantly and he is taking less medication.

It has been an absolute joy to watch Gulian blossom. Kudos to his mom and dad for believing in his potential and for doing the hard work to unleash it!

 

 

Good News in the Pacific Northwest!

 

We apologize if anyone received an old blog post to their inboxes yesterday morning.  We experienced some glitches with our system. The information below is what should have gone out.

We’ve got some good things going on here in the Northwest that we want to make sure you all know about.

The first is an article about our work that just appeared in the Catholic Sentinel: http://www.catholicsentinel.org/main.asp?SectionID=2&SubSectionID=35&ArticleID=28314.  We encourage you to take a moment to read it and share it with others!

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The second is that we’ll be hosting our first workshop of the year THIS weekend up in Portland.  How to Unleash Your Child’s Hidden Potential will be presented at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland OR on Saturday February 28th from 9 am – 4:30 pm.  The workshop is perfect for parents whose children have been diagnosed with any kind of developmental difficulty (Autism/PDD/Asperger’s, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, Dyslexia, Learning Difficulties, ADD/ADHD, Brain Injury, etc.) or those just concerned with how their child is developing.

More information and workshop registration can be found at: http://www.reachfamilyinstitute.org/workshops/how-to-unleash-your-childs-hidden-potential-portland/

Please pass this information along to anyone in the Portland area who you think might be interested!

A new look for REACH

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For some time now we at the REACH Family Institute have struggled with how to create a look that truly reflects what makes our contribution to the world so special.

We are a tiny group that is passionate about children and the human brain. We are pioneers in the field of child brain development and experts in the creation and improvement of human functional ability.

Our work applies to children whose level of function ranges from coma or no ability on one end of the functional spectrum to children of above average ability on the other end. As such, we work with children of every possible diagnosis and those with no diagnosis. We believe that every child has innate value and dignity, regardless of diagnosis, and each deserves the opportunity to achieve his or her highest potential.

We are convinced that every single child has potential beyond knowing and that there is always hope for the future because of the miracle of the human brain. We know from many years of experience that each child’s best chance of reaching their developmental potential lies within the family. This is because parents are the first and most influential teachers any child will ever have and the family is a reservoir of human love, the most powerful force on the planet.

We know the knowledge we have is precious beyond counting. We know it can change the world. We know this because we see it change children and families and communities every day. The ripple effect of positive change is a beautiful thing to watch. If we can make those ripples go out far enough we will change the world.

So the challenge was how to express all of those ideas and beliefs in a simple image. We are extremely grateful for the talent of Leigh Roach of Ideaist Designs who took everything we wanted to express and distilled it down to its essence. Click on the arrow below for a nice example of Leigh’s creativity.

Lessons in love

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Two days ago, Alexandre Bilodeau of Canada won the Olympic gold medal in the men’s mogul event at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It is his second gold medal in the event in two consecutive Olympics. That, all by itself, is an extraordinary achievement. It’s also a splendid example of superior brain organization and peak performance.

I love talking about physical performance and it’s relationship to brain development but I’ve already written about that here. Instead, today I want to focus on the much bigger story. There are so many lesssons to be learned.

What makes this gold medal win THE story of this Winter Olympics is the heartwarming relationship between two brothers, one physically superior, the other brain-injured and physically disabled. Functionally they are polar opposites. Yet, amazingly, the Olympic hero attributes all of his success to his disabled brother!

That kind of perspective and attitude doesn’t just happen out of thin air. It happens as a result of superior parenting and what author, Christopher de Vinck, calls the power of the powerless. Kudos to Alex and Frederic’s mom and dad for setting the tone in the Bilodeau household! By encouraging and helping Frederic to be the best that he could be, despite the obstacles in his path, they taught their children lessons in diligence, discipline, perseverance, patience, tolerance, compassion, dedication, service, success and failure.

By not just accepting Frederic but embracing him they taught their children that each of us has worth and dignity regardless of how we function.

Ultimately, these are all lessons in love made possible by the anthropological reality of the family bond. Fortunately, Alex and Frederic’s story is not as rare as it might seem. We have the privilege of witnessing this miracle of love on a daily basis. The best human beings we know are the parents, brothers and sisters of the children we work with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So just what is Purposeful Parenting?

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I think it is safe to say that from the moment a couple learns they are expecting a child, they begin to have hopes and dreams for their little one. Some parents have really specific dreams but mostly parents dream that their child will grow up to be healthy, capable, successful and happy. And so the little bundle of joy is born and then most parents cross their fingers and hope their dream comes true. That may seem like a pretty crazy thing to do given that the well being and development of their child is a parent’s most important responsibility. Yet it is the norm.

Purposeful Parenting…
is parenting with the brain in mind for the purpose of ensuring that children have the greatest number of options and therefore the best possible chance to reach their God-given potential.

Surprisingly, most parents spend more time researching the purchase of a television, stereo system or computer than they do learning about how their child, and particularly their child’s brain, develops. Most parents simply assume that development will happen. Sometimes it does. But all too often it doesn’t. Today, we have an epidemic of children diagnosed with attention problems, behavior problems and learning difficulties. More than 5 million American children take drugs for attention problems alone.

Children who grow up with developmental difficulties struggle because, as a result of their limitations, they have fewer options in life. Because of this they have a hard time being healthy, successful and happy. The tragedy is that most of this suffering is completely avoidable if only parents knew how to foster the development of that amazing, extraordinary brain their child is born with.

That is what Purposeful Parenting is all about. It is parenting with the brain in mind. It is not about children becoming little geniuses. It is not about rushing a child’s development. It is about parenting for the purpose of ensuring that children have the greatest number of options available to them and therefore the best possible chance to reach their God-given potential whatever that may be. When children have a wide range of options available to them they can choose to follow whatever path ignites their passions. That is the gateway to a life filled with meaning, success and happiness.

On Sunday, August 24th the REACH Family Institute will host its workshop on Purposeful Parenting in Medford OR. The Purposeful Parenting 101 workshop explains child development with a focus on the developing brain and shares proven techniques perfected over years of hands on application at the REACH Family Institute.

This workshop benefits expectant parents and those with children from newborns to 3. Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

Workshop Details – here is the nuts and bolts of what the workshop covers:

Overview of Child brain development during the first three years of life:

  • Basic Brain Anatomy
  • Laws and principles of brain development
  • Levels of child brain development – REACH Developmental Profile
  • Application of laws and principles of brain development throughout early childhood

 6 best practices to improve brain development, ensure your child’s development and maximize potential – simple ideas with profound impact:

  • Creating attachment – importance of breastfeeding, sleep, touch, mutual gaze
  • Talking to children – sounds like common sense yet often parents talk about and to their children but not with them
  • Reading to children – essential for developing a love of reading and learning
  • Creating opportunity for movement – mobility is the key to brain organization, how it develops matters
  • Importance of hands-on play opportunities – modern technology is a threat to the kind of play that enhances brain development
  • Feeding your child well – the raw material for brain chemistry comes from our diet, we really are what we eat

Medford OR

Time: Sunday, August 24th from 1:00 – 4:00 PM

Location:

Kid Time!

106 N. Central Avenue,

Medford, OR 97501

Parents may bring young children to the workshop if alternative childcare cannot be arranged.  Because we cannot provide childcare at the workshop, we recommend that both parents be present if you are bringing a child over the age of one.

Please dress comfortably.

Cost: $30/person, $40/couple

Register at: https://www.reachfamilyinstitute.org/workshops-medford/