Developmental Delay: “Stephanie”

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Stephanie seemed to arrive on this earth like an angel without wings to fly. This blonde-hair blue eyed child passed routinely through her early years with hardly a spoken word to anyone. Her outward behavior appeared normal for one her age, yet her continual lack of speech and the inability to comprehend even the simplest of words raised anxious thoughts with her mother.

By the time Stephanie reached 4 years old, the public school system evaluated her. She received the classification of “developmentally delayed in the areas of speech and language”. The next few years found Stephanie involved in speech therapy with no noticeable mark of improvement. Her gaze drifted into outer space and efforts to stimulate her into reality proved useless. The school’s area of involvement was also non-productive. Their solution was to keep her in special ed for several years until progress could be made.

After several years of frustration on the mother’s part, the move to another state across the country opened the doors to a golden opportunity for young Stephanie. She had heard about NACD from her older sister and decided to try them out as a last resort. By now it was the summer of 1996 and Stephanie who had just turned 8 yrs. old, could barely pass the academic skills required of kindergarten.

Bob Doman’s findings revealed a whole new world about child development. Stephanie’s years of speech therapy, for all practical purposes, was inadequate as it did not remediate the underlying cause of her learning problems. Yes, parents, this is where the magic begins, where you can begin to find hope at the end of the rainbow, because a man named Bob developed the mysterious sequential steps that Almighty God endowed the human brain with to enable all human beings to receive, process, store and utilize every bit of data that crosses our path on this journey, we call “life”.

The concept is simple for anyone to understand. To obtain maximum output-just make sure that all the inside wiring (or in-put) has been completed in proper order. Think of your brain as one huge mainframe computer. One mishap in programming it and the whole system is inefficient. Unless you go back and repair all the steps in order, your system will never function at its highest level. Hence, the developmental profile was created to enable Bob and evaluators like him to glance at the various steps or components that comprise one’s neurological growth. (See NACD’s journals for further reference)

Stephanie’s first evaluation showed that her processing skills or memory level operated on a 3 year old for listening skills and that of a 4 year old for visual skills. (Digit Spans of 3 to 4 for a child of 8). Her proprioception was incomplete. This made perfect sense since as a toddler she always bumped into things and got “lost in space”. Bob also noticed that at the pons level in mobility, Stephanie did not pass as she could not crawl correctly in a cross-pattern manner. Here we laughed a bit, as this was our baby who always scooted around the floor on her back with no specific direction in mind. At the upper cortical level of the brain, it was noted that Stephanie leaned towards using her left eye and left ear, which did not coordinate with her right hand and right foot. This “mixed dominance” as Bob called it, contributed to her inability to handle any academics for her appropriate grade level. Written data and verbal information were deposited on both sides of her brain. Every bit of info that entered Stephanie’s brain through her eyes & ears floundered once inside her head, which made it impossible for her to retain anything. Remember, this is a little girl, who at the age of 8 could neither read nor write. She barely could identify the alphabet. It was easy to notice that Stephanie was struggling with a sense of failure after repeating kindergarten and 1st grade twice.

Bob designed a program to fix Stephanie’s disorganized brain. His ultimate goal was to establish complete brain organization which would enable Stephanie to achieve her maximum potential. We went home with a ray of hope in our hearts. Her program consisted that first year of physical activity-crawling, walking, skipping and jogging in a cross-pattern manner and academic therapy. We worked with flash cards, reading, digit spans, math skills and educational tapes. She patched her eye and plugged her ear and did various games to draw out her dominate eye. The hardest part in all of this was the daily discipline it took to cover all the necessary requirements that would ensure Stephanie’s success. Progress that first year was slow. By the spring of 1997, Stephanie’s evaluation with Bob showed minimal improvement. It was exciting to know that her digit spans moved up to 5, yet she still could not reach the norm. Her reading skills scored around mid 1st grade level and her Math skills managed to make it to 2nd grade. In an effort to give Stephanie some sense of stability, we had enrolled her in a private school in order to be with other children. She was 8 and a half years old and still struggling to pass 1st grade. We felt stressed in trying to meet her emotional needs of going to school like other normal children, and frustrated with “time demands” to consistently cover all the daily therapies required on her program.

There is an old saying that the prayer of a humble heart pierces the heavens and mothers know intuitively that God hears the silent prayers offered on behalf of the children of this world. An unexpected assistance came to Stephanie with the arrival of her aunt from Texas. Having had prior experience with children on various programs, her presence proved to be the missing spark to ignite the daily implementation of the program into a roaring flame.

That fall, the decision was made to pull Stephanie out of school and to follow the daily activities on the program to the letter. Accountability was implemented as well as rewards for positive behavior and daily accomplishments. The first few months were tough on Stephanie as she dealt with bouts of sadness at not being smart enough to go to school with her other sisters. The further knowledge of being so far behind academically complicated the issue at times. All through this period, we reiterated the concept that hard work does pay off in the end and sooner or later, her desire to “just be like everyone else” would happen.

By Nov. of 1997, several months after her 9th birthday, we felt that real progress was being made. With the past several months of hard work, Stephanie had jumped from struggling to remember her alphabet to the end of 2nd grade reading, her math skills moved from 2nd grade to the beginning of 4th grade. Her digit spans jumped to 7’s which is considered average, even for an adult. The lights were finally turning on as the various brain cells lit up and began to function properly. Her dominance barely moved, so we went home with greater enthusiasm to complete all the therapies surrounding her eye-patching and ear-plugging.

By Christmas vacation that year, Stephanie’s outward behavior and ability to communicate in normal conversation for a child of her age, caught the attention of her relatives and friends. It was a great time to give thanks to God for her “reawakening to normal life”. To reward her hard work, we allowed her to return to school in Jan 1998. She managed to skip 2nd grade to the amazement of all (this was the child who did not complete 1st grade in June 1997) and remained at the top of her 3rd grade class for the remainder of the school year. Since her program concentrated more on therapies to complete dominance, we were able to maintain the daily demands of school, plus complete her program requirements in the evening. By her March evaluation, Stephanie jumped another year in reading and increased her Math skills by half a year, along with increasing her digit spans to 8. IIcr dominance was 90 percent on the right. The huge learning gap was closing fast and we worked harder than ever to complete her hemispheric dominance.

The summer of 1998 passed quickly and once again Stephanie increased another year in her reading and math levels. Her dominance was just about complete. School began as usual in the fall with Stephanie passing all the demands of 4th grade. Our long awaited miracle arrived shortly before Christmas. The December evaluation showed that Stephanie had finally reached her goal. She graduated from NACD with a small maintenance program to assist her in achieving even greater potential. To Almighty God we offer our sincere gratitude for guiding us to Bob Doman and NACD. May the Lord continue to bless their dedicated work on behalf of all the children of this world.

Reprinted by permission of The NACD Foundation, Volume 13 No. 3, 2000 ©NACD