Testimony on the Success of the NACD Program
by Kurt and Penny Anderson
Our son, Chad, was born in June of 1988. It was very obvious by the time he was three that his motor skills development was delayed and he was having trouble communicating, which frustrated him as much, or more than us.
We noticed early on that he liked structure; changes and new situations were hard for Chad. Although he learned his alphabet and how to count to 100 at an early age, conversations were a constant struggle.
Once school started the lack of knowing social norms, communication, and aversion to change became even more problematic. A typical example happened about a month after starting kindergarten. Normally a kitchen worker would hand the kindergarteners a napkin and fork before the kids picked up their tray and food. One day the worker was called away and Chad would not go through the line because someone was supposed to hand him the napkin and fork. The workers behind the counter encouraged him to go ahead and pick them up himself, but to Chad that was not what was supposed to happen. He was almost in tears before the school custodian saw what was happening and gave Chad the napkin and fork. (Thank God for compassionate, understanding people.)
Things continued like this, Chad would tell teachers when they were not following the schedule. If recess was supposed to be outside, outside Chad would go even if the location was changed to be the gym. Chad’s reaction to kids pestering was loud and not very subtle. The elementary school principle and teachers worked well with us but we still made many trips to the principal’s office for problems.
During this time we searched for the answer to helping Chad adjust to life and to help him improve his motor skills and ability to understand the social implications of his actions. Memorizing facts was easy, understanding a story he read was impossible. The pain, frustration and helplessness we as parents felt for our child was constant and seemed unending.
The pediatrician didn’t have a clue and more or less ignored the problem. No one we talked to knew any more than we did. We eventually stumbled on to an article about Asperger’s Syndrome and the pieces started falling into place. Chad had a problem with the right and left side of his brain being able to communicate normally. About this time we visited the community mental health people who thought they could help but it was a disaster; they knew less than we did.
We spent time with Chad teaching him to alter his responses to situations. “Let the teacher solve the problem with the other students. The teacher is in charge she can change the schedule. When someone says hi to you say hi back. When you meet someone look at their face and shake their hand.” Listening to a story on tape while reading the book seemed to help Chad make sense of the story. Still we wondered, is this all we can do?
Then we read a book about another parent’s search for help called “Too Wise to be Mistaken, Too Good to be Unkind” by Cathy Steere. At the end she mentioned NACD as a resource she found to be very good. We learned that not only could we change how Chad reacted in each specific situation, but there were ways to actually help his brain to start functioning so as to eliminate many of the problems we were seeing. A solution at the source of the problem was what we were looking for and finally found.
We followed up with a visit to the NACD web site and then made an appointment. What we have learned and the changes in Chad since then have been an answer to prayer. It has not been easy, but it has been worthwhile. Being consistent day after day helping Chad with his physical and mental exercises is a lot of work and takes a commitment to stick with it.
Chad started on the NACD program in February of 2001. At times we would think we saw some changes at other times we wondered. As time passed however, we would look back six months and remember how things were and could see definite improvements. Academically Chad’s biggest improvement has been his reading comprehension. It started really improving between year one and two of being on the program. The second year of the program, Chad’s reading comprehension improved by one full grade level every four months. He went from being a couple of years behind to being caught up in one year. This has really helped him since he is now in high school and needs to pick up more than facts when he reads.
Another area that Chad has shown improvement in is his flexibility when schedules change. Now Chad does not mind the changes in schedules or plans too much more than you or I would. He can carry on a conversation and most encouraging he starts conversations with others outside of the family. School has been going well. Benchmark tests from school used to be scattered from high to very low depending on the subject. Now all the low scores have come up to grade level while the high scores have remained high.
Chad still has progress to make, but we are confident that he is well on his way to being able to make a good life for himself in the future. Thank you NACD for making your knowledge and techniques available to us!
Reprinted from the Journal of The NACD Foundation (formerly The National Academy for Child Development)