The NACD Perspective: Why We Do What We Do

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Abstract: What makes NACD uniquely qualified to help individuals succeed and how can parents actively participate?
nacdperspectiveAs we begin a new forum for NACD, a regular email newsletter, it is appropriate to reiterate who we are and why we do what we do. NACD was established in 1979. We’re an international organization with 14 chapters and units around the United States and 3 international chapters. We work with a full range of individuals — from those in a coma to those who are gifted and talented and anything in between. Our goal is to help every person reach his or her unlimited potential.

On a practical level, we provide neurodevelopmental evaluations and individualized programs for children and adults, updated on a quarterly basis. In the evaluation, we look at the child’s tactile, auditory and visual function, expressive language, and the fine and gross motor skills. We also look at the child’s cognitive function including behavior and physiological issues. Then we design a program of activities to improve that child’s function.

Within seven days of an evaluation, parents receive a DVD with instruction for the program activities. As a family-centered organization, NACD stresses parent training and parent implementation of the program. Support is provided to families through video reviews, e-mail and telephone sessions.

What makes NACD uniquely qualified to help individuals succeed?

We have a nutritional director, we have developmentalists, we have therapists, and we have a group of NACD M.D. Moms. We’ve got a whole team that essentially combines knowledge and skills and experience to put together the programs.

We’re an eclectic organization meaning that we gather and utilize the newest strategies that yield success. We use over 3,000 different specific methods and techniques with our caseload. And over the course of the years we have designed and directed over fifteen million individual hours of intervention.

We’re in a unique position as an organization. We are international. We send our staff around the country and outside of the country. We work with children from virtually all over the world and it provides us with important data. First, we get to find out what people are doing to help their children, virtually everywhere. We work with top-of-the-line of parents in that the parents of the kids we see are parents who are assuming responsibility for their kid’s development, parents who are active participants, and parents who are out looking for what works. As such, we are uniquely positioned to find out what does and does not work, and if does work, for whom will it work.

One of the difficult issues in the field of child development is that, for the most part, practitioners function autonomously. Whether it’s a physical therapist, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist or a psychologist, or an educator — many of them only do their specific technique and methodology with their caseload, which generally speaking, is a small caseload.

In contrast, NACD typically works with about a thousand kids and all of our staff work together, combining over one hundred fifty years of experience. As a team, we’re able to evaluate what’s working, what’s not working, what we need to change, what we need to modify. We are always looking for ways to do it better.

We have helped thousands of individuals improve their function. It’s very important if we are changing brains, if we are affecting significant change in children, that we are as specific as we can possibly be with the individual. There most certainly is no “One size fits all.” Our immediate challenge is to understand what’s going on with that specific child and to address that specific child’s particular needs.

How can parents help their children succeed?

NACD parents understand that learning means changing the brain. In order to change the brain, we need to provide stimulation to produce the growth of neural connections in the brain. Stimulation is the application of specific input, delivered with sufficient frequency, intensity and duration. That’s what NACD programs are designed to do – to provide the stimulation that promotes brain development. Understanding how to do the program activities and the “why” behind those activities help parents to be motivated to do the work – the work that will change their children’s brains and thus, improve function.

Some parents, in their eagerness to help their children, mistakenly believe that “more is better.” “Instead of a ten minute reading lesson, I’ll give him a half hour lesson.” Unfortunately that doesn’t work. Increasing the duration is a good way to lessen the intensity, which lessens the effectiveness of the activity.

This can also happen when parents overload their child with numerous therapies in addition to the NACD program. Doing too much can exhaust both the parent and the child, reducing that intensity that is needed for brain change and development. Over the years, NACD has found that parents who focus primarily on the NACD program tend to do better than those whose energies are splintered by many other activities.

In addition, many parents find that the goals of the other therapies they are considering are already being addressed by their current NACD program. If you have questions or concerns about other therapies, talk to your evaluator. Some exercises may actually counter the effectiveness of the NACD program.

Remember, you are the expert on your child. NACD will provide a program specifically designed for your child, and if you feel that your program needs to be revised or modified, talk to your evaluator.

NACD’s purpose is to empower parents. With NACD by their side, parents can move confidently toward the future knowing that their child is learning to both utilize and improve his or her abilities.

What does NACD expect for your child? NACD expects success!