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Stella Alvarez-Ruiz

From Lyn Waldeck, Stella’s NACD Neurodevelopmentalist

I never tire of hearing stories like the one we are sharing with you today. This family worked together and totally transformed their daughter’s confidence through opening up all new abilities. When I first started with Stella, only a short while ago, it was apparent that we were working with an intelligent, hard working girl with minor issues in several areas. By addressing and accelerating her processing abilities relative to short term memory, working memory, and long term memory, she was able to make great strides in her abilities. In addition to focusing on these pieces, we freed her up from a package of academic busy work and taught her to love learning. Hearing how this has impacted her life and the lives of her family is what keeps the staff at NACD doing what we love to do. Read all about their journey:

From Marie, Stella’s mother

My name is Marie, and I am the mother of Stella. We have been receiving NACD services since September 2022. Over the last nine months our family has gone through multiple challenges and changes, including moving from Texas to Puerto Rico, becoming farmers, and starting homeschooling. NACD has been an important part of this change, as it has provided us with guidance and support. Stella started her education at home with me when she was very small. Before her 1st year of age, I started reading to her, singing, showing her colors, and stimulating her physical, emotional, and cognitive development as much as I could until the age of 4, when she started going to preschool. She was a smart and eager-to-learn little girl, already bilingual (Spanish and English), even when our main language was Spanish. Later we moved to the States, where Stella started Kindergarten. This is when I started noticing problems with her learning process. The girl that was eager to learn was now crying about sight words, and was struggling switching letters and sounds when reading, and not wanting to go to school. I was heartbroken, but our financial situation would not allow me to stay with her at home, or so I thought. Around that time, we received recommendations to stop reading to her in Spanish, and by the age of 6 she was forgetting Spanish. By second grade we had noticed that the previous issues would not be resolved, and now she was also struggling with mathematical problems. The girl that loved numbers and was able to count and do simple math tasks now was struggling and hating math. Her teachers were instructing us to take her out of her extracurriculars (sports and music), the only areas she was feeling successful about. We refused. Right before we started NACD for her 8th grade, Stella had good grades at the cost of her peace and rest. She was restless, agitated, and anxious most of the time. Her mood would swing, and she was frequently upset. She would listen to conversations differently than what we said and feel upset about it. She was putting more effort into her schoolwork than any of her peers just to catch up. It was so hard to see her at the dining table completing work from the classroom, and later her homework. When we asked the schools for evaluations or support, they would only notice her excellent grades, but not the extra effort and anxiety she was struggling with. When we started NACD Stella had started a bunch of books but had not finished any yet. She used to say she hated to read and hated math. Now the story is so different. After only nine months of NACD programming, we have seen such a change. Lyn has been an amazing source of wisdom and guidance, and Melody has been the strong and kind hand taking us from point A to point B. Here is a brief list of some of the changes we have noticed:

  • More responsibility.
  • Increased comprehension of verbal commands, social cues, and even reading.
  • Increased attention span: Able to follow multi-step directions and recall appropriately when asked to complete tasks and chores.
  • Better self-regulation in conversations, when upset, and when discussing different points of view.
  • Is more self-regulated in terms of how to invest time in different activities (fun vs. responsibilities).
  • Able to accept her mistakes and point at mistakes appropriately, not taking it personally, but explaining, or accepting whatever is appropriate in the situation.
  • Identifies what is working for her and what is not; negotiates.
  • Learning to manage money (math), as before she would avoid trying to pay for things and even look at what she was supposed to pay or receive as change (avoidance of the math process).
  • She is interested in audiobooks and in reading paper books, when in the past she had no interest in books in general. Has completed about 5 books (paper books) over the course of the year, and multiple audiobooks, when previously it was impossible for her to complete 1 book per year.
  • Overall, she seems more mature.

We are thrilled with her progress and the person she truly is. It is beautiful to see my wonderful teen being able to show her true colors, without the anxiety, without the moods and the exhaustion. We are excited about what is to come, and even though we are not done yet, the current progress is so wonderful, and our family is better because of it. We are living a much simpler life. Currently we are farming, and I am working from home, and even when it took a leap of faith to get here, I wouldn’t change it for the world. My daughter’s peace and healthy development is worth the change! Thanks, NACD, for your support throughout these 9 months! We are excited about the journey to come!

            • Reprinted by permission NACD Newsletter, July 2023 ©NACD

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