We noticed something wasn’t quite right with our son Brian around the age of 15 months. The pediatricians had us start occupational and speech therapy before he was 2. The next few years were pretty rough and by age 5 Brian was diagnosed with autism.
I read just about everything I could get my hands on to learn about Sensory Integration Disorder, Verbal Apraxia, Dyspraxia, PDD, ADHD, and Autism. I came across a book by Cathy Steere called Too Wise to be Mistaken, Too Good to be Unkind and nearly fell off the couch when I read it. The author seemed to be describing my life to a tee. She even lived in the same town as me! The author mentioned a therapy that had helped her son and I knew I had to find out more. I contacted the author and found out that in just a few days there was a seminar about the Neurodevelopmental therapy approach. Once I was at the seminar I knew I was in the right place.
I started the Neurodevelopmental program with Brian and he made progress. He was able to gain the last few sounds of language that he had failed to learn in speech therapy and he eventually learned to ride a two-wheeled bike without training wheels which is a huge accomplishment for those on the autism spectrum.
One aspect of the Neurodevelopmental program is to establish a strong dominance of either being right handed or left handed. In short, dominance is writing, listening, seeing, and kicking with the same side of the body. So, if you are right handed you should be right eared, right eyed, and right footed. Many of the children with special needs or difficulties are “mixed dominant” including our son Brian. To establish dominance the children wear an eye-patch and ear plug to train the brain to become stronger on the side of the body that is correct for that child. Since Brian was left handed he had to patch his right eye and right ear so that his left side would become stronger. He also had to practice kicking with his left foot. This process can take anywhere from months to a couple of years. After a few years of patching and plugging, Brian’s dominance was still mixed and his neurodevelopmentalist suggested that he was one of the kids that might need to switch “handedness.” I knew that dominance is crucial for so many things like memory, emotions, and organizational skills so my husband and I agreed to have Brian switch to writing with his right hand instead of his left, and to start patching and plugging the left side. Of course the obvious question went through our minds, “What if we are wrong?” and the answer was, then you just switch back. We left the evaluation and discussed it on the way home in the car. Brian agreed to give it a try. He was 11 years old by then so he had some pretty well established habits that he would have to unlearn.
For the first few days I had Brian do some simple coloring with his right hand, twice a day for a few minutes at a time. By the third day there was an obvious positive change in Brian. He was remembering things better and his normal grumpy disposition disappeared and was replaced by a positive one. In fact, on the third day of coloring he stated, “I have a great life” and I nearly fell over! I never thought I would hear those words come out of Brian’s mouth. This was all the evidence I needed to know we were doing the right thing by switching dominance.
Not everything was smooth sailing since Brian had years of habit to undo and his brain also had to re-learn how to process information. The biggest challenge during the switch was that Brian would be able to do his math work fine one day and then the next day it was like he had never learned it at all. The next day he could do the problems again and the following day it was as if someone had hit delete on the computer and it was gone again. This was very frustrating for Brian and his teacher but they realized that it was due to the dominance switch so they did the work the best they could. As the right sided dominance became stronger the problem eventually faded away. Brian just turned 13 and we are happy we made the decision to switch handedness and we are grateful to our neurdevelopmentalist for guiding us through it. Brian is now happier, has a better memory, and is more cooperative and organized.
I am just like most moms and there were days when I wondered if I could keep up the work of the therapy program, and days when my husband would question the program and a few close calls when I almost gave up. BUT I also remember those early years when I was scared that Brian would end up in an institution, drugged and strapped to a bed. The kind of behaviors he displayed in those early years were extremely difficult and I knew something had to be done. The Neurodevelopmental therapy program has been the answer. It is a lot of work but it’s all worth it to help your child be the best they can be. You will see results. Don’t give up. The Neurodevelopmentalists are great. They really care about the children and want them to succeed and best of all; they know how to help you help your child.