The Best Advice I Ever Got
by Patricia S. Lemer, M.Ed., NCC
In the last newsletter I announced my retirement from diagnostic work, after 35 years. File cabinets contained records of over 1500 children whom I had evaluated since the early eighties. I sent letters to each family telling them of my decision, and suggested that they contact me if they wanted copies of their children‘s records.
My assistant and I were prepared, of course, to fulﬁll requests with a copier, envelopes, stamps and shredder. What I was unprepared for were the many letters from grateful clients, catching me up on their children‘s lives.
I learned that a boy who was not speaking at three just entered law school. One girl, a non- reader in sixth grade, graduated from high school with a regular diploma. A dyslexic male is now a master‘s level special education teacher. He demonstrates his own personal strategies to his students, who, like himself, struggle to become better organized.
Some of my clients‘ testimonies inspired me to share with you "the best advice I ever got."
Take Charge of Your Child‘s Program
Don‘t just wait for advice from professionals. Parents know their kids best. While waiting to see the latest guru, you can easily begin a new regime:
- change the diet by increasing good quality fats and reducing harmful fats and junk food.
- increase daily movement activities, sleep, reading aloud.
- reduce stressors, such as television and computer time.
Get Another Evaluation by a Different Professional
Just because you have explored an area of therapy doesn‘t mean you have exhausted possible causes or received the best treatment. Professionals with the same broad titles offer different types and qualities of services. Doctors, lawyers, and yes, occupational therapists, eye doctors, speech/ language pathologists and mental health professionals, all specialize. You need to ﬁnd one who is both expert enough to meet your child‘s needs and is right for you.
Go Outside the School for Evaluations and Services
School-based and clinic-based services differ markedly. Schools generally offer functional skills such as scissor use, handwriting and general motor coordination skills. Schools are less likely than a clinic to offer sensory integration techniques - including vestibular and proprioceptive work. The latter two areas are essential for language, motor planning, academics and socialization.
Revisit Past Therapies
Kids graduate from occupational, vision and speech-language therapy after a few years. The supplements they are taking may be inadequate. With growth, experience, a better diet and hormonal changes, "booster shots" in these areas can sometimes be very helpful to get to the next level. Expectations in middle and high school years are different from those for a younger child. Malleability does not end at childhood. In the next round, vision therapy moves from eye movements to visualization skills, while language therapy now emphasize pragmatics. New nutritional products can make a difference for your child.
Increase Therapy Time to Accelerate Progress
Once or twice a week therapy may be inadequate. To change the nervous system of a delayed child, a more intensive program could be the answer.
Wait on Academics
Postpone the introduction of reading, writing and mathematics instruction until skills are in place. Waiting until third or even fourth grade may result in quicker learning than tutoring before a child has basic sensory-motor and visual foundations. In the long run, patience saves time and money.
Be Forgiving with Social Skills
Of course, having an unruly, disobedient or ill-mannered child can be embarrassing for parents. But appropriate behaviors do show up when the sensory systems come together. Social skills training has its place, but again, you can save teaching time by waiting until the child‘s system is ready. (See "Say Hi to Patty," Fall, 1999).
Use Natural Alternatives to Prescription Medications
Dietary modiﬁcation, vitamins, minerals, herbs, digestive enzymes, probiotics, anti-fungals, homeopathic remedies, CranioSacral therapy, biofeedback, and other treatments can result in powerful changes, without side affects.
Never Give Up
No matter what, there is always something more you can do to help a child. Simply listening and providing a loving, sympathetic ear can be very therapeutic. I have kept a few letters, and when I feel disheartened, I reread them. As the poster in my ofﬁce states, "100 years from now, my bank account, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove will not matter, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child." If professionals in your past have made a difference, take the time to let them know what you found to be the "best advice you ever got." Your feedback helps us help your children.[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 7, Number 4 - Summer, 2002]