Because of all the craziness with the new home, I was not able to say much about our 2 month progress report with the kids. This is how things were going after the first week of May (I know this is very late, and we’re just about up for a 3 month report, but I can only do what I can do).
Kimball has improved another three years in his ability to block out visual stimulation and focus on the task at hand. When he started he was at level 1, and now he is it 7 — which is goal level! They practice this by putting different glasses on him while he is at the Brain Balance Center doing his exercises. Some of the glasses have small slits or flash lights in his eyes or do other crazy stuff to distract him. Now he can filter that stuff out. On his “head turns,” where he has to keep his eyes on a single object while turning his head side to side, he has improved from not be able to do it at all (0 successful attempts in 15 tries) to being able to do it successfully and consistently at least 12 out of 15 tries.
Kimball has improved significantly in the tactile categories as well. He has reached goal level in his ability to filter tactile stimulation. They train him on this one by strapping a vibrator to his leg and having him ignore it while he does other exercises. Kimball focuses better when he is able to filter out extraneous visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation. He has also jumped another two years in his fine motor skills and is now at age level (he started on the level of a four-year-old). In his proprioperception (awareness of his body in space) he has improved another half year from 6 to 6.5 months.
Kimball is doing well in all of the categories, but he really shines in his core strength and synchronization. His supine core (lying on his back) strength has now improved from the level of a six-year-old to that of a ten-year-old. His prone (lying on his stomach) strength has improved from the level of a five-year-old to that of an eleven-year-old. His lateral core (lying on his side) has improved from that of a seven-year-old to that of a nine-year-old, and his Brachiation (swinging from the monkey bars) has improved from that of a four-year-old to that of an eight-year-old.
On the balance beam, Kimball has improved from the level of a four-year-old to that of a nine-year-old. He is now going forward and backward while tossing a ball and catching it. His rhythm and timing have improved from the level of a four-year-old to that of a seven-year-old. This is critical because as he improves in this category he is able to make the right decisions at the right time. His gait has improved from 0, meaning he wasn’t able to do any of the exercises they threw at him, to the level of a nine-year-old. He now does some pretty complex things like jump-rope and others I thought would never be possible.
Kimball is an amazing little guy. We are seeing behavior follow his physical and mental development. Not every day is perfect, but it is so exciting to see him grow up so quickly when we had so little hope.
Anahí’s progress has not been quite as statistically impressive as Kimball’s, but she is really working hard and her behavior is changing pretty dramatically.
Her eyes continue to get stronger. She can now do three head turns completely unassisted, when before she couldn’t do any. She is now at a level six on her ability to filter visual stimulation. Her goal is level seven, so she is just about there. She started at level one. In her ability to filter auditory stimulation she has improved from level one to level three, and in her auditory processing she has improved from the level of a four-year-old to that of a four-and-a-half year old. This doesn’t sound like much, but they told us that she is at the high end of 4.5 and close to 5.
In her tactile stimulation Anahí has improved from level one to level 7, which is her goal! At fine motor she held steady this month at the level of a two-and-a-half-year-old, but overall she started at level 0, and she is at the high end of 2.5 and ready to break into the next level. In the area of proprioception (awareness of her body in space), Anahí has improved from the level of a three-year-old to that of a four-year-old, but again, she stayed on the same level this month.
In her core strength, again, the numbers aren’t particularly overwhelming, but visually it’s easy to see how much she is improving. When we started, she couldn’t lift her head off the floor to do a single sit-up. Now she can do twenty without any problem. Her supine strength (lying on her back) has improved from the level of a three-year-old to that of a four-and-a-half year old. Her prone core strength (lying on her tummy) she improved from zero to the level of a four-year-old. In her lateral core strength (lying on her side) she has improved from the level of a three-year-old to the level of a five-and-a-half year old (just six months behind her current age!). In brachiation (monkey bars) she has improved from the level of a three-year-old to that of a four-year-old. She is feeling much more comfortable hanging from her arms.
Finally, in synchronization Anahí has improved from the level of a three-year-old to that of a four-year-old in her rhythm and timing, and from the level of a four-year-old to that of a five-year-old on the balance beam. Her gait has also improved from a level 0 to that of a four-year-old. This means that she is better able to do things like ride her balance bike.
After our first month progress report we were ecstatic (read about that report here). Both Kimball and Anahí had improved one to five years in every category. This report was much more measured. Kimball had some pretty impressive improvement, but Anahí was much more incremental. In many categories she stayed at the same level she was at a month before. In others she improved just a half of a year. It felt to us a bit like The Biggest Loser when people have HUGE first week weigh-ins followed by more modest second and third-week losses. Our feelings were compounded by the fact that after the first month, Brain Balance got really hard. Anahí seemed more distracted and where a session before had taken 30-40 minutes, it was common for Betty to take over 90 minutes on one session. You can imagine that if she is doing three of those per day, plus another three with Kimball, there isn’t much time left for things like preparing food or keeping the house in order. Kimball also took a step back with his behavior. He was more distracted, less willing to engage with the world. Generally they were both showing as many signs of autism as ever. All of this was happening while I was going through one of the busiest months I have ever had between work and church. We were also trying to close on our new house. It was all just very overwhelming.
Then Sydney, who runs the Brain Balance Center in St. George and went over the results with us, recommended that we continue with the program for another three months. It felt a bit like the straw that broke the camel’s back. We have given everything for this program and we don’t regret it. We can so obviously see the changes in our children. But it is physically brutal for everyone in the family and emotionally exhausting. We weren’t sure how much we had left in the tank. I wrote after our first month progress report that on our drive home we were beaming with pride at what we had done. This month it was a bit more reserved as we contemplated adding $7500 and three months to our load.
After much prayer and thought, we have decided to take the recommendation and continue with the program. We felt inspired to start, and we are going to finish. Also, when we take a step back and look at the whole picture, it is easy to see how much the kids have improved overall, even with the setbacks of the past month. Now we are moved into the new house and we have more space to breathe. The kids are out in the yard getting into trouble and playing hard, and that’s a great sign. We have trusted this people and this system until now, and we are going to continue to do so.
Let it never be said that we lacked courage.