A couple of weeks ago we received another progress report from Brain Balance for Anahí and Kimball. They continue to improve, but the rate of improvement has slowed down. I’m not really surprised by this. Betty and I used to watch The Biggest Loser every week, and even though the comparison breaks down pretty quickly, it’s helpful for me to think about Brain Balance in terms of a weight loss program. When the Biggest Loser contestants start they lose a ton of weight in the first few weeks. Some people will lose up to 40 pounds in a week just because they have so much to lose and small changes can have a huge impact. Brain Balance has been similar for us. Some of the exercises were very difficult for the kids at first and as they got the basics of those exercise down they experienced vast improvement — years of development in a matter of weeks.
Because they have worked so hard and have come so far, I feel like we are in a different stage. Statistical improvement has slowed down, but behavior continues to change and improve. So here is our report:
Statistically, Anahí did not make any advances in her visual skills. She is holding steady at just short of halfway to where we hope she will get over time. I’ve noticed that part of the reason she struggles with the eye tests is that she always wants to talk while we are doing the exercises, and when she talks SHE IS MORE FOCUSED ON MY EYES THAN SHE IS ON THE TEST I’M GIVING HER! This is huge for a girl who struggled with eye contact for so long. She is also much more interested in and engaged with the world around her than she ever has been. While I am trying to get her to focus on a pencil or my finger or a little doll, for example, she will be looking out of the corner of her eye (something she was incapable of doing five months ago) to see what her siblings or the dog are up to. When I want to look out of the corner of her eye at some object, she will shift her eyes to mine in order to talk to me. We still would like to see her have a bit more focus, but it’s awesome to see her interested in engaging with the world.
Here Anahí has made some advances. A month ago her auditory processing was at the level of a four-year-old. Now she has reached age level! This means that not only do her ears and brain pick up sounds, she can now better process and make sense of those sounds that she is picking up. It translates into her having more comprehensible conversations with us, and being able to hear and understand us when we aren’t directly in front of her. It’s huge.
Touch and Spatial Awareness
This is the area where Anahí is perhaps struggling the most still. Her fine motor skills have improved, but not enough to get her past the two-year-old mark. That’s going to be one of our main points of emphasis for the next month. She is such a hard worker. We just need to give her more opportunities to use her little hands and fingers.
Anahí’s core is getting stronger every day. When I think about how far she has come from those first weeks when she couldn’t lift her head off of the ground, I’m so impressed by her determination. She has reached nearly age level in all categories but one — in which she has reached the level of a seven-year-old.
Synchronization and Balance
When Anahí started the program she could hardly get across the balance beam at all. A month ago she reached age level, and now she is at the level of a seven-year-old on the beam. No more falling down the stairs for this girl.
Anahí’s behavior continues to change and improve, as do her cognitive skills. We decided to facilitate her having more social experiences by putting her back into kindergarten. She’s older than the other kids, but she’s still tiny, and she seems happy. I think this is going to be an awesome year for her.
(I haven't got any video of Anahí right now, but I wanted to post this. I'll get some of her soon.)
Kimball’s visual numbers all stayed the same, and they are great. He has worked his tail off to get his eyes strong and it shows.
Kimball continues to be far over his age level in auditory processing — although it dropped a bit this month. He must have been having a bad day when they tested him ;)
Kimball has almost reached age level in his fine motor skills, and he jumped from the level of a six-year-old to the level of a nine-year-old this past month in proprioception (his awareness of his body in space). This facilitates physical activity but also social interaction as the more aware Kimball is of himself, the more aware he can be of the people around him.
Kimball’s core is still super-strong and we are working more on maintenance than improvement. He does about 40-45 sit-ups in a minute and around 30 pushups in a minute.
Synchronization and Balance
Kimball is still way over his age level in all of these areas. His rhythm and timing is a level ten, his balance beam improved from level twelve to level thirteen, and his gait/aerobic has held steady at level thirteen.
Kimball is statistically pretty close to where he needs to be, and has exceeded his age level in many areas. He has started third grade in a dual immersion program and is doing really well. His teacher had this to say about him:
Kimball interacts in class with the other students very well. He raises his hand, is helpful, and kind to everyone. At recess he will sometimes play by himself, but will go and play at times with other kids. He seems well adjusted to school.
As always, please feel free to comment on and share this post with your friends and family. We hope our story helps other people working with children and adults with autism. Feel free, as well, to click on the thermometer and donate to help us pay for the Brain Balance program that has done so much for us. Every little bit helps!