Denial to Healing: A Mother’s Journey Through Learning Disabilities
- Paula Moldenhauer Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2010 16 Sep
When second grader Anna Lee was demoted to first grade, put in a cubicle away from her classmates, and her struggles emphasized daily, her mother, Anna Buck, knew something had to be done. With the teacher's words "severe learning disabilities" ringing in her head, she pulled her daughter from the school and began the long journey from denial, to advocate, to healer.
"I knew my daughter struggled, but didn't want to face the severity. I refused to have her diagnosed, but people threw out labels like severe dyslexia, bi-polar disorder, and CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder)," said Anna. "Looking back, I think I was grieving. Denial, anger, tears, and weeping eventually became a determination to face the situation."
Though homeschooling was not commonplace at that time, Anna didn't know how else to offer her daughter the support she needed. Family and friends criticized. "It seemed no one could help me," said Anna. "I couldn't share with anyone because it would make both of us more vulnerable and open for criticism. Anna Lee was already too fragile."
Professionals recommended that Anna "accept" her daughter's disabilities and that Anna Lee learn to "cope" with her disorders. Anna wanted more for her daughter.
"I spent hours and days sitting in Tattered Cover Book Store reading everything I could get my hands on about learning disabilities and was dumfounded when I read how one author described dyslexia: ‘We don't know what it is or what causes it.'
At that point I became convinced that the professionals didn't know much more than I about how to help my child. This started the journey of research. I was determined to hunt down what might be causing her struggles."
Anna's journey to find answers for Anna Lee took years, not months. Initially homeschooling consisted of tiny, incremental steps forward. Anna agonized over her daughter's struggles. Anna Lee couldn't repeat a word longer than two syllables, couldn't read or write, and couldn't memorize memory verses for Sunday school—retaining only two-word phrases.
On top of the academic challenges, Anna Lee had a fear of social interaction and little sense of place or personhood. She needed her mother by her side at all times to feel safe. "Her personality was hidden so deep inside her fears and difficulties that I felt as though I never really knew who she was," Anna said.
Anna struggled with exasperation and anger, thinking her daughter should just "try harder." Then, convicted of her daughter's inability to do so, Anna would experience a deep sense of personal inadequacy. "The hardest part was not knowing what to do for her. I prayed daily that the Lord would meet her needs in spite of my inadequacies," said Anna.
As one year stretched to two, then five, then ten, Anna never gave up. "If I didn't fight for my child, who would?" Anna said. "I knew she was a gift from God before she was born, and I felt that it was my responsibility to do whatever it might take to protect her, fight for her, give her everything in me for whatever she needed. I couldn't give up—she needed me for her very survival."
Anna Lee was nineteen before her mom found the answers she's prayed for over the many years of heartache and struggle. They came through the life work of Dr. Peter Blythe of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology (NPP), and Svea Gold's book, If Children Just Came with Instruction Sheets. These professionals proposed that learning disabilities should be treated at the root cause—the abnormal retention of the primitive reflexes at the base of the brain. Blythe believed if the blockages to normal development were removed, the body would develop in an organized manner when treatment followed that same organized, systematic progression.
Anna contacted Svea who responded to her emails with exercises to try with Anna Lee. Anna was astounded at the results. "I would take Anna Lee into my bedroom at night to do an exercise with her. One night nothing was different and another night she would collapse onto the floor in a heap and sob for fifteen minutes. Each time the sobbing happened, the next day I observed something new about her that I had never seen before. Sometimes it was improvement in body coordination, body awareness or balance. Verbal expression began."
Anna was so excited about the changes happening in Anna Lee that she flew to Chester, England to train at INPP as a Neuro-Developmental Delay (NDD) Therapist.
Anna Lee blossomed as her mom applied all she learned. "I sensed we had began an adventure like no other. I became an observer, a soother, and an encourager. During her sobbing moments, I curled around her and held her until the sobbing subsided, promising her it would be okay. Sometimes she showed exciting new confidence with her newfound abilities. Other times she seemed uncertain what to do with the changes. I was, too, but I was in this for the long haul, whatever it might demand of me. Emotions ran high, but I was determined to ‘ride the waves' as she went through each new stage."
It was worth everything Anna and her family gave. "Seeing Anna Lee smile with confidence, answer someone when they spoke to her, or stand on one foot for the first time in nineteen years, literally gave me chills. It was like a continual adrenaline rush," said Anna. "What an awesome God we have that He would bring such profound healing to this child of mine."
As Anna Lee progressed through developmental stages the "normal" child goes through much earlier in life, Anna was still discouraged with Anna Lee's academic process. These changes didn't come until much later, but when they began, they too progressed rapidly. Still, Anna felt her daughter needed greater support in learning how to process auditory information now that the developmental blocks were removed.
Anna traveled to Toronto, Canada to be trained in Paul Madaule's Listening Fitness Program. She chose it because it is based on developmental growth just as the work of INPP is. When she combined NDD therapy with Listening Therapy, the results were astounding.
Eighteen months after they started NDD therapy and after Anna Lee completed the Listening Fitness Program, she was reading adult fiction and beginning to function at age level across the board. Prior to starting, she had struggled with reading 3rd grade level books, couldn't make change at the grocery store, and would get lost trying to return home from the neighborhood park.
"I had prayed for so many years that God would show me what was wrong and what to do about it. As the answers unfolded and my daughter came alive before my eyes I was astounded, humbled, and in awe of a God who created our bodies so marvelously. I felt as though I was given my daughter back as a whole person."
Today Anna Lee is a fully functioning adult. Anna says, "I am thrilled to have finally gotten to know her. She is definitely her own person and she has talents and abilities that I didn't know existed. She loves to read and she writes novels—truly amazing. She has thoughts and opinions that I enjoy hearing. Even if I disagree, it's a pleasure to know that she can think for herself. She continues to do new things every so often that amaze me. She is now comfortable inside her own body and interested in the world around her. Anna Lee has become an adult and can take care of herself. She no longer needs me by her side in order to survive."
Anna's gift of healing now extends beyond the borders of her home. With the help of her older daughter Melissa, a business major, she began Anna's House (http://www.annashousellc.com/), which offers educational remediation. From this warm, loving environment, Anna serves children from literally around the world, helping them find the healing her daughter lives daily.
"Seeing broken, dysfunctional children become whole persons is a privilege I cherish. Watching and listening to a child who once couldn't read now read with enjoyment is music to my ears. Joy fills my heart when a child who once couldn't write brings me a story he or she wrote."
Successes abound. One seventeen-year-old boy struggled through a 2nd grade primer when he first came to Anna. He's now twenty-one and earning straight A's in his chemical engineer degree program. Another child couldn't write or read but after therapy won the governor's award for her essay. A fourteen-year-old went from batting last on his baseball team one summer to having the highest batting average and being chosen for All-Stars the next. A six-year girl broke out of her shell, no longer terrified to interact with others.
"Seeing a child once labeled with learning disabilities become excited about learning brings incredible delight to my soul and I wonder what the future holds for each of these children," said Anna. "There is hope. Parents should never give up. If they don't fight for their child, who will?"
September 16, 2010
A free-lance writer and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer's children received help through Anna's House. Paula is passionate about God's grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website offers the Soul Scents devotional, homeschooling hints, and book reviews. Subscribe to Soul Scents at www.soulscents.us. You can contact Paula at [email protected].
Anna Buck, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Education, has been a private tutor for over 20 years. She is a certified Neuro-Developmental Delay Therapist and Licentiate of The Institute For Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, UK. Anna is also a certified Listening Fitness Trainer for The Listening Centre, Quebec, Canada. You can learn more about Anna's House at http://www.annashousellc.com/. Contact Anna at [email protected]