I met with the doctor at Brain Balance yesterday to go over my daughter’s final results. After six months of the program, the doctor had many technical things to tell me about Marley’s improvements…but for me, while all that stuff is really awesome to see on paper, what we are seeing at home means the most.
When Marley started out in the program, she was considered a “moderate functioning” nine year old girl with autism. She was in a self-contained classroom at her elementary school. Her level of anxiety, which stemmed from sensory overload, kept her out of a mainstream classroom. In fact, she would kick and scream to leave the mainstream classroom after only about ten minutes. And sometimes she would just up and leave the mainstream classroom by herself. Her way of telling us…this is way too much for my nervous system to handle.
And now, just a short six months later, here is a list of her functional improvements, which are my personal favorites:
1. She occupies herself without a television or computer. Before the program, her life revolved around waiting and longing for TV time or even more cherished, computer time. If she wasn’t doing one of these things, she was begging me for it. She never wanted to go outside to play. Even if I was taking her siblings. She would play games with me inside, but only if I sat down with her to do it. She needed my undivided attention which is hard when you are the mom of three. Now, I will walk into the room to find she and her sister playing a board game. Or having a princess tea party. Or playing a game of make believe. Or even interacting with her 22 month old brother whom she formerly ignored. Now she gets a kick out of him. She tells him jokes and laughs and then he laughs when he sees her laugh. It’s hysterical.
But her favorite pastime has become reading. Before we started Brain Balance she did not have the confidence to read a chapter book by herself. But once she started, we couldn’t stop her. She has found a love for books which is immense. When I can’t find her, I know to go to our bookshelves and I will find her reading a book with her headphones on. Listening to music and reading a book at the same time. (Sometimes it’s even the Brain Balance music which she listens to without my prompting.)
2. She is being mainstreamed next Fall for third grade. This awesome news came in the fifth month of the program. See my post titled, “I Think I can. I Think I Can.” for more on this story. But needless to say, this one was huge for us. My goal has always been to get her mainstreamed but in the beginning of the school year, it seemed that dream was slipping away. Now…it is a reality.
3. She has a new ability to transition without adverse behaviors. For the last month of second grade, she was fully integrated into the mainstream classroom and did very well. She actually enjoyed it. At the end of the school year, there was a second grade carnival that Marley was looking forward to. But that day it rained. And the carnival needed to be moved inside. So we started the day with a change in plans, which had always been so hard for my daughter to handle. But she rolled with it. My fear didn’t end there. That day, she would also have to face a change in regular schedule, an echoing loudness in the atrium which was almost deafening, face painting which she had never allowed before, new rules for lunch, new foods for lunch, hanging out with new kids from the other second grade classrooms and more. So how did it go? The teacher called me. I saw her number on the caller ID and my heart dropped. Would I have to go pick her up? No. The teacher called to say she was doing wonderfully. Much better than they expected. She was happy and having her lunch with new kids and getting her face painted. I teared up. There was no reason to worry. Now there’s a new feeling for me.
4. Her independence has grown. This was one of the very last things to fall into place. We got this in the sixth month of Brain Balance. She now takes pride in doing things herself and she has a few chores that she alone is responsible for. Her teacher had warned me that this was going to be a big part of third grade and we were going to have to work on this. Then just a few short weeks later, I got a note home from her saying that Marley is becoming very independent in the classroom. (This was a child that just 6 short months ago had to be walked to her mainstream class if she went.)
5. She has a willingness to try new things. She was always stuck in rut…likely out of fear of her sensory system being overwhelmed. But now, she will try new activities. She is even excited to go new places and do new things. Today, she rode a scooter that her sister has “owned” for the last six months. And not just once. They scootered away for over an hour. And loved every minute of it!
6. Lastly, I can breathe. My anxiety level is down enormously. People who don’t live with autism don’t quite realize that the parents live in fight or flight mode. You have to be ready to leave a party in an instant or leave a cart of groceries because your child is melting down. You have enormous strength because you have to be able to pick up a screaming child and buckle them into the van. And after a while, you just give up and don’t take the child anymore. And everybody suffers. The siblings who have to witness it. The child who eventually misses out on things for fear of the unknown and the parents who adapt to living in a constant state of panic.
But we are in a new place. We are happier. Not just Marley, but all of us. I take my girls to the grocery store each week. Without fear of meltdowns. Without fear that if I say, “no…we can’t buy that”, it will mean screaming until I give in. And let me tell you….this alone made the Brain Balance experience worth every penny! I never knew if I would see the other side. You know… how normal people live. But I am capturing glimpses and it is heavenly!