"Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I really need it."
~ Swedish Proverb, from Dr. Robert Melillo's book, "Reconnected Kids"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Playing catch up...

So it's been a crazy busy week...I'm going to try to play catch up in one blog post. Wish me luck!

Last Monday, Aidan has his first session at the Brain Balance center in Roswell, and it was great! I met both of his coaches - Susan in the sensory motor room, and Jennifer, his cognitive coach. They were both extremely nice and excited to be working with Aidan. While he was in his session, I had a great meeting with Dr. Pete Scire, the director at the Roswell center. He asked me to give his this week for he and his coaches to get a feel for Aidan - they knew where he was on paper, but wanted to see how he responded in his sessions. Next week, he would have some ideas for fine-tuning Aidan's home exercise routine. For now, the most important things we could be doing were ocular exercises, smells, listening to the hemispheric music, and above all else, PLAYING hard outside. Swimming, biking, climbing, running, jumping, swinging, sliding...all of these great activities that we've been working into our daily routine here in Atlanta. Dr. Pete had some great suggestions for games to get for Aidan. NO legos, NO puzzles - anything with a predictable pattern is OUT, as these activities work the left hemisphere. Aidan has a right brain deficiency, so things like mazes and logic/reasoning games are much better for him. He suggested Tanagrams (shape puzzles without a preset pattern), Rush Hour, Perfection, and other games along those lines. I went shopping on amazon.com and found a company called ThinkFun that makes TONS of these games - and they are fairly inexpensive. So far, Rush Hour is the big hit with everyone! We have cut our "screen time" down to almost nothing - no ipad, no Nintendo DS, no computer, as video games strongly stimulate the left hemisphere. Dr. Pete also wanted me to pick up some safety goggles and change Aidan's blocking glasses to hemifield glasses.

What does all this mean, you ask. Well, I'm working on a whole post about exactly WHAT Brain Balance is and HOW it works, specifically for Aidan. Where he was when we started versus now, after using the home program for nine months (he's made HUGE progress). But for now, I'll try to summarize it briefly, in my own words - Dr. Robert Melillo (Brain Balance founder and author of "Disconnected Kids") believes that most children who suffer from a number of neurological and behavioral disorders (including Autism, Asperger's, ADHD, dyslexia, to name just a few) all suffer under an umbrella diagnosis that he calls "Functional Disconnected Syndrome." This basically means that there is an imbalance in function between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Somewhere during the child's brain development, one hemisphere of the brain became stronger and more dominant than the other. The dominant hemisphere can even take over functions that the weaker hemisphere is uniquely qualified to perform, causing information to be improperly received, processed and responded to. This imbalance can lead to inappropriate social, emotional, and behavioral responses for the child. Since the brain is responsible for the proper functioning of all of the systems and organs in the body, a brain imbalance can also lead to medical issues as well - allergies, gut and bowel issues, proper nutrient absorption, problems processing toxins out of the body, etc. The bottom line is that if the two hemisphere of the brain are not balanced and working in harmony together, the rest of the body is out of whack as well. Restore balance to the brain, and over time, restore balance to the rest of the body.

So HOW does Brain Balance do this? The first step is the assessment. If you have "Disconnected Kids," there is an assessment in the book that you can perform on your child to determine which hemisphere is deficient and to what degree. At a Brain Balance center, they perform the comprehensive assessment for you. It takes about 4 hours at a center, and you get a TON of information. They test everything - sensory systems, gross and fine motor skills, cognition, rhythm and timing skills, hearing, eye reflexes, primitive reflexes, and a lot of other things - this is just what I can remember off the top of my head. (Somehow, I seem to have left my notebook in Savannah this past weekend - I'll have to see if my honey will ship it to me very soon!) Anyway, they take all of the information in the assessment and create a specific and individual program for each child, designed to strengthen and work the deficient hemisphere of the brain. Aidan has a significant right brain deficiency. In order to specifically work the right hemisphere, you sometimes have to block out the left. (With everything except the nose, the left hemisphere of the brain corresponds to the right side of the body, and vice versa) So to block out the left hemisphere, you put a sock over the right foot, a patch or blocking glasses over the right eye, and a plug in the right ear. By blocking out the left hemisphere as much as possible, you are forcing the right hemisphere to stand up and pay attention, even if it doesn't really want to! So the blocking is important, both at the center and for periods of time at home. The smells provide great stimulation, and we use specific scent to stimulate the right brain (coffee, eucalyptus, cinnamon, orange, lime, clove, peppermint, and black pepper, to name a few). The music came from brain balance, and has certain sounds and frequencies to stimulate the right brain (some classical, lots of nature sounds). As we get a little further along in the program, we'll start combining these elements at home. For example, I'll have Aidan wear the blocking glasses, while playing a game like Rush Hour, using only the left hand to move the pieces on the board, with the Brain Balance music in the background. But for now, one or two things at a time is sufficient.

Ok, so back to our week, in as much of a nutshell as I can manage!
Monday evening, Aunt Gloria and Aunt Kris toted burgers and watermelon down to the pool and grilled out while Alana and I swam with the boys. They LOVED eating dinner poolside!

Tuesday is always our day off from Brain Balance, and this past Tuesday, we hit the road to the south side of Atlanta to play with two other relocated Brain Balance families. Four adults, nine kids between us, a big church parking lot, tons of bikes, cars, scooters, skates and (of course) helmets - it was super fun madness! The kids had a blast, everyone played well together, and I enjoyed getting to know the other ladies. We paused the wheeled madness for a picnic lunch, and we would have headed to the pool with everyone afterwards...but we had to book it home to meet the A/C repair man. Thankfully, that was a quick, inexpensive fix and we were cool again! I made pot roast for dinner, and we got a quick swim in too!

Wednesday, Aidan had his session at Brain Balance and I met with Dr. Ed, the nutritionist, while I waited for Aidan. Dr. Ed wants us to redo Aidan's labwork, to see if we need to fine tune anything while he's in the program. We're working on that one, Dr. Ed! After his session, we collected the little boys from Alana and headed home. The kids blew bubbles while I got an early dinner ready (leftovers...;) and we were literally stepping out of the door in our bathing suits when the sky went black and the wind started howling. Then came the storm - big booms of thunder, huge cracks of lightning - it was nuts! The little boys were tired and rather unfazed by the storm, but Aidan had his heart set on the pool. He started to work himself into full meltdown mode, but thank goodness his mom had a plan for a rainy day. I silenced him with one peek in THE BOX. Over the last year or two, I've been collecting little crafting supplies here and there, and they all landed in THE GOX. Thankfully, I thought to pack it when we moved - we like to be crafty now and then, and rainy afternoons are frequent here in Georgia in the summertime. I told Aidan he could use ANYTHING he wanted in THE BOX, but tears were a deal breaker. The lid came off, and the tears came to a screeching halt! Multicolored feathers and popsicle sticks, glitter glue and tissue paper, paper plates, pipe cleaners - you name it, it was in THE BOX. We decided to make Daddy a Father's Day gift, and to make something for Papa and PawPaw (granddads), and MePa and Grandpa Barry (great-granddads) too! It took us a while to figure out just WHAT to make (the possibilities were endless, after all) but we finally settled on caterpillars. Ok, tornadoes were Aidan's first choice, but neither one of us had a clue how to make that one happen. We've been reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" a lot lately, as Aidan and Aeson both enjoy it immensely. We set about punching holes, making antennae and legs, and gluing plates together to dry overnight. It was way past bedtime when we finished - the little brothers had sacked out much earlier. The boys spent the next morning decorating their caterpillars with crayons, markers, and glued-on accents while I packed up the car for our trip home.

Thursday, we were supposed to have a session at Brain Balance, and then hit the road. However, Dr. Pete had an emergency and had to cancel just as we were heading to Roswell. Instead, we headed to Lawrenceville, to pick up Hannah and Delanie, our companions for the ride home. Their mom was heading down to see her mom at about the same time, and was kind enough to let the girls ride with me to help in the car. The girls were a great help, but traffic was a nightmare with lots of road construction, and we got home much later than planned. But we all survived the trip! And we had a little welcoming party when we pulled up at home! Papa was there to greet us, along with Daddy, and sweet Nanny Ange brought us some dinner, which was awesome! Mimi stopped by a little later too! The boys were very glad to be home, and bedtime was fairly easy.

Friday morning, I had an iPad training seminar to attend in the morning (very cool, learned LOTS of tips and tricks), and Hannah and Delanie kept my boys at the house. Mimi relieved them so that they could head to the beach, and I had time to run a couple of errands after my class.

Saturday, the boys and I ran errands while Daddy worked, and we hit the beach for an hour or so in the late afternoon. My boys sure do miss the beach, and they had a blast playing with their Dad in the water!

Sunday, it was time to pack 'em up and move 'am out again, much too soon! We had a great Father's Day Brunch at Mom and Dad's house. The boys got to play with Uncle Kyle, Nanny, Aunt Cassie, sweet Kayley, Mimi, Papa, and their great-grandparents - Ms. Reta, MeMa and MePa! Brunch was awesome, and the company was even better! The boys proudly handed out their Father's Day cards and their caterpillars, and everyone loved them. Too soon, it was time for goodbye hugs and kisses! We picked up Hannah, Delanie, and their brother Zac on our way out of town and hit the road. We made much better time on our return trip, and everyone was pretty good in the car. My dear friend Amanda drove to the condo to collect Zac, and the girls are spending the next couple of nights with me to help out. I am so very grateful to them for the help - I had hoped that I would get a little break at home this past weekend, but that was not at all the case. Hopefully, my boys won't drive Hannah and Delanie completely nuts, and they will want to come back frequently for a couple of days here and there! (Fingers crossed!)

So I think that about covers it. I will do my very best to update a little more frequently, so you don't have to read a novel to catch up with the Pences. And I am trying to make nice with my new phone, so that I can once again put pictures in my blog. Grrr....

Much love,

Allie



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The Brain Balance Motto

We Believe that Within Every Child Resides...

The Body of an Olympic Athelete...
The Brain of a Scientist...
The Mind of a Poet...
The Hands of an Artist...
The Ear of a Composer...
The Heart of a Saint...

NEVER Stop Believing That Your Child Has Unlimited Potential!