February is typically known as the month of love, however at Jacob’s Ladder every day is an act of love. This factor is so important that it is built into Jacob’s Ladder core values; their purpose being to build a community with an atmosphere focused around HOPE, TRUTH, and LOVE. When entering the doors at Jacob’s Ladder, you can’t help but feel the power of love that is held within the walls. Last spring, Jacob’s Ladder went re-accreditation. Following a week-long visit, the accreditation team shared their experience with the Jacob’s Ladder Leadership Team. Their comments were a representation of the core values of Jacob’s Ladder, “We were struck by the culture of the school… This love establishes a safe place that allows students to thrive as themselves and enables lives to be transformed.”
This culture is fostered in order for our students to have a safe and loving environment in which to learn. In Love Does, a book that is highly recommended by the Founding Director, Amy O’Dell, Bob Goff states that“… love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.” This kind of active love has the power to change. In the work we do, it’s the power to change the brain. Since the work and methodology we use is based in neuroplasticity, and rewiring and producing lasting change in the brain is a day-to-day process, this makes the person involved in the day-to-day work one of the most integral components to a student’s success. Having a loving and supporting teacher implementing the Jacob’s Ladder methodology allows for no limit to be put on our student’s potential. “… Love does whatever it takes to multiply itself and somehow along the way everyone becomes a part of it. You know why? Because that’s what love does (Love Does).”
It’s at this junction between science and love that our students begin to shine. One of our students who has been shining bright this year is a smiling 4-year old named Will. Will is a full-time afternoon student who has been attending Jacob’s Ladder since the beginning of Fall 2015. Since working his program for the past 5 months, Will has made incredible gains in all areas of neurodevelopment, but most notably his language, fine motor, and gross motor abilities.
A primary focus on Will’s program is language output with an emphasis on reflexive oral motor and tongue movements that are necessary for articulation. Will’s teachers are continually prompting for the correct tongue placement and lip movements during language production throughout the day. Will works on his trouble sounds knee-to-knee with his teachers, and then continues to review these sounds within articulation phrases spoken throughout the flow of his day. By review trouble sounds on an on-going basis, Will is able to generalize these skills within his environment. He is also building his vocabulary by identifying photos of familiar faces or objects receptively and expressively.
Will also has several activities to reinforce his applied language skills. For these, Will is working on answering simple social questions, identifying the function of common items and expressing the function of body parts, as well as answering What? questions without any visual or verbal prompt. All of these skills are working Will’s expressive vocabulary and giving him the language necessary to communicate his thoughts, wants, needs, and desires.
Another form of communication that Will has recently begun working is the initial stages to handwriting. To ensure he has the fine motor skills that are a prerequisite for handwriting, Will started with activities that targeted finger dexterity and isolation, as well as strengthened his bi-manual abilities. Within the past month that Will has been working his initial coloring activity, his ability to stay within the lines has improved.
January 2016 February 2016
As part of the Jacob’s Ladder brain-based methodology, Will has been working gross-motor activities and has developed a clear cross-lateral pattern with his early developmental milestones.
The improvements in language and fine motor that Will has made in the past few months have been reinforced with his gross motor cross-lateral work. By placing an emphasis on gross motor and the integration of early reflexes, we are able to rewire the brain for the higher-level learning to occur.
One reason all this growth and neurological change is possible for Will is the relationship that has been fostered between Will and his teachers. Every day is full of energy, excitement, and continual encouragement. “Words of encouragement… have their own power. And when they are said by the right people, they can change everything….the words people say to us not only have shelf life but have the ability to shape life (Love Does).”
Will’s progress is a perfect example of how the Jacob’s Ladder methodology, and it’s specific implementation, has the ability to re-shape a student’s story.
From Will’s mother – “We couldn’t be happier or more impressed with the people of Jacob’s Ladder and Will’s progress. Will talks about his beloved teachers, Mr. Curtis and Mr. Zach, daily. To say he adores them would be an understatement. As his parents, we’ve been so impressed with the kindness, patience, attention to detail, communication and perseverance all of his teachers and evaluators have shown. The fluency and clearness of his speech as well as his confidence running, climbing and jumping have been the most obvious changes but we notice little improvements every day; unzipping his own jacket, pulling up his pants, initiating conversations, recognizing sight words…. The list goes on and on! Did we mention he’s only been there since August? We consider Jacob’s Ladder a place of miracles and a gift from God.”
Love until it hurts…
We can all do the small things,
with great LOVE,
and together we can do something wonderful.
This is the culture that is fostered within the walls of Jacob’s Ladder. This is the secret ingredient.