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Success Story: Brody

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One of the ways that Jacob’s Ladder stands out when it comes to working with our population of children is our commitment to look at a child as a whole. Through the years of evaluating children, our Founding Director, Amy O’Dell, has outlined 4 components that have shown to be inter-woven when looking at where a child is and envisioning their potential for growth: Neurodevelopmental, Physiological, Learning Style, and Emotional/Behavioral/Social. These Dynamics are integral to a child’s neurodevelopment and overall cognitive functioning. As they are connected, difficulties in one can lead to challenges in all, however successes in one also lead to gains in overall growth.

Brody is a great example of the importance of assessing all four dynamics to address the whole child. Brody has been attending Jacob’s Ladder since April 2014, first full-time and then later on a part-time basis. With a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and PDD-NOS, Brody demonstrated behaviors and agitation due to lack of cognitive processing and minimal self-regulation. He had limited use of spontaneous language, lack of eye contact, difficulty in social interaction with peers, and delayed academic growth. He would frequently dart away from family and teachers and since transitions were a challenge, he had difficulty moving through his day. Rather than addressing Brody’s cognitive state, overactive lifestyle, and meltdowns solely as behavior, we looked at it through a neurological lens.

Brody’s initial program was heavy with gross motor and early reflex activities; essentially we were training the brain to rewire itself and form new connections, re-building his brain from the foundation up. After integration of early reflexes and demonstration of a fluid cross-lateral pattern, Brody progressed to more challenging activities to further reinforce the cross-lateral movements. In this video, Brody is working on a 10-piece motor planning activity.

One particular cross-lateral activity that is beneficial for our students is running. Running also has several additional benefits for cardiovascular health and increased oxygenation to the brain, which is connected to cognitive growth. For the past 2 years, Brody has completed a daily run when he’s at Jacob’s Ladder; he started with small distances for short durations and gradually moved to consistent running for 10 minutes. Running was initially a challenge for Brody, as he would frequently flee from his teachers. From his initial evaluation through the first few months of programming, he worked on the concepts of “Stay with me” and “Come to me” with his teachers. After building success with these concepts, Brody was slowly introduced to greater independence. Brody’s teachers no longer need to keep one hand on him at all times, as he is independent with all transitions. Now Brody uses his running time to complete higher-level cognitive tasks, from math problems to recalling past events, to further reinforce the new neurological connections that have been built. Here, Brody is reviewing how to skip count by 8’s while he completes his daily run. Notice that his teacher is nearby, but Brody is able to maintain his focus and attention of the dual tasks.

In conjunction with the neurological foundation being built through cross-lateral activities and early reflex development, sequential processing is also a main component of Jacob’s Ladder programming. Processing activities are designed to strengthen the neurological pathways for how we take in information, process and store it, and then provide the correct output. Typically, we are able to process an amount of information that correlates with our chronological age; for example, a three-year-old should be processing 3’s. The average adult can process seven pieces of information, such as a phone number without the area code. Brody is the perfect candidate to show the value of sequential processing activities. After his initial evaluation, Brody began working auditory and visual processing activities with 2 pieces of information. After establishing a strong base with working 2’s, he progressed to working 3’s and then to 4’s within his first year. By his second re-evaluation in February 2016 at 7 years old, Brody’s ability to process auditory and visual information had progressed to working 7 pieces of information for both auditory and visual activities. In this video, Brody is completing a visual processing activity with 7 different colored balls. His teacher shows him a picture of the answer and Brody is asked to replicate that picture by putting the balls on the tower in the correct order from memory only. This is an example of a visual processing activity since Brody is only given a visual cue.

By building a solid neurological foundation, areas of academics, emotional regulation, and behavior have all seen direct changes. At each re-evaluation, Brody has completed academic testing to show academic growth (academic testing was not completed at his initial evaluation in 2014 due to behavior challenges). Through these scores, we can see further evidence for improvement in areas of reading, spelling, math and reading comprehension. Brody is now at or above his appropriate grade level in all subjects tested. Scores are reported as grade level and month (1.6 is equivalent to First Grade, 6th month).

Re-evaluation 1 (3/2015)

Re-evaluation 2 (2/2016)

Reading

1.6

1.9

Spelling

1.8

2.4

Math

K.6

2.4

Reading Comprehension with a picture cue

Not Administered

2.4

As seen above, one of the areas where Brody has shown incredible growth is with math. He began with receptive and verbal identification of numbers 1-100 and quickly moved through addition and subtraction problems, including double digit problems using carrying and borrowing; his area of focus is now multiplication. Recently, he began working on money identification, coin value, and coin interchange. Following the unique nature of Jacob’s Ladder programming, Brody is working on money in a fun and interactive way; he is required to buy his snack every day. This encourages Brody to understand the value of money, as well as to work the concepts in a practical and real life way by putting it into a language that is motivating for him.

In the beginning, a main component of the behaviors that Brody presented with were frustration related to his ability to communicate. Brody did not have the language to be able to put words behind his wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings, so his way to communicate was by throwing tantrums. The neurological foundation that was built through his neurodevelopmental program enabled Brody to increase his verbal language abilities. While changes are seen in his speech, articulation, and complexity of thought, one of the most evident changes has been in his ability to express his thoughts and emotions. Whereas Brody once would exhibit behaviors when he reached a saturation point, he now has the ability to tell his teachers what is frustrating him and when he needs a break.

The integration between cognitive function, language, and emotional/behavioral regulation is so intimately woven together, that they must be viewed as parts of the whole instead of isolated pieces. By providing Brody with a strong foundation and viewing him through a neurological perspective, we have been able to witness incredible growth in all areas of development. Seeing Brody progress from a child who struggled with behaviors to a smart, funny, and social 7 year old has been incredible evidence for the neurological change taking place beneath the surface.

One response to “Success Story: Brody”

  1. Carole cirmo says:

    Great leaps of success. Thank you all for the work and patience to guide these kids. Wow what next!

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