If you’re a regular reader of my blog you may be a bit familiar with Supergirl, my special needs developmentally delayed daughter. Though chronologically 16 years old she is globally delayed in all areas. We are not new to the ideas of neurodevelopmental or the effect of programs designed to improve neurological connections in the brain. Though familiar with different techniques and approaches, I am not familiar with the history of the research, or with the people who played a part in bringing an awareness to the connection to organization of the brain and improvement in cognitive abilities.
Recently, I read A Life in Balance which is the biography of Frank Belgau (as told to Eric Belgau). Frank is the creator of the Learning Breakthrough Program. This isn’t just his story but the story of how The Learning Breakthrough Program came to be and the story of the struggle of teachers, parents, psychologists, and optometrists in helping “minimally brain-damaged” or “disabled” children to learn to read.
This softcover book contains over 200 pages from the Preface and Introduction through the Appendix. Eric broke his father’s words into short easy to read chapters. Longer chapters are divided into sections. These smaller chapters and sections made the book easy to follow.
The first four to five chapters out of the 30 chapters focus on Frank’s early life: his early school days, how he develops his love of science, his time in the air force and then the start of his teaching career. The bulk of of the book describes how each school, job or person helped him to understand the development of the brain or to refine his theories. I like that the chapters are named for an influential (on Frank’s life) person or place.
My favorite chapters though came towards the end. What I really appreciated were chapters 26-28. In these chapters, Frank explains the plasticity of the brain. He explains how the vestibular system is the foundation for all of our senses and thus the foundation for all learning. Why is Learning Breakthrough Program so important? I think Frank answers it well on page 172 (emphasis is my own):
The brain’s process of development, which begins in the womb and continues into adulthood, provides the foundation of learning. An individual’s abilities derive from the efficiency of those systems, from the basic organization that manifests itself through the integrated coils of evolving, expanding, expanding neurological systems. Disabilities derive from an inefficiency in that basic organization, repeated and repeated like the reflections in a hall of mirrors, hampering the efficiency even of seemingly unrelated regions of the brain.
Throughout the book, Frank describes some of the activities he tried and the observed effects of those activities. The activities helped to restore the basic organization. He tells us that he, himself uses the program he created to make his own brain more organized now that he is older.
Frank’s book offers hope. He offers a solution. No one is too old to try these activities in the Appendix. No one is too young. In chapter 30 he says he would love to hang a pendulum above every crib. Knowing that even I could try these activities gives me hope that I can help my two children, who I suspect have ADD/ADHD. I intend for those two teens to read through chapters 26, 27, and 28 to understand *why* I want them to try the activities. It’s nearly summer break and I think we’ll be working on improving our vestibular systems this summer.
This book also confirmed or affirmed for me that using a neurodevelopment approach for Supergirl was the right choice. Children like Supergirl with severe brain damage/injury are not addressed in the book. She has significant issues related to her stroke. She can still benefit, and we’ve seen those benefits, from working through a program designed specifically to help her organize her brain for improved overall life function.
If you need hope that you can do something other than medication for treating ADD or ADHD, or if you need hope that your son or daughter can actually learn to read, you may want to read this book. Do check out the Learning Breakthrough Program website and look at the articles and products.
- The Vender: Learning Breakthrough Program
- The Product: A Life in Balance
- The Author: Frank Belgau as told to Eric Belgau
- Format: softcover, 200+ pages
- Price: At the time of this review the price is $16.94
You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.