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Two Stage Strategy – Brigid’s Story

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”   

William Shakespeare

I had the opportunity to interview two people for the case studies.  I chose one individual for the case study paper and presentation because she had more life experience, but the younger woman (age 23) that I also interviewed gave me some pause as I reflected about her maturity for this stage of her young life and the overwhelming importance of a strong social ecology during childhood when you are a person with learning disability.  In many cases this is a teacher or a counselor; in this case, it was Brigid’s mom.

Brigid’s older sister is moderately mentally disabled, but over the years has also been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  As a result, Brigid’s mom spent years fighting the public school system as she tried to better understand her daughter’s disability and needs.  So when it became apparent that Brigid was struggling in school, her mom kicked it into high gear.  She had her tested outside of the school division, and upon the diagnosis of dyslexia pulled her from school for two weeks, sending her to an intensive “therapy” program all day every day for those two weeks.  It’s Brigid’s description of the therapy that interested me, and caused me to do some further investigating.

Brigid referred to one component of the therapy as using her ‘central eye.’   She said that normal people can read left to right and put the pieces together, but she needed to go beyond the boundaries using her ‘central eye’ (she used her hand above her head to demonstrate the motion) to pull it together from the periphery.  The closest I could find to this description is a vision therapy for a condition called convergence insufficiency, which is “a childhood vision problem caused by poor eye coordination that does not allow the eyes to work together, or ‘team’, especially when viewing small images such as print.” (Childrensvision)  Interestingly, this same website stated “In fact, many children with convergence insufficiency are often misdiagnosed with a learning disability, dyslexia, or ADD/ADHD.”

She also talked about standing on one foot and throwing bean bags, then closing one eye; she said they used a lot of clay.  She wasn’t sure why.  According to Balametrics , this was sensory integration activity, which “requires individuals to balance precisely, make spatial judgments and provide a means of allowing feedback are the most powerful and effective activities available for maintaining and improving brain-processing efficiency and allowing an individual to become an efficient learner and improve academic success.

When a person engages in balance therapy that includes motor activities involving many different sensory systems, the brain utilizes neural networks to organize and execute the activities effectively. As the difficulty of a task increases, the number of neurons the network requires to perform the task increases. This truth is demonstrated in the following example.

We have the ability to learn because of the existence of these many brain systems. It follows that the ability to learn is relative to the resolution and efficiency of these systems.”

Because of Brigid’s mom, she was giving a tremendous gift of self determination at a very young age.  She took her these compensatory techniques – her central eye and her with her sensory integration – with her when she then entered a school for children with dyslexia, grades 6-9, again at her mom’s insistence.  There she added more tricks to the self-determination vault.  “I am now more outgoing and love people.  Then I was so focused on trying to read and do homework that I wasn’t comfortable.  They taught me how to learn a different way so I am comfortable with it – and I still use those tricks:  why use a difficult word when a simple one will do; slow down; write it on a piece of paper and trace over it.

Education is first and foremost preparation of learner

for success in life.

This week we read about helping young adults with LD transition to employment.  One of the most important ways to do this is by helping them develop the concepts of self.  It interesting to me that the adults in her life helped her build her concept of self, but she knew very little about dyslexia and her legal rights for accommodation as an adult.  She did use accommodations in school for testing.

Brigid went on to the Technical Center and became a hair stylist.  She says her dyslexia is no big deal to her, and she often talks about it with clients.  Her biggest obstacle is the numbers on the hair colors, but she uses the ‘slow down’ process to avoid disasters. She must do very well at that  – today she has a book of 800 clients and prides herself in knowing each one of them as individuals.  “I use to have to keep a notebook to remember, but I don’t any more.  I don’t know how I do it.”

I do.  Our readings stated that the role parents play needs to be supported and nurtured.  Brigid’s mom’s intervention allowed her to take the “2-stage strategy” of establishing herself as a person first and a person with a disability later.

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