The story I heard from a BrainGym client is truly breathtaking, full of everything from a child's tears, bullying at school, visits to psychologists, to the gaps in the state's education system. "The child, my mother and I were completely tormented by my son's academic failure."
By the end of fourth grade, the child had hardly read any books and had difficulty understanding written text. His grades in all subjects suffered as a result of his difficult comprehension, and homework had become an almost endless torment for the child, his mother and his grandmother, who, as an educator herself, had worked very hard for her grandson. One of the main reasons why both women worked so hard was the child's very low self-esteem, compounded by bullying at school. The child started to feel bad at school as early as the first grade, and by the end of the fourth grade he had lost all motivation not only to learn but even to try. At the end of fourth grade, when he came to the tutor who helped him with his homework, he would spend a third of the time complaining about how hard it was.
"Imagine a child looking at you with tears in his eyes and earnestly explaining that he will never learn what his classmates know. This suffering went on for years, not even months," the child's mother describes the situation.
After tests at a genetics centre, the family discovered the cause of their son's poor school performance - a microdeletion on a chromosome. 90% of people with this diagnosis have a language development disorder, which can be corrected with proper development. Unfortunately, when he started school, there was very limited help from speech therapists and special educators.
"In the fourth grade, the psychological-pedagogical service carried out a developmental assessment for my son, and he was diagnosed with moderate special educational needs, as well as delayed social maturity and emotional difficulties. In fifth grade, he would have needed an adaptation of the general curricula for language, social and science education: a reduction in the amount of assignments and homework, more time for homework, less rote learning, and the support of a special educator, a speech and language therapist and psychologist. He would be admitted to fifth grade on the condition that the school "does not guarantee learning outcomes". This condition would be included in the contract with the school", says the mother about the problems she had to face in the educational institution.
The family was determined to find another school for the child, as the bullying at school, which was only occasionally prevented by the teacher and the concerned mother, added to the difficulties.
"Fortunately, we found a new school for my son that already had experience with pupils with special educational needs, otherwise my son would have had to repeat fourth grade. However, as part of the insurance, the school required us to hire an additional assistant to be with my son for the entire duration of his stay at the school, or else he would have had to repeat the fourth grade anyway. We signed this contract because no other school was willing to accept my son in Year 5," says the mother about her new school and her newfound hope.
The family was in a situation where they would have turned to anywhere that could make a difference to their child's educational performance and to the family's daily suffering. Since 2016, the child's and the family's life has gradually started to change, and since July they have been attending the Brain Gym, a centre for intellectual development. The last session took place on the first day of February, so the sessions lasted about six and a half months. The family started attending in the summer to help the child do better in the new school and gain more confidence. Although the child was very reluctant to start the classes because he was already tired of studying and failing, his mother tried to motivate him with treats, Lego games and even a computer game about zombies. Fortunately, all the efforts of the family and coaches paid off.
How did you hear about this intellectual centre?
- "I first heard about Brain Gym on Facebook. I remember as well as if it were today, a "post" about the new Brain Gym Intellectual Training Centre popped up on my Facebook "wall" in the middle of the day. I was in a hurry at the time, so I only read the short post, but in the evening I read the open link in detail, and immediately sent an email to Brain Gym asking them to sign up for a test. It was summer at the time, June, my son had finished fourth grade, and we were looking for a new school for him.
"The Brain Gym does not use traditional teaching methods, it is not a simple tutoring session, and the learning takes the form of games. Have you found the methods of teaching intelligence to be strange, or are you not frightened of them?
- "Brain Gym's learning methods did not seem strange or unconventional. Of course, they don't teach history or geography - that's what tutors are for. I was not intimidated by the methods, especially as before the classes, tests were carried out to identify learning weaknesses - in my son's case, short-term and long-term memory were the weakest. Most of the exercises were aimed at memory training. I found it all very acceptable and understandable. I really wasn't scared. In fact, my mother, who is herself a primary school teacher and a speech and language therapist, did not believe for a long time that Brain Gym would help her child. She only stopped being sceptical after three or four months when she saw her son picking up a book and reading on his own. As I remember now, the mother came to me in a state of complete confusion, and said to me quietly, in disbelief: "he is reading...".
"The Brain Gym team members like to call themselves coaches, as the sessions are designed to train the seven cognitive skills, in other words, "brain training". How would you rate the coach's communication with the child?
-I particularly liked the coach's interaction with the child. First of all, the coach gave my son confidence in himself and in his abilities. She kept saying that the child would succeed, that he would make it. This was a huge difference from the "traditional" teachers and tutors who, although encouraging, did it very infrequently, maybe even a bit formally, as if they did not really believe that this child would be able to do much. And the Brain Gym trainer didn't seem to care how many schools refused to accept us because of poor results, or what the specialists' evaluations and predictions were (which were not very encouraging). She was simply convinced that everything would work out. The coach also didn't let her son complain and moan (I kept hearing her say throughout the training: "You know how much I don't like it when people cry.").
How long afterwards did you start to notice the first results? What has changed?
- "The results were evident in the tasks completed (before, my son could remember less, he was slower, then faster and faster). "The Brain Gym tasks are timed accurately, so almost every day you can see progress, be happy about it, praised by the trainer, and at the same time motivated to continue and do more and better. The first "tangible" results in "real" life were seen at the end of the first week of September (i.e. one and a half months after starting at Brain Gym), when the headmistress of my son's school called me in and told me that we had to change my son's enrolment contract to a "standard" one, with the exception of his assistant. This was a great relief for us - on the one hand, our son would have felt much stupider with an assistant than his classmates who are able to study without a personal assistant, and on the other hand, the assistant would have doubled our son's schooling costs at an expensive school. So, from a financial point of view, we can say that Brain Gym "paid for itself" after one and a half months."
Would you recommend Brain Gym to others?
- "I definitely recommend Brain Gym to others. However, I would recommend Brain Gym more to those who have really big problems. "I read a book in the Brain Gym centre about the results of Brain Gym workouts in other countries. It says that the greatest progress is seen in those with the worst 'starting positions'. In other words, the worse the student is at the beginning of the training, the better he becomes at the end. In our case, this is exactly what happened: from a student who was allowed to skip the fourth grade with only reservations, and who was accepted by only one school in Vilnius (with only an assistant), to a student of average ability in six and a half months, and who is more adventurous, more creative, more active, and who has started to read books and to be willing to do well in school.
The mother's heartfelt story is a great encouragement for the whole Brain Gym team and an inspiration for other parents not to give up in the difficult and sometimes very exhausting fight. This story has become the first Brain Gym success story that will become a role model for the whole Brain Gym community, both current and future.