They did it for themselves

We’ve had a lot of people praising us for making such a big sacrifice for our kids and for advocating in their best interest.  They’ve offered affirmations and praise for our decision,  and they applauded us for changing our kids’ lives by taking them to The Morris Center.  True…..somewhat.  We did invest in their futures and sacrifice time away from home to bring them here.  However, we aren’t the ones changing their lives.  We are simply the vessel for getting them where they need to be to change their own lives.

THEY DID IT!  They changed their lives themselves.  The Morris Center offered the science, the answers, the tools and the program that guided them in the right direction.  But ultimately it was up to them.  The staff couldn’t do if for them. They had to put in the work.  And it was HARD WORK!  At any point they could have shut down and said, “I’m done.  This is too hard and I’m tired.”  In all honestly, I heard these words from their mouths more than once.  Each time they said something along these lines, that sinking feeling of helplessness would creep into my soul.  It felt so  familiar and gave me flashbacks to just a few short months before. Those feelings had become the norm.   It certainly looked like the same frustration as before.  But this time something was different.  When they would reach the point of exhaustion and feel like quitting, they didn’t.  They still woke up every morning, got in the car and worked their tails off all day.  Sure, they did their share of moaning and groaning about going 5 days a week for 7 hours a day.  But they never gave up.  Instead, they kept showing up and buckling down to put in the work.  They were committed to the program and determined to finish.  

So, what made them continue? What was motivating them?  The trinkets they received at the end of the day from the treasure box weren’t that magical (btw….if anyone needs a stress ball…we got you covered!!!). Why did they willingly go every day and fully engage in learning (ahem….at least most of the time…Cannon, I’m lookin’ at you)? The answer is clear.  This program wasn’t like what they had done before.  This program was working.  They KNEW it was helping them.  More than just the adults noticed the difference it was making.  They recognized it too!  Learning was beginning to feel different to them.  Suddenly, they weren’t dreading those long chapter books.  Decoding words was becoming automatic.  They were not only reading with more fluency, they also comprehended what they read.  They could visualize in great detail the stories they were reading and they were able to recall those same stories days, weeks, and even months later.   By the end, they were challenging themselves to out-perform their last session/OT work/movie-making.  One of the speech pathologists told us about Cannon describing his story and then starting over later, saying, “Let me start over.  I can do that better.”  By the end, learning was different.  For the first time, learning felt EASY!  Even the defiant tween couldn’t deny that this “stuff” was helping him. 

Once home, our amazing support system celebrated Cannon & Avery’s accomplishments.  So many were curious about what they had done and how it had helped.  A lot aren’t exactly sure what we went there to do, but still applauded the success.  Others are in the dyslexia tribe, with struggling children.  They are all eager to know how The Morris Center worked and if it truly was too good to be true.  (I’ll share more about my thoughts on that in another post).  We welcome the conversations and appreciate their interest in our children.  At some point in almost every conversation, we would inevitably hear the praises for our sacrifice.  We had changed our kids’ lives.   And every time I heard that, I would say, “we didn’t do it.  They did it for themselves.”  

Lift Your Head High…. and keep it there!

chin upEvery time I’ve pulled into the parking lot of The Morris Center our last week, my eyes would well up with tears and a lump would form in my throat.  I would quickly blink away the tears and proceed with my regular routine.  Then on Wednesday, as I pulled in for a 1:00 meeting, I saw my nephew, Brady, walking side-by-side with Dr. Conway.  Completely unaware of my presence, they continued their conversation, smiling, talking and laughing. Brady tilted his head up to make eye contact with Dr. Conway as he told him something, and I lost it.  I flashed back to a similar moment, just 4 months earlier.  The same two, walking side-by-side and talking, but with a distinct difference.  Brady’s head hung, his eyes never left the ground and the slump of his shoulders told the story.  This was a kid that was discouraged.  He was tired of working harder than his friends and still not closing the gap in learning.  A kid ready to just give up.

So, what changed?  I think there’s a multitude of factors.  The first would be the people of The Morris Center.  They are just the best.  They connect with these kids on a deeper level than just instruction.  They understand what motivates each child.  When working in a session, the staff empower these kids to believe in their learning abilities….and answer questions with assertiveness, not doubt. The staff also recognizes times when self-regulation is needed for optimal learning, and they offer the kids strategies to do so. They have truly taken a holistic approach to the interventional therapies that best align with each child’s learning needs.

Other factors that can be attributed to the changes we’ve seen have more to do with Brady. Brady is different now.  It feels like he’s grown up the last 4 months.  The intensity and frequency of this program doesn’t change.  It will challenge Brady to the very last day.  Early on, he would come home wiped out….complaining of headaches, tired of learning, etc.  But as time went along, we saw that shift.  Suddenly, he wasn’t complaining about going. He was having an “ah ha” moment for himself.  THIS IS WORKING! Learning is getting easier.  He had good things to say about his days.  He was bragging about how many words he read or what he conquered in OT.  He was processing information faster and “finding his words” when explaining things to us.  The world started looking different for him.  He was reading street signs and billboards.  Dr. Conway himself got a little choked up retelling a conversation he had with Brady during a trip to get ice cream (it was Brady’s birthday):

(In line at the ice cream place….not the exact conversation but close)

Brady: What does “optical supplies” mean?

Dr. Conway:  (probably puzzled by the question).  What do you think?  It’s probably a place similar to where Avery went to get her glasses.  Where did you hear that word?

Brady: (pointed across the street at a business)

Dr. Conway:  How did you know it said that? How could you just read that?

Brady: (shrugged) I just read it.  (BIG SMILE)

Four months ago, Brady wouldn’t have even attempted to read that sign.  Today he is different.  Today he believes in himself and his ability to learn without as much struggle.  His confidence continues to grow each time his book reading level climbs. For the first time, he’s seeing his true potential and he’s working hard to get there.

Thanks to The Morris Center, Brady’s 4th grade school year will look and feel different for him.   Instead of seeing the classroom as a place of frustration and failure, he will hopefully see it as a place of potential and success.  And he may just find that books can actually be as entertaining as video games….