Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lindamood Bell Experience

Having now finished both an intensive six weeks and a first round of follow up therapy with Lindamood-Bell, I wanted to document that experience and have a place to share for those considering this option.  First, Lindamood Bell (LB) provides several different specialized therapies and my son worked with the Visualizing and Verbalizing curriculum.  In all their tests, which reflected our observations, my son had advanced vocabulary and reading skills. He didn't need help decoding language or using it in a simple manner.  However, as soon as what he was experiencing (or wished to describe) became more detailed, he'd falter. He wasn't painting a vivid picture of what the words he either used or heard meant.  He was painting a quick, fuzzy picture and that had significant consequences for his ability to both understand and speak effectively.  He would picture a potential action in the fuzzy way and not get the "natural" side effects.  He would try to describe what happened in a personal situation and would again picture it in this fuzzy way and communicate it in a disjointed manner that wasn't effective for painting a cohesive picture in someone else's head.  We'd often be totally confused if we hadn't been there.  (It was one of the huge benefits of me helping in his classroom that I could bring a context to his school descriptions.)  So, we saw many ways in which a therapy that helped him first see clearer pictures and then communicate them effectively would benefit him.

Of course, there are lots of bogus therapies and we could certainly acknowledge a wanted result without thinking a certain therapy would get us there.  So, does this therapy work?  I have been on a Hyperlexia parenting list for years and have consistently found their experiences are good guides.  Those on the list who had paid for this therapy had consistently found it a positive choice which is a significant statement considering the huge expense involved (more on that later).  So, I had anecdotal evidence based on a group of highly similar peers. There have been some studies showing physical improvements in the brain and reading improvements in schools using LB.  I bought the Visualizing and Verbalizing book and tried to impelement it myself, but was not very effective (the intensive, 4 hour per day training wasn't feasible and I wasn't trained in their teaching styles either). We took the offer of a discounted evaluation when we were living in Washington.  The tests and evaluators seemed to pinpoint exactly the areas of challenge that we saw which added confidence that could accurately evaluate my son and understand his challenges.  My husband and I first concluded that LB sounded great, but was just too expensive and we'd try to do our best on our own.  We took advantage of the free annual re-evaluations which showed our son progressing but remaining well behind in these visualizing skills.  

So, we remained interested in the therapy, but not finding it worth the financial commitment (about 10k) and time commitment (4-6 weeks of 4hours a day, 5 days a week).  Then we had a change of circumstance which made us reconsider.  When we began the moving process from Washington to California, we had an uncertain period in temporary housing while searching and closing on a new house (where joining a local school would have been disruptive).  My husband also received a sign on bonus that allowed us to reconsider the relative value of LB therapy to us.  We decided to use this as our son's school for a 6 week period.  It offered him stability and one on one attention in a key area of challenge and we hoped it would make a difference.

During intensive therapy, my son mostly enjoyed himself.  He had some minimal behavior issues of getting silly and refusing to participate, but the staff were adept at helping move him into a positive learning frame of mind and they were also responsive to suggestions for increasing his interest.  The reports throughout were a bit difficult to understand, but the staff were always responsive to questions especially during the weekly parent conferences.  I think more detailed written reports at those weekly meetings would have helped me feel more secure that he was gaining value.

Results?  My kiddo is clearly able to visualize language better.  He paints a more detailed picture in his head and is able to more cohesively share that with another person.  He will get jokes more quickly.  He'll listen to an audio book and laugh appropriately instead of his previous delay.  He'll listen to us describe the day's outings and have a cohesive picture of what that means (and be able to quickly visualize proposed changes to that schedule too which helps with flexibility).  He can visualize and respond to questions more precisely / appropriately.  We noticed improvements and his test results definitely soared in all areas regarding verbalizing his visual imagery.  While this was not the night and day kind of experience that some parents report (my kiddo was already fairly high functioning), there were clear gains.  The final test they did was in the area of writing which is a key area where I would like to see this learning applied.  Can he "verbalize" in writing this more cohesive imagery?  The answer was clearly, "Not yet."  They thought that six weeks of brief therapy (2 hours, twice a week) could help him cement this skill.  So, having moved into our new house, we decided to give this a try as an after school program.

While the quality of staff and focus on visualizing before writing was still there, this was clearly not LB's area of expertise.  They helped him practice the skills of summarizing and they also helped him do some creative writing (while the therapist typed his dictation and asked clarifying questions).  He improved some in his writing abilities, but I didn't see them doing anything that I couldn't easily do at home.  So, this wasn't a good trade of value because their expertise in writing instruction was not greater than my own.

My final evaluation is that Lindamood Bell can offer a powerful teaching stimulus with its intensive Visualizing and Verbalizing program.  I think we were correct to wait for therapy until it was the right financial choice and I think it also gave my son the ability to better grow (because he had a more extensive experience / vocabulary from which to pull in therapy).  The warmth of the staff at all three centers we used was a huge positive in making the learning environment feel welcoming.  I think their follow up that focuses on their areas of expertise could by highly valuable for students that need refreshers, but I would pass on those areas that are not their focus.  The huge value of one on one attention to address the areas that are challenging for a particular child cannot be under emphasized.  Lindamood bell combines their intense therapy curriculum with skilled providers and they focus on bringing the best of that combination together for each student they teach.

Graduation-day, celebratory sundae!

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