Some Personal Thoughts on the Brain

I have decided I am fascinated with the it works, how people are different...everything! I think I always have been, but this last week I had some awakenings of those feelings coming back again.  It's interesting to me how sometimes parts of our mission come to us sooner than we're ready for them.  And so thoughts keep coming back and coming back until finally we are ready to accept that is part of who we want to become! 

I think my first glimpses of excitment with the brain and how it functions was in a Family Science class at BYU.  It had something to do with neurology and the professor was an actual neurologist, not a family scientist teaching neurology.  We were asked to write a paper, many pages, not sure the exact assignment.  I was led to study emotions in children and how the brain devleops through infancy.  It was cool, I was fascinated, but I didn't really latch onto wanting more information.

Then, several years ago my daughter was struggling with reading and other physical health issues.  I'd gone to several doctors for the health issues with no distinct answers.  Finally, we were able to figure that out and move on to the reading and mental challenges.  However, the same doctor who helped us with the physical side of things was not so helpful on the mental side of things.  After a very quick, non-clinical (in my opinion) assessment, the doctor responded, "Your child has ADD do you want medication?"  Well, I knew this was possible, but the quick result and "quick fix" solution without any other evaluations first put me in the defense mode.  I told him I would try some other things first....and then I went straight home and read ev
erything I could about ADD.  What I learned was that ADD does exist, but there is such a wide rainge from one case to another that there can be no one solution for each individual with this disorder (see A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine).  And, so I continued to simply help her gain more coping mechanisms.

Now, fast forward several months later.  We entered a school program wherein there was a teacher who had specialized in helping children overcome learning hurdles.  At the age of 9 1/2 my daughter still was struggling with reading and could not write.  Sure she could make out the letters, but it was a very laborious and tedious endeavor.  After a personal interview/evaluation and much more lengthy survey, this teacher gave us some more insight into what could be the problem.  She said it could be one of three things:  vision, auditory or sensory disabilities;  each of which can be "fixed" through training and possible therapy.  Thus, we sought out an eye doctor who specializes in vision therapy and at the age of 10 my daughter was able to read well, independently.  It was a couple of months into therapy when she exclaimed, "Mommy!  I just realized if you don't hold the pencil so tight you don't write as hard, and then my hand doesn't hurt."  That was when I knew it wasn't "just ADD." 

Well, this last week I had a couple of special experiences with this child.  Because she is doing so much better, but still struggling in some areas, I knew I needed more answers.  I had decided my prayers and actions this week were going to be centered on JUST HER.  Wow!  Did the answers come or what!?  First, I as led to the book, Smart, but Scattered.  It's a great book that discusses in length how the brain fuctions, how to discover the child's strengths & weaknesses (as well as your own...important when you are the one trying to help your child), and then some strategies and activities you can do to help. 

Next I was prompted to call the teacher who had helped us before and she gave me some great insight.  When one part of the brain is damaged (i.e. the visual information part) then other parts will be affected as well.  So each part of the brain needs to be retrained and repaired.  So cool!  We meet with her again tomorrow to see where we are in my daughter's development.

Lastly, my husband and I watched a fabulous movie last night.  Temple Grandin.  The movie is about an autistic woman who, at the age of 4, was told that she would never speak and that she should be admitted into an institution.  Her mother fought that and continued to teach Temple at home.  It goes on to show just how amazing this woman was and became.  She was able to go to college, received her masters degree and her PhD.  She currently teaches at a university in Colorado.

This movie actually gave me the courage to approach my daughter differently.  And it worked!  I've been a little fearful of telling my daughter, "You have problems."  But my daughter watched the movie with us and we were able to have a discussion about how brains work.  Two lines from the movie struck me:

"Because I have autism, I can see how it's going to work."

"Different, but not less." 

Accepting the differences we have or that our children have does not make them less.  Nor does it give us a crutch to lean on when we can't do something, "Oh, I can't do that, I have..."  We can say, "Because I am this....I can do that."   I used these lines in talking to my daughter.  I shared some personal, tender moments with her this week as we hiked Badger Mountain together on Wednesday and then sat in my room to talk again tonight.  She's going to do amazing things!  Because she works the way she works, she'll be amazing at whatever she does.  BUT I did acknowledge to her that I don't work the same way and so we need others to step in.  Others who can see her potential even more than my brain can. 

We are given the children we are given and they are given the parents they are given FOR A REASON.  Not because I know all the aswers was she sent to me, but because God knew I could lead her to where she needs to find the answers to do what she needs to do in this life.  This week was a revelatory week for me and my love increased for this special daughter ten-fold.  Oh, there will still be challenges and we still have some hurdles to jump, but I now, finally, have the determination to invest what I need to in crossing those barriers.  Maybe, just maybe, this is part of my mission.  :-)

**I know this was a long post.  I'm sorry for that.  But I do hope this will help someone out there.  :-) Thanks for letting me share. 


  1. I loved your long post. I'm so glad she is learning and growing and doing so well. =)


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