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FamilyLight: Successor to Bridge to Understanding

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Except where noted these vignettes are based entirely on real events.  We have taken greater license here, including some fiction.  We needed to do this to illustrate our work with clients with slow processing issues.  We could not find a way to communicate our way of dealing with this kind of client with totally accurate reporting and without breaking confidentiality. 

Nick's mother called FamilyLight on a morning that Nick simply did not want to go to school.   Nick was fourteen years old, and had just begun his freshman year in his home town public high school.  His mother was speaking choking back tears.  "Nick seems bright, but he's not trying.   He is just barely passing.  He has trouble making friends, but now the kids who are exactly the ones I don't want him hanging with are giving him attention and I'm afraid they will be using him.  They encourage him to do things he doesn't really understand and then they laugh at him.   He goes along with it because it is the only attention he gets from his peers." 

She also explained how rigid he is.  Several days before, the family was in the car, headed for dinner at a restaurant that Nick felt OK about, but was clearly not his favorite.  When they got there and it was closed, he became almost abusively angry, even though the family headed immediately for his favorite restaurant.  "If we had planned on the favorite restaurant from the beginning," she explained, "he would have been delighted.  But when we made the sudden change of plans, he erupted, and remained a bit grumpy through dinner at his favorite place." 

Our consultant asked if there was any evaluation or testing available.  Nick's mother replied that she had requested an evaluation for special education.  The school had tested Nick and given him a 504 plan with extended (double) time on tests but no other accommodations or special education.  He was given a WISC-IV  (IQ) test with result of a full scale IQ of 109, with indexes VCI  142,  PRI 96,  WMI 133, and PSI 66.  The scores were suggestive of (but did not firmly diagnose)  Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD).   In addition they showed evidence of a serious problem with slow processing speed.   The boy was functioning exactly as expected with those scores, considering that he was getting no special help. 

The conversation continued.  Nick's mother said with some anger that she saw evidence that Nick was very bright but "he just doesn't care." She went on to say that for a young man as bright as he appeared to be, she and her husband both thought he should be going on to a prestigious college.   She was distraught that the young man was "throwing his life away."   She wanted us to intervene primarily to correct his study habits. 

Our reply was, "With those scores, what he is doing is what we expect, if he is not getting a very specific kind of instruction in school."    We responded by asking her to read the discussion of slow processing in this website and to inform herself regarding Nonverbal Learning Disorder.   We told her that after she read that material, we could talk again (all this with no fee involved.

Following that we did become the family's consultant. Until we actually met the student, many things were unclear.  On the basis of what we had been told so far, this could have  been anything from a very seriously disabled young man with undiagnosed Asperger's or Autism with some savant qualities (Remember the Rain Man?) or he could be a pretty normally functioning person with some social difficulties and a lot of stress over academics.

On meeting Nick we found that he functioned pretty normally, although he seemed nave and somehow just not typical of other boys his age. He was pleasant and engaging but responded more like we might have expected a bright and well functioning eleven or twelve year old to respond.  Social immaturity was very evident and some of his conversation seemed "unfiltered."  This seemed like the kind of kid who could be quite engaging to an adult who likes kids, but it was also clear that this was the kind of kid who could attract bullies. 

In private conversation with our consultant Nick described his interaction with the friends his mother described.  He said they get him to do stuff that makes everyone laugh. He wasn't sure whether they are laughing at him sometimes because he doesn't even understand what is funny.   He doesn't like some of the things they want him to do, especially the time they got him to expose himself to the girlfriend of one of the guys in the group.  Everyone really laughed that time and he was embarrassed. But he said it is all worth it because for the first time he isn't running into bullies.  His friends wouldn't let anyone else mess with him.  What they get him to do often isn't fun and might be embarrassing, but it was better then being hit and tripped and having his schoolbooks scattered several times every day. 

We arranged to have him placed at a non-therapeutic learning disability school, where we were sure there was very good understnading of , almost immediately.  Brandon Hall usually fills before the fall term opens, but at the moment we called, they had a vacancy due to a dismissal. 

Once in the specialized academic framework of his learning disability school, Nick began to enjoy school and became very self confident.  By the end of ninth grade it became clear that he was spectacularly adept in mathematics.  He was taken out of Algebra I and put into a special accelerated study with one other student in which he would complete the curriculum of Algebra I and II and Geometry by the end of grade 10.   Although his skill level was not spectacular, he held his own and thoroughly enjoyed Soccer, basketball, and baseball. 

With the full support of his learning disability school, Nick moved on in his high school junior year to another boarding school with very capable mainstream students but also a learning support teacher who fully understood slow processing.  Following a summer course in pre-calculus, he took AP calculus his junior year in the new school and is taking advanced mathematics courses at a nearby college during his senior year.  He plans to apply to a number of colleges including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Applied Mathematics program at Brown University.  His college advisor in his school believes he has an excellent chance of admission to either or both.

We hope to have effectively illustrated that young people with slow processing usually turn around dramatically and quickly if provided with the support they need.  Very few other situations bring such dramatic results.

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Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.


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Last updated September 13 2012

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