Tuesday, 9 October 2007

"Well done"

That's what the sticker says. Yes, it was great that this time the tests confirmed my instincts that changes are beginning to take place. All the results were very well 'into the green' so on to the next challenge.
We now move into 'mental tasks' and something different happened today which makes me think that maybe it's in the normal order of things that son's social skills seem to be sharpening up whilst his concentration is as poor as ever. As we are now moving on to the mental challenges, two new sections of questions were added to the standard questionnaire. I laughted out loud as I read the questions and confidently awarded son the lowest possible mark:they were ALL about the ability to concentrate, focus and keep still! This surely implies that it is from now on that we might reasonably expect some progress in this area?
Anyway, much heartened all round.

Before and after?

I thought I would try posting a message just before the next review - and then one straight after. It's 9.20 in the morning and in a few minutes we'll venture off to Bedford and the Dore Centre.

We picked ourselves off pretty well after the gloom that set in last visit. Somehow the exercises weren't quite as tedious as I had feared and we just got on with them. But probably more important is the fact that son has now settled into year 5 at school, new teacher, new routines - and seems to have had fewer problems than in previous years.

When we started this programme I said to myself that the main success factor would be that son can have a bettter time in the playground - and this is definitely the case now. He plays happily with his friends, seems better able to compromise and seems less clingy and dependent on one or two individuals. He still has real problems concentrating, focusing on work and organising himself - but there's still lots of time. It's strange: I would have thought that the effects of the programme would show themselves firstly on the cognitive processes (being able to structure and focus) and only later on the social responses (being able to work co-operatively with other children). Instead it appears to be the other way round.

Now lets see if the tests back any of this up ...

Thursday, 6 September 2007


Well the next review was very disappointing. Despite the effort of managing to keep the exercises going throughout the disruption of the summer holidays, son's scores went decisively backwards this time! The effects of this on morale are clear. Of course we're demoralised - at least, I am; it's hard to know what son is thinking. And it means that the next book of exercises is almost identical to the last two and we're BORED.

Why might the tests have gone so badly when we do the exercises unfailingly and he doesn't find them particularly challenging? Well I feel a bit guilty because he had had a very late night before the review. The Harry Potter audio-book we were listening to was just too gripping and I suppose he had a bit less sleep than usual. But would this be enough for such a clear step backwards?

I also wonder if anything else he does in his life might counter the stimulation of the exercises. Could it be that the computer games he so loves are busy stimulating other bits of his brain and diluting or nullifying the stimulation to the cerebellum?

His time on the computer is rationed (although he gets a generous allowance of time) and it's hard to cut this down because it's the one thing that gives him satisfaction and self-esteem; he knows he is really good at them and it gives him some credit in the playground too.

Monday, 23 July 2007

All green

The third review, last week, was mixed. On the balance board all the measures were in the green at last - although there is still a high level of inconsistency in the scores. And there was actually little overall improvement noted. However, son had been ill earlier in the week and still wasn't quite over it, which might have affected things a little. So the exercises we've received this time aren't too different from the ones we had before. They are also talking in terms of a 2-year programme rather than 1 year, as at the start, which is rather daunting, but at least proves (since all payment was up front) their commitment to do their best by son.

On a brighter note we just might be seeing some changes on the behaviour front. At school they seem happier with him. He appears more settled, more content, less frustrated and confused. Although he still needs adult supervision to get him started on tasks, he doesn't drift off-task the moment the adult walks away. And - most importantly to me - he seems to be getting on better in the playground.

Of course this can be ascribed to different things. He's growing up. In the summer term he knows his class teacher and her routines better. The Head Teacher had intervened to sort out some of the playground issues. So perhaps the test will be in September, with a new teacher and new routines. If he can cope with these and keep calm and happy in the playground, I shall really begin to feel we're making progress.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent encouraging words; it really helps. So I'll finish be sending my very best wishes to you and your children.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

We've had the second reveiw now, and the improvement in his performance on the tests is quite dramatic. As predictied, after an initial dip in all-round performance, the dodgy 'vesibular' score has surged up close to normal levels while the others senses seem to be learning to work with this newly awakened team-mate.

All this is undeniable. I watch hawk-eyed as the Dore staff put my son through his paces, looking for signs that would account for the improvement; are they rejecting unfavourable results?; are they skewing the scores through the instructions they give? And, no - they aren't. Tests are performed fairly - and if anything there is less encouragement now to son to really concentrate on the tests - not more. Could it be that son is simply getting better at doing the tests (eg balance board) because he's done them before and knows what to expect? Possible, I suppose - but not very likely because he only does the tests a few times and then has a 6-week gap between.

So it seems undeniable to me that all the hard work is paying off in terms of physical response - and this is supported by my own observation as he does the test. His balance is dramatically better; he can whip through exercises that make me dizzy when I try them for a few seconds. He is getting more co-ordinated.

BUT what I haven't seen yet is any real spilling over of this physical improvement into behaviour. His concentration in class seems much the same - BAD. His new good handwriting is still reserved for concentrated bursts when working with an adult - not for normal school work. He still struggles with 'thoughts-to-paper' and getting his mind to pin-down a Maths question, stay on task, spell a simple word, organise himself.

But 4 months isn't long. (Is that all it's been? I've counted 3 times, unable to believe it!). I'm very glad that the tests vindicated our hard-work and showed big change. I'm glad he works so hard at the tests. It shows he CAN apply himself to tasks that are often tedious and uncomfortable for no immediate reward except praise and self respect. I expect this shouldn't be under-valued in itself.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Now you see it ...

now you don't.
I was just beginning to feel that we were making progress. There was a real and tangible improvement in son's concentration that had led to real and tangible improvement in handwriting.

And just when I thought this was the start of bigger things ... all signs of progress disappear. Yes, the handwriting thing can't be denied. But there's not much else to report. Playground situations still a bit iffy. Still very poor concentration when not working in one-to-one with adult.

The only other change I would note is hardly positive. His sleep patterns appear rather disrupted - generally sleeping for longer but occasionally having real problems getting to sleep.

I think I could really do with a break-through about nowish.

Friday, 20 April 2007

First review

On Tuesday, son and I dressed ourselves in our muddiest coloured clothes (not intentionally - how does that happen?) and set off for Bedford for our first programme review.

Two months into the programme and we've both been very good at remembering to do the exercises, even though there appears to be little to show for it. Yes, when son concentrates now on his handwriting practice, the quality of concentration that I get for ... ooh 5 minutes, is really something new. But this might all just a phase he's going through. If anything, things are slightly worse in the playground. He doesn't quite seem to fit in, doesn't quite pick up on the social clues, gets frustrated quickly when his 'rules' don't seem to be followed.

Anyway, another go at using the balance-board, more computer generated results and ... indeed things have got slightly worse! The scores which were in the 'normal' range have now come down a little - although the score in the 'very poor' range has come up a bit. I am assured that this is normal and that change is what is sought in the results at this stage - not necessarily improvement.

Apparently, the analogy is of three people working in an office - or at least, one sitting around all day, drinking coffee and doing nothing - the other two working furiously and effectively to compensate for this dead-weight. When the slacker begins to pull a bit of weight, it actually throws the others off their familiar routine and causes a bit of confusion. So if the office slacker is child's cerebellum, this early stimulation is only really confusing matters initally.

That's the analogy. If it's right, then improvement must surely be around the corner...

Anyway, we have a new set of exercises - and ones which take noticeably longer to complete and seem rather harder, so we're going to need to keep positive.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

The novelty wears off

Over a month in and I'm beginning to feel a bit discouraged. I know it's too early to see any impact yet; indeed I was warned that my son's behaviour might even go backwards as the new stimulation upsets the status quo.

But I mean, how can a bit of jumping or arm waving or rolling a can about actually have any effect on anything?

The good news is that we're keeping it up; we've only missed one evening excercise because he fell asleep early on the sofa when I was busy elsewhere. For the most part I have been very impressed by how he has stuck with it unquestioningly and applied himself to the tasks. If anything, he is applying himself better now than he was at the start. Perhaps because he works best in an environment of routine and familiarity.

But in some ways it is sad to see how easy it is to get him to complete 10 minutes of, often, physically uncomfortable exercises - and how impossible it is to get him to do two minutes of 'simple' school-work - such as handwriting or spelling or arithmetic. He's a bright child with a loathing for anything he recognises to be 'learning'. Yet in doing these exercises so faithfully he clearly displays that he has all the capacity to focus and persist and oblige that ought to be required at school. So where does it all go wrong?

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Well, we've done 2 weeks of exercises and so far son and I have been well behaved. Initially it was tricky to get him to take them seriously - expecially when the activities seemed very easy - and he just wanted to muck around. I am sometimes finding it hard to judge whether I should assess his completion of a task as 'easy' or 'hard' which is something you have to do each time and which influences which tasks you progress on to. By nature I am a bit of a stickler - so might be being a bit harsh sometimes.

Have I noted any changes at all? Well its very early days and I have been warned that it can take 3-6 months before and improvement is detected. But I've also been warned that the exercises can create a bit of confusion and disorientation initially. One evening, after we had done the exercises rather too close to bedtime, son got up out of his bed and came into the living-room rather confused and distressed. He said he felt confused, like his brain was in a mess.

But then, he had also watched a scary programme on TV and had a slight temperature - so there's probably nothing to read into this. For the most part, it's still hard to see how throwing a bean-bag onto a tea-towel only inches from your body can have a particulary dramatic effect - either positive or negative.

Friday, 23 February 2007

We begin the exercises

Well, we've now done two days of exercises - only another 363ish to go.

I had been pretty well primed what to expect and didn't find it all too weird. Well a bit. You can't help thinking - 'can it really help my son's concentration and handwriting to sit on a chair, clapping or shaking his head for a couple of minutes?' But the Dore people in (metaphorical) white coats have given me the talk and shown me the chart - and if it's going to work, it's going to take some positive thinking (I'm trying to avoid using the word 'faith' here).

And I have to put in a nice word about the doctor we saw (cynical voice inside asks, 'doctor' as in 'Doctor Gillian McKeith'?) who was friendly in a twinkly sort of way, informative and able to put things in terms that made sense both for me and my eight-year old.

I struggled to make sense of the instructions on the first day. The booklet could do with being re-written. It wasn't clear what was referred to by the words 'day' and 'exercise' - or maybe my own cerebellum is inadequate for the task which ought to be simple. But I phoned up and asked and it was clarified for me. So no real complaints.

The road begins

Well, we're off. My son is apparently a perfect contender for this programme. This was my ideal outcome, while I was sitting in the waiting room. Now, of course, I wonder if that's what they said to all the muddy-coloured-clothes-wearing Mums about their children? I wonder how many they actually turn down? How much money they actually give back?

I've seen lots of charts which seem to indicate quite clearly that my son is having to work very hard to sustain an adequate competence in a number of everyday activities. I wish I could have seen another child take the same tests - perhaps a high-flyer in his classroom - the golden boy who is ace on the football field and top of the class and popular with the other kids - and see how he performed in the same tests.

But, pushing doubts aside, I feel pretty positive. We trudged back from the station carrying our bag of Dore kit and caboodle: a large inflatable rubber ball, bean bags, charts and a wobble-board - full of hope and new resolutions.

They told me that my son would be tired after the day of tests. He enjoyed just about every minute and couldn't wait to tell his friends at school. I felt exhausted- too tired to switch on the tv or pick up a magazine.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Is this the right thing to do?

I'm sitting in the waiting room of The Dore Centre, in Beford, waiting with my son for his initial assessment, writing this on the back of the directions to get here.

As I understand it, today my son will be assessed to see if he is 'under-utilising his cerebellum' - the part of the brain which helps us to process information and to act automatically, without conscious effort.

The waiting room is pleasant enough. Not many people here. Children who look like my boy (but slightly older) - mainly boys (of course). Mothers who look familiar - I feel I know them. Everyone is dressed in muddy coloured clothes; almost a uniform. People smile if you catch their eye but we are all locked into our own little worlds.

What's the worst case scenario for me? I think that the centre turns around and tells me that my son is using his cerebellum effectively and that the Dore programme can't help him. Yes, we'll get most of our money back. But my son will still be struggling with a range of small learning problems which seem to defy effective description or categorising but which are clearly limiting him badly both at school and socially. We can spend the money on a nice holiday. But where do we go next?