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No time for jello: one family's experiences with the Doman-Delacato patterning program.

No Time for Jello: One Family's Experiences with the Doman-Delacato Patterning Program

We tried to decide if it was a mistake to have gone on the Institutes' program. If we had known about it and not done it, wouldn't we always have wondered if we could have helped Jamie by its methods? We conceded that Jamie did benefit, albeit marginally in comparison to the prospect of total cure. His body was toned up, he had a sport in which he could excel, and he could read and compute with ease. We had taken him off drugs, braces, casts, and abandoned contemplation of unnecessary surgery. But none of these benefits was directly related to the Institutes' techniques. They were obtainable by other methods.

Probably the greatest good that we derived from our involvement with the Institutes was the realization that no one discipline, no one theory, no one person, had all the answers to our problem. And knowing this, we now had the perspective and the will to trust our own judgment about what was best for Jamie.

Probably the greatest harm that we suffered from our involvement with the Institutes was not the lack of results, but the psychological dilemma that we were left with, and that Jamie was left with after constantly being told, either verbally or by implication, that he would be cured or made "better," and then not curing him or making him "better." Every day that we had made him crawl and creep we were in effect saying, "We want to change you, we don't like the way you are." And then when it all failed, and the fantasy of a "better" kid died, everyone had to readjust to the same old kid.

It seemed we had gone from a healthy high as new parents to a healthy low when we had to face Jamie's disability. Then we had abruptly shot up to an unhealthy, unrealistic high when we had read Glenn Doman's book, made three trips to Philadelphia, and dared to hope that Jamie could be cured of cerebral palsy. We had just as abruptly fallen to a correspondingly unhealthy, unrealistic low when we had to admit to ourselves that our son was not going to be cured. From that emotional low point, we could gradually climb back to a realistic, contented position. Alden and I were able to weather these ups and downs. The Institutes was just an experiment that didn't work.

But what about Jamie? Deep down, what did he think of himself and this whole experience? And what did hundreds of other children, whose parents had also given up the program, think of themselves? And what about the brothers and sisters? There were constant rumors among the parents and hints from the Institutes staff of miraculous cures. We had been told outright by several staff members that Jamie could "get well." But we never saw it happen. Not to us, not to any of the families there with us. I wrote to several of the families with whom we had been friendly. Some replied that they too had given up, some replied that they were still plugging along, despite minimal progress to date, and some did not write back.

Did miracles ever really happen there? The Institutes would of course respond definitively in the affirmative, but I had the feeling that their idea of a miracle was akin to someone taking a perfectly normal baby to the Institutes and if over a period of time the child learned to roll over, then sit up, then to walk, and then to say "Mama," the Institutes would claim credit for each achievement along the way. Even severely brain damaged children could often reach these same goals on their own, though at a delayed pace. We read and were told at the Institutes that the earlier parents put their hurt children on the program the better. Time was the enemy. That is, the Institutes' enemy, we now realized. The younger the child was when beginning the program, the fewer milestones he may already have achieved, and the more were left for the Institutes to claim responsibility for!

Any program short of ignoring a child was bound to help him. Providing a particularly stimulating environment for a normal child or for a brain damaged child was apt to accelerate development to a point. In either case, the child might reach some developmental milestones that he was going to reach anyway sooner. In the case of the brain damaged child, he might be able to reach some milestones that he might not have been able to reach on his own.

But could the extra frequency, intensity, and duration of stimulation bring about performances that were not already within that child's realm of capability? If the child never walked or talked or whatever, then it just wasn't meant to be. What was, was. Not even the Institutes could change that.

Even though Jamie ran well, he still could not willingly wiggle the toes on his right foot. Though he could brachiate well, he could not so much as scratch an itch with his right hand. We had built his body, but there had been no change in his brain cells, no change in function. "Closed brain surgery" (patterning) and the floor program (crawling and creeping) and the cortical organization program (running) had been useless to us. There had been no effect on Jamie's central nervous system.

How then could one determine, particularly in a brain injured child, just what was meant to be? How did we know when we had reached the plateau of an individual's ability or his greatest potential? How hard should we work to find out that potential? Can we ever know? And if we could know that potential, what would be the best program of stimulation to achieve it?

These questions cannot be answered definitively for each child, and that is why desolate parents, who are not ready to accept what their doctors tell them, or what common sense or mother's intuition tell them, keep bringing their hurt children to the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential.

Jamie was doing his best for now. With maturity he might make a conscious effort to extend his right arm or to be more organized. But his basic physical disability and learning disability would always be there. There was a limit to his potential, as there was to everyone's. We could accept that now, and work around it. We felt no pressure or regrets about what he couldn't do. It was wiser to put a lift in his shoe and to say things twice to him than to live a stressful life devoted to changing him when changing him was not possible.

Could we have answered these questions about his potential, and reached our new serenity, without following the rigid routine of the program and without experiencing the intense emotional highs and lows that we did?

We thought so. We could have recovered from our initial depression on our own. More easily, in fact, than we recovered from our second depression, the one caused by the program. And Jamie would have progressed on his own at a pace nearly as fast as he did on the program. He would have learned to read by other methods. He would have learned math by other methods. He would have maintained the flexibility and the range of motion of his limbs by other methods. All that crawling, creeping, masking, patterning, and brachiating could only be justified if a child ended up totally cured because of it, or at least significantly changed in a reasonable amount of time. We neither saw in others nor experienced ourselves such fulfillment. What we saw was a lot of minute progress and a lot of children sitting up and creeping who would have sat up and crept anyway. Glenn Doman's spurious remark to our group of parents in the auditorium that, "Here is where what would have happened anyway happens!" now had a ring of truth to it.

Even as I thought about all this, I was aware that hundreds of children, in the United States and around the world, were crawling and creeping endlessly, and were getting blisters on their hands from the ladder, and that hundreds of volunteers were filing through people's homes to help with patterning or whatever new techniques the Institutes was experimenting with. Parents were forcing their children to endure all this because they believed what the Institutes staff had told them. They had to believe. No one would do it otherwise. I had believed, and I had snapped defiantly at anyone who dared to suggest that we might fail. Then we had worked our way back to reality and so too would the others in time.

Sometimes I couldn't believe that we had really done it. Or more accurately, that Jamie had done it. How had he done it? How did he do anything with only one usable hand? So many times two hands were not enough for something I was trying to do and I became angry and frustrated. How angry and frustrated was he inside? Many people complimented me on my dedication and endurance while conducting the program. But it was Jamie who endured the demands of the program and who coped so marvelously with everything in his life. It was Jamie who deserved the compliments.
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Title Annotation:excerpt
Author:Bratt, Berneen
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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