There is no way to make Jack’s story short. However, with its length comes a story of a strong little boy, a determined family, and a wonderful, life-altering school. Thank you for taking the time to read the long, yet still abbreviated, story of our son, Jack.
It was a pregnancy that seemed very uneventful. We had a healthy, beautiful daughter and no reason to think that anything could be wrong. However, within hours of Jack’s birth, we knew something was seriously wrong. At first, he was turning blue for seemingly no reason, but with the color change, accompanying seizures soon followed. The doctors gave us words of encouragement, saying seizures can happen shortly after birth and that medication would get them under control. The doctors were wrong.
On the evening of his birth, Jack was transferred to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. He stayed in the neonatal intensive care for two long, horrible months. The seizures, which stopped his breathing, continued on a daily basis despite trying multiple medications, sometimes two or three at a time. We were frustrated, as every test that was performed (including genetic testing and brain scans) all came back normal. Something was terribly wrong but we didn’t know how to stop it or what was causing it.
After two months, the hospital said they had done all they could do for Jack. They sent us home with oxygen, an oxygen monitor and instructions on how to handle the seizures. However, there was no equipment in the world or words of advice to prepare us for what we were about to face. We weren’t home for three days before having to make our first 911 call. We didn’t know then that hospital admissions would become seemingly weekly events for the next year.
Because we were running out of options, the hospital said we needed to try epilepsy surgery. We were told this was Jack’s only hope for some sort of seizure control. We were scared, knowing it meant brain surgery and the removal of brain parts; but because we were so terrified with where Jack was, we cautiously moved forward.
In June 2009, after a series of three brain surgeries, Jack’s right temporal lobe was removed. I’ll never forget that pivotal moment of seeing him after surgery for the first time. I spent much of that evening praying it would be the surgery that would change his life. Hours later, however, the true outcome would be revealed. The seizures started up again with a vengeance. Even more, we noticed weird behaviors. His eyes were stuck to the left side of his head and he wasn’t moving half of his body. The doctors were stumped until a brain scan revealed our worst nightmare. Jack had suffered a stroke from the surgery. We were told he was only their second stroke case following the surgery. Odds were always seemingly against us.
I went home confused, sad and hopeful. The doctors hoped that due to his age, plasticity would help him overcome the debilitating stroke. They said the brain surgery could take weeks to prove its effect due to brain swelling. We didn’t know what Jack’s future would hold, but we knew he was six months old and not doing anything he needed to do developmentally.
Due to Jack’s condition, he required a nurse to care for him at home. She had mentioned The Conductive Learning Center many times and after the stroke, my husband and I knew it was something we needed to look into further. We didn’t know what Jack’s prognosis or outcome would be, but we knew if he was to have any kind of an independent future, he needed a therapy program that was different and intense. He had been seeing outside providers (OT, PT, and speech through Children’s and the county) since he had been two months old. They were wonderful but it wasn’t enough for Jack’s intensive needs.
Within weeks following his surgery, we took Jack to have an evaluation at The Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati. While we were there we observed a class that was in session. I watched with scared yet hopeful eyes, not knowing was in store for our Jack, but knowing that he just had to go to this school. I began to research the school and the theories behind it. Some things that stood out in my research were the words “repetition” and “intensity.” I read stories about children in Hungary who had been told they would never walk and how those kids walked out of that school. I had also done a large amount of reading on recent and old findings in regards to the brain’s neuroplasticity. After all this research and seeing the school with my own eyes, I knew that this was exactly the kind of program Jack needed in order to build new pathways for learning.
Due to his young age, we started monthly consultations. We saw a conductor for an hour a month and she would give us specific therapies to do at home. These therapies were geared to teach his brain how to move his body parts. We would come home and work on them daily. We began to see small changes in Jack’s development, especially with the movement of his left side and left hand. However, we still had a major battle to fight. Seizures.
As if our Jack had not been through enough, the first surgery was a complete failure. His seizures were actually higher in frequency than what they were before his surgery. The seizures did look different and at least he stopped turning blue with each seizure, but he was having up to hundreds a day nonetheless. It was at that time when the decision was made. Jack would require another brain surgery. In October 2009, he had a series of two more brain surgeries. This resulted in the removal of partial to all lobes on the right side of his brain. This surgery, although so much scarier than the first, was a success. And with the sweet success of seizure control, he was finally able to grow and develop at a rate that was more noticeable.
In the summer of 2010, at one and a half years old, Jack began his first class with other students at Conductive. They worked together on skills like walking, crawling and grasping. Although motor skills were the focus, these were not the only skills practiced. Jack practiced speech skills such as making letter sounds. Conductors used lollipops and honey to initiate tongue movements. Students practiced sitting up in chairs and drinking from a cup. Toilet training and cognitive skills were also built into the program. Almost every week I could see a positive change in his tone, ability, and tolerance for the program. Even his interest in objects became more noticeable and for the first time, Jack was able to hold things in his left hand for extended periods of time.
Conductive has done things with Jack that I never would have thought. Before Conductive I would have told myself, “he’s nowhere near ready for that.” Yet, because Conductive Education teaches independence, children are pushed and exposed to age-appropriate tasks. Because of Conductive, Jack voids in the potty. Because of Conductive, Jack sits up on his own. Because of Conductive, Jack can drink from a cup. Because of Conductive, Jack can reach for toys. Sure these things may have come later in life but Jack doesn’t have time on his side. He needs these skills now while his brain is most plastic and when most learning can occur.
Words cannot express the credence I put into Conductive Education. It works. Although not every child will definitely walk out of there, including my own, any level of independence makes it worthwhile. Conductive Education is what gives us hope for our Jack. My husband and I really think one day he will walk right out those doors. We have made a commitment to give Jack Conductive Education for as long as we can. I don’t feel like the odds are against us like I did back then. Jack is moving in the right direction, right before my eyes.
Location: 325 W 19th St. Covington KY 41014
School Hours: 9am – 2:30pm