Paula: Anna, I’m excited to interview you. It gives me a chance to publicly thank you for the help you gave my children and to let others know there’s healing available for kids who struggle! Could you tell us a little about Anna’s House?
Anna: Anna’s House offers educational remediation from the brain stem up. The American system typically treats the symptoms of educational and learning difficulties, not the cause; therefore many of the kids I treat have been shuffled from therapist to therapist. I named our center “Anna’s House” because I wanted kids to be able to say “I’m going to Anna’s house” instead of “I have to go to therapy.”
Paula: What do you mean by “from the brain stem up?”
Anna: We treat using Neuro-Developmental Delay (NDD) therapy. We believe that the root problem of learning disabilities for many children is a result of abnormal retention of the primitive reflexes in the brain stem, which blocks normal development. If these blockages are removed, the central nervous system is able to mature in an organized manner-the same organized, systematic progression of normal developmental growth.
Paula: You became a remediation specialist because of experiences with your daughter, Anna Lee. Could you share a little of that journey?
Anna: When Anna Lee was in second grade I was told she had severe learning disabilities. People threw out labels like “severe dyslexia,” “bipolar disorder,” and “CAPD” (Central Auditory Processing Disorder). My initial reaction-denial, anger, and weeping-became determination to face the situation. Anna Lee was a gift from God, and it was my responsibility to give her everything in me for whatever she needed. I began homeschooling, but progress was painstakingly slow. I struggled with exasperation, thinking Anna Lee should just try harder. Then, convicted of her inability to do so, I experienced a deep sense of personal inadequacy. Homeschooling wasn’t well respected then, and we were criticized. The hardest part was not knowing how to help my daughter. I prayed daily that the Lord would meet her needs in spite of my inadequacies.
People told us to accept Anna Lee’s disabilities and teach her to cope. Convinced professionals didn’t know much more than I did about how to help my child, I became determined to hunt down the cause of her struggles. I prayed and researched for years.
Paula: When did you find the answers you sought?
Anna: Anna Lee was 19. The answer came through the life work of Dr. Peter Blythe of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology (INPP) and Svea Gold’s book, If Kids Just Came with Instruction Sheets. They advocated looking at normal development, finding the point of breakdown, and working from there. It made so much sense.
I contacted Svea, and she gave me exercises to do with Anna Lee each night. One night nothing was different and another she would collapse onto the floor and sob. After each of these episodes, something I had never seen happened the next day-such as improvement in Anna Lee’s body coordination, body awareness, or balance. Verbal expression began. I was so encouraged by her progress that I flew to Chester, England, to train at INPP as a Neuro-Developmental Delay (NDD) Therapist. When I applied what I learned, it was like a continual adrenaline rush.
Paula: What happened academically?
Anna: The academic improvement came after the developmental blocks were removed. Once it began it progressed rapidly. Still, I felt Anna Lee needed more support processing auditory information, so I sought training in Paul Madaule’s Listening Fitness program. It is based on developmental growth just as the work of INPP is. When I combined it with NDD therapy, the results were astounding.
Paula: You were the first to combine these therapies. How has that idea been received in the field?
Anna: Very well. I’m often invited to speak to other therapists about combining these methods for optimum success.
Paula: How long was the treatment process with Anna Lee?
Anna: Eighteen months after we started, Anna Lee could read adult-level books and began to function at age level across the board. Prior to starting, she had struggled with reading third-grade-level books, couldn’t make change at the grocery store, and would get lost trying to return home from the neighborhood park. As the answers to years of prayer unfolded, I was astounded, humbled, and in awe of God, who created our bodies so marvelously. How awesome He is to bring such profound healing to my child! I was given my daughter back as a whole person.
Paula: What’s the best part?
Anna: I am thrilled to have finally gotten to know Anna Lee. Her personality was hidden so deep inside her fears and difficulties that I never really knew who she was. Now she is definitely her own person. It’s a pleasure to know she can think for herself. She no longer needs me by her side in order to survive.
Paula: Do others respond to treatment as well as Anna Lee has? Would you share some stories?
Anna: Successes abound. One young man I treated was 17 and struggled to read a second-grade primer when he came to Anna’s House. He’s now 21 and earning straight A’s in a chemical engineer degree program. Another child struggled with reading and writing but after therapy won the Governor’s Award for an essay she wrote. I watched with delight as a 6-year-old girl broke out of her shell, no longer terrified to interact with others. Several who struggled with balance have gone on to become gifted athletes.
Paula: If a parent wanted to begin therapy for his child at Anna’s house, where would he start?
Anna: Our website has questionnaires for parents to fill out; these help me assess a child’s need and determine if he would benefit from NDD therapy. I also encourage parents to read my book, Miracle Children: Behavior and Learning Disabilities Uprooted, which helps parents understand the root causes of their child’s struggles and how NDD therapy might help them. After I review the questionnaires, I contact parents to let them know if their child is a candidate for NDD therapy. If they are, I do a full assessment with the child and offer a plan for remediation.
Paula: Therapy differed greatly when you worked with my four children. You gave each one different exercises and each followed a different treatment plan. Some went through NDD therapy, the Listening Fitness program, and academic tutoring; others did only NDD and bilateral integration. How do you decide on treatment?
Anna: I assess each child’s specific needs and personalities in an effort to match them with the plan for therapy that will bring the most success, then I pray and ask God to show me what’s best for the specific individual. As we progress, I’m looking for developmental clues to know what to do next and when.
Paula: How long does therapy take?
Anna: Some children are with us for six months, others for two and one-half years.
Paula: Tell us about the curriculum you developed.
Anna: I spent twenty-five years creating Anna’s Sound Bits, curriculum based on normal developmental growth. Many children who struggle try to read visually or through context reading. When they work through NDD therapy and listening therapy, they begin to hear and discriminate between sounds correctly. This provides reading readiness. The curriculum teaches spelling, reading, and writing from that foundation, and children learn through sound. They then integrate the visual and auditory systems so writing and reading advance rapidly.
Paula: Anna’s House is in Colorado, but you’ve provided coaching as far away as Costa Rica, Australia, and Dubai. How do you help a child who doesn’t live in your area?
Anna: Families travel to Colorado for an assessment. Their initial visit usually spans two days. I’ve also had situations in which a group of families has flown me to their area to work with several children over a few days’ stay. We then communicate regularly via email, phone conferences, videos, and/or Skype. I meet again with the child(ren) one or more times, several months apart. The frequency of visits is based on the needs of the child(ren) and the severity of the difficulties.
Paula: Besides NDD and Listening Fitness certification, you’ve received training in bilateral integration and nutrition. Please tell us a little about each and why you sought training in these areas.
Anna: I noticed the children I treated were successfully inhibiting reflexes at the brain stem level, but many didn’t integrate later reflexes as fully as I hoped they would. At an international conference in Italy, I was intrigued by a bilateral integration demonstration and met with the founder, Sheila Dobie, who is from Scotland. She encouraged me to pursue training in bilateral integration and to be the first person to bring it to the States. This has been the missing link for numerous children. It helps with spatial awareness, mental processing, and integration of the two sides of their bodies, as well as their upper and lower halves. Many of them have become outstanding athletes.
Paula: What parting words do you have for our readers?
Anna: Society typically assumes that whatever diagnosis a child receives, he or she must accept, live with, and compensate for, but when treatment follows God’s organized plan for development, children can, and do, change! There is hope. Never give up. If you don’t fight for your child, no one else will.
Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Summer 2011.