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Boy now 11 years old, diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder.

It has been sometime now since I brought Bill to see you so I would like to pass on how he has blossomed and, whilst I think there have been many contributing factors, Extra Lesson definitely had a huge impact and a huge part to play.

Only last week, Bill brought home a Principal Award from school for 'Outstanding sporting achievement and a mature approach to his education and behaviour'.  These have been making a fairly regular appearance in our house over the last couple of years.

He is now in his third year at the new school (in year 5) and his results and happiness have continued to escalate.  He's even hoping to sit a scholarship exam next year - through his own motivation!

I'm constantly being praised by other parents and my friends for what a lovely young man he is.  Whilst he's still very apprehensive about going somewhere he doesn't know, or trying something new, he's recognizing his fear and learning to face it.  

He also recently played representative rugby for Sydney University junior team - quite the little sportsman and he DOES love his rugby!

It really has been such a huge turn around - thank you so much for the huge part you played.  I understand you are now exceptionally busy and I quite understand why.

If there is any way I can ever help you out, you only ever have to ask.

Many thanks and my very best wishes,

Mary

(in the intrests of privacy the names have been changed)

Testimonial From a Happy Parent of a Year 6 Boy.

My son was first diagnosed with ADHD at age three and a half. I was always a bit dubious about the diagnosis, and just thought he was a very energetic young boy. He certainly was energetic – he was exhausting in his need to keep moving and climbing and doing things all the time. The only time he sat still was in front of the TV, and then he turned into a zombie.

As he progressed through the early years of school, his teachers routinely stated that they did not believe he had ADHD either. His handwriting and fine motor skills generally, were always appallingly bad. He was very impulsive and constantly losing things, but other than that he always managed to perform at an average level, and they believed this was because he was an average student. He was still very energetic, but he did not display any other negative behaviours that caused problems in the classroom, and his social skills were generally good. I now know that he was bright enough and determined enough to overcome the difficulties he was having.

Over the years I tried a number of alternative therapies to try to manage the impulsive behaviour and excessive energy levels. The most effective of these was homoeopathy, which did manage to calm him down to a degree, and all the other things we tried may have helped to some extent; it is hard to know how much.

Then he went into year five. He was ten at this stage, and was fortunate enough to get a teacher who noticed the struggle he was having in the classroom, and believed that his abilities outstripped the results he was achieving. She suggested I have him assessed again, to see where his problems lay. I was very relieved to have my suspicions confirmed, because by this time it was becoming apparent that he wasn’t coping. He could not sustain attention to task for very long while doing his homework, and would often turn to me in despair and say “Mum, I just can’t see what it is I’ve got to do.” This, even though it was a simple question he had been able to do five minutes earlier. It was as if his brain just switched off. He was also very disorganised, losing things constantly, and very impulsive in his approach to his work. He often got the wrong answer just because he couldn’t manage to slow down enough to read the question properly. He rushed through everything, but couldn’t seem to control this, even though he could acknowledge it was causing him problems. His self esteem was starting to suffer – he just thought he was stupid.

This time he was diagnosed with ADD – inattentive type. It was suggested that I do a four week trial of Ritalin to see how much his performance improved. I desperately wanted to help my son, but I did not want to drug him every day of his life. Then, thank God, I found Lalage, and Extra Lesson.

We are just completing twelve months of weekly sessions with Lalage, and I don’t know where to begin in telling you how much it has changed our lives. My son is a different boy. He was always a happy, optimistic child, and now he is free to be that without the nagging sense of failure he had in the classroom. He has just finished first term of year 7, and while we were both dreading high school and the extra workload, he has in fact excelled. His marks have been excellent, he is really enjoying school, and he doesn’t even ask for my help with his homework any more, let alone tell me he can’t do it. When I went to his year co-ordinator to make sure he was aware of my son’s diagnosis, he just looked at me perplexed, and said “But he’s the one who sits quietly in class and does his work. He has no problem staying on task at all!” He gets himself up and organised and off to school in the mornings, and gets himself home in the afternoons and does his homework without being asked. And he has only lost a few things so far!! There is no sense of struggle anymore, and most importantly he is happy, and free at last to achieve to what ever level he is truly capable of. Thank you Extra Lesson. I must admit, I fear it is too good to be true, but I hope I am proved wrong.

P.S. Four months later and I have just received my son’s half-yearly report. So far, so good! He did even better in second term than he did in first term. I never in my life thought he’d get a report as good as the one he’s just had. He is also happy.

Bronwyn Johns 2004 (in the intrests of privacy the name has been changed)

Christopher Hill, d.o.b. 28/2/87

AUGUST 1999 : Chris aged 12

Chris was getting into more and more trouble at school. Most of his teachers felt that he was quite capable academically, but being wilfully disobedient, not complying with instructions and being generally disruptive. We felt he was acting "out"rather than acting "up".

Extra lesson was suggested to us by psychologist Teo de Haas at a time when we were not sure where to turn. We had an initial consultation with Lalage Craig, who felt that Chris did indeed have developmental problems and that he would certainly benefit from Extra lesson's programme. This was encouraging news for worried parents. One particular statement that she made that struck us at the time was that no child likes to do badly, that on the contrary every child likes to do well, and be rewarded for it.

We thus embarked upon the programme, not really knowing what to expect, a little bemused by the daily exercises which were set, but relieved to feel that maybe at last there was something we could do.

Lalage had given as a projected time-frame 18 months. We knew that this would carry Chris well into the adolescent period (he was 12yrs 7mths when he started), and had some misgivings about his compliance. Would he do these daily exercises as requested? We could foresee problems with the floor exercises in particular, involving crawling up and down the corridor, possibly embarassing him in front of his brothers (he is the third of four boys).

In fact, Chris was remarkably compliant. We settled on a time that suited him, and he patiently did what was asked of him. The exercises ranged from those that he didn't mind doing to those that seemed boring. Once, when he was particularly fed up, we asked him to talk to Lalage about it. He asked us to broach the subject. Chris did, and does still, feel diffident about talking to adults. This was at about the same time that Lalage had felt in fact that she had "hit the wall" with him, that he was not responding at all when other children at a similar stage would respond well, and felt that he may even be depressed. It was 5 months into the programme. We were having similar communication problems with him at home, and Lalage felt that if things didn1t start to improve maybe he should discontinue the programme.
That was probably our lowest point. It was also a turning point. Chris's grades at school started to improve; he was easier to work with at home; essays which had been agonizingly slow for him to write were coming to him much more easily. Memory tasks improved he actually made it to his drum lessons (instead of regularly forgetting to do so). We were also cheered by the fact that instead of dealing with conflict by running away, he stood his ground and argued the point.

In the meantime he was racing through the Extra lesson programme. We should add that he was also working his way through the Samonas sound therapy, which Lalage had felt would benefit him. (His "functional hearing" age when he started was 7yrs 5mths; within 4mths, that functioning age was up to 10yrs 6mths. He is just now completing this therapy.) The net result is that he has "graduated" from Extra lesson after only 9 months.

We have been extremely happy with the results. There has been great improvement in his learning and executing school tasks, and this appears to have been consistent, ie without regression. For example, whereas before we would both struggle for hours to get him to write a single paragraph in response to an assignment, he now will complete two or more pages on his own in good time, and with far superior content.

Behaviourally, the picture is less clear. At times there appears to be significant improvement (he's more positive and cooperative, more articulate, less sullen) but he frequently derails or regresses. His attitude to teachers and other students is often the subject of adverse reports and this impinges on his schoolwork. His social behaviour at school, at home and in the community is often poor, and is exemplified by hanging out and non-constructive activity, disobedience (eg running away from home when forbidden to go out) and emphasis on clothes and image rather than content.

There is obviously the hard road of adolescence to get through with Chris, and we've already had a few setbacks on the school front. But his behaviour at home is much better and so we have much more faith in him. We are aware now of the learning problems he was having and may still struggle with but feel he is much better equipped to deal with high school. It makes for a happier, more confident, Chris.

Although it is impossible to know what Chris would have been like had he not done the Extra Lesson programme, we know that in its positive approach alone, of giving strategies to parents and children alike, it has been of great benefit. We also feel that it has been fundamental in enabling Chris to learn.

In June and July of 2001 as a 19-year-old boy young man I had completed a Hospitality Course somewhere in Parramatta. It was after completing this course that I was recommended, by the teacher of the course, to go and see somebody regarding the problems I’d always had with my short term memory, so my mother began ringing the two places my teacher had recommended: one was in Ashfield and another was in Chatswood, which is where I ended up going.

In approximately September of that same year, I booked my first session with Lalage Craig of Extra Lesson and I was asked to do a few exercises which, no offence to Lalage, I found to be quite strange. The reason why I felt this way was because I was asked to do such things as crawl around the room almost like a little baby. It was also on this day I found out exactly what it was that was constantly holding me back at school: the midline which every person is born with was never integrated — in other words, the left side and the right sides of my brain were not interacting with each other thus making my life quite difficult. I also learned that I have "dyspraxia," which means I find it hard to coordinate movements.

Anyhow, I can recall coming home and being quite angry at my new discoveries. So I persisted in seeing Lalage over in Chatswood who would send me home with some exercises once a week. It soon reached a point where I outright refused to do the exercises because the fact that they were supposed to help me out was not really sinking into my brain and I was not taking them seriously — these exercises really made me feel silly: I was a 19 year old "man" doing some little kid’s exercises.

However, over the Christmas holiday break, I was quite frustrated and upset with myself because I had addressed my problems but I wasn’t doing anything about them. So, this time I decided that since I had a few problems, I was going to solve them by putting in that extra effort and doing my set exercises without creating any excuses. I was also being constantly told that people are victims of life — when you don’t control your life, your life controls you.

When I returned to Lalage recently, in February of 2002 at 20 years of age, I was totally amazed at the way I had immensely improved just by doing the exercises. Back when I first began, I was told to go around the room, pass a beanbag through my legs and then say the days of the week — both forwards and backwards. I could never say them backwards, it was a great struggle for me before but now it was a total breeze. I am also finding that the left and right sides of my brain are beginning to communicate with each other: exactly what we were aiming for. I am also a little more in control of my life. I thank Lalage for constantly being there to encourage me to do my work, and now I finally realise that it doesn’t matter what age you are — if you have these kinds of problems: go sort them out before it’s too late…. but deep down inside I still feel like this should have been done 10 years ago.

Signed,
ANC 282: A former "victim of life."

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