Yesterday, I took the kids south to our first session of HELP.
After much agonizing and praying, reading your kind input, and seeing if we could take the line item “trips to Y-Ville store for cherry coke and candy bars” from our budget and change it instead to “monthly payment for HELP”, along with a few other things like rerouting our sinking fund for vision care and the new freedom of not paying for dog food (thanks, Sarah!!!)…we found that we could indeed afford to enroll Abel. And teach me to stick to a budget once and for all while doing so, which is pretty awesome.
It helps tremendously that HELP arranged for us to receive a grant that brought the monthly cost down to a more reasonable level!
So, we bit the bullet.
I can’t tell you how much it has helped to know that I’m not facing this new school year alone, and that I’m not trying to do the definition of insanity (trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results) again. It is such a burden lifted to know that the people at HELP have dealt with hundreds (if not thousands) of students (and close-to-tears moms) with learning problems over and over again.
HELP isn’t a tutoring program or a reading program. (I used to tutor students frequently in reading and math, so I have all sorts of ideas for presenting information in new and fun ways. I’m not going to pay for that!)
Instead, it’s a brain-altering process of teaching the brain and the student how to learn, how to involve all the senses in the learning process and how to break everything down into smaller, more manageable goals and skill sets. Most importantly, rather than an academically-oriented program, it is a whole-life-oriented program. (They have students from 7 to 72.)
What I mean is—from the information I’ve read, this program is going to stretch me and my lazy brain in incredible ways—and I’m just the “support person”! I will be doing the juggling, the visual-memory building exercises right along with Abel and be learning how to push through the brain blur in order to discipline myself to make those brain connections and enhance my own skills at navigating life as an adult.
I have been able to coast along through life mostly avoiding the things that my brain rebels at; things like budgeting and things in which I don’t immediately succeed. Now, I’m going to have to be a good example to Abel and do those things which I can’t stand!
For instance, I’m not a visual learner. The rare times I pick up a comic book, like Tintin or Asterix, I avoid looking at the pictures assiduously. They confuse me, they distract me. I’d rather just look at the words and read and never look at the pictures. I can’t seem to pick up on what’s going on in the illustrations and…they irritate me. Really, comic books in general irritate me.
Kind of a hilarious example.
But it shows me that I could use some help in the visual department. I could work on my mind’s eye until my brain is more comfortable in the visual realm, where I could actually enjoy those exercises where you look at two nearly-identical pictures and identify the ten differences between them. (I hate those.)
You may wonder why I’d even worry about this—who cares if I don’t like comic books or those picture things?
I’d compare it to this: some people lift weights. Now, they’re never going to be in a situation where they’re walking down the street and somebody comes up to them, hands them two twenty-pound barbels and asks them to do bicep curls. However, they will be using those biceps for other things, like lifting boxes, pushing stalled cars, looking cool. The exercise (lifting weights) may seem pointless to the uninformed onlooker, but the muscle built speaks for itself.
It’s the same with the HELP exercises—we’ll be building brain muscle. (You’ve heard about “use it or you lose it” and how the more mentally active you are as an older adult, the less likely you are to develop Alzheimer’s and such? Totally the same principle.)
And who doesn’t want a ripped brain?
I’m primarily an auditory learner, loving to be in lectures and scribble down notes for hours (which I never look at again…because I’m not visual). But how much more could I learn if I flexed my visual skills? (How many more terrible analogous phrases can I get away with?)
I truly can’t even explain all the thoughts that have been stimulated by catching a glimpse of how this program works. And I’m gleaning things that I want to share with others who also have areas where they are weak; I’m thinking of people who are very prone to getting lost and who can study maps for sixteen hours without it doing one bit of good—they don’t need more map study (just like Abel doesn’t need more reading time), they need to learn exercises that work on their awareness of where they are in relation to space! This is a vital skill that we humans need to develop, but which isn’t always automatically developed. Once I figure out how that is accomplished, I’ll share!
There are a thousand applications I can already see, and you know I’m going to be chomping at the bit to share them. (I’ll have to ask how much information I can ethically share with you without violating their right to be paid for the research they have done and the program they have developed, however.)
I believe in the neuroplasticity of the brain. The incredible ability of the brain to grow, to change, to develop new skills. Sure, I could wait, adapt, take the pressure off myself for a few years. But at this point, we have determined that we can spare the money for the privilege of being under the auspices of a program which will take the guesswork, the reinvention of the wheel, and the pressure of doing it all myself off my shoulders…
And that is why I’m so excited about HELP.