Friday, January 28, 2011

Healing and Hope for Struggling Learners

As parents, it is our desire to give our children the best start possible- in every area. I know that is certainly true for my long time friend, Terri Hall. So when Terri began to see that one of her children had real learning difficulties, she wondered what was wrong and searched for answers.

Many of her daughter's symptoms pointed to Dyslexia, but in Terri's experience, she found the difficulties her daughter was experiencing were inconsistent and not truly in line with the Dyslexia after all. Terri prayed and searched and finally the Lord showed her a way to help her struggling learner.

I asked her to share her story with us in the hope that it might be a help to you or to someone you know.

Blessings to you!


By Terri Hall

We knew something was wrong with our 9 year old daughter, Jenna, when her younger sister could read better than she could, but my husband and I had no idea why or how to help her. It wasn't until she was 11 years old, and in a homeschool co-op with other peers, that we realized how much her delays affected her view of herself and her ability to interact with others.

As homeschool moms, we have the ability to shelter our children from negative peer influences, bullying and the like, but I hadn't realized how even positive peer influences wound the heart of struggling learners. Jenna knew she was behind and couldn't read like her friends. She would retreat to Mom whenever she grew uncomfortable with her limitations. It was one of only a few coping mechanisms she had for the internal struggles that ensued.

I knew I had to do something, anything, to help her overcome her learning challenges. We suspected Dyslexia when the usual switching of her B's and D's lingered. Jenna would skip words, start reading a word she couldn't decode and fill in the wrong word with one that started with similar letters. She complained of headaches when she did her academics. Keeping her on task and getting her schoolwork done everyday began to strain our relationship. And usually the day ended in tears.

I had no idea it would be such a challenge for a homeschooler to get help. Even tried and true homeschool sources couldn't offer any resources that we could afford. As with many homeschoolers, we have both a large family (8 children) and a single income. So we searched and searched, bet couldn't seem to find any way for her to be tested or evaluated to see if she truly had Dyslexia or something else. I was also concerned that even with a Dyslexia diagnosis, that would not help us to address or fix the problem for her.

My Mom suggested reading and trying some of the things in the book Gift of Dyslexia, which we did. We found that when we tried one of the remedies it made her seriously sick to her stomach and so dizzy that she couldn't even walk. So we were told to try an alternative method in a companion book Gift of Learning, but we saw no marked progress. We continued to search...

After trying a developmental pediatrician through our insurance we were told she had ADD and should be put on Ritalin. We knew this was a wrong diagnosis. Jenna's issues had nothing to do with an inability to stay on task, and everything to do with her inability to read at grade level.

We felt like we were back at square one with no real options to help Jenna overcome her challenges. We were at our wits end, yet we owed it to Jenna to find something to help her reach her potential.

My frustration came up one day when speaking to a friend and fellow homeschool mom who shared with us that another mutual friend had similar issues with her daughter and that she not only overcame her issues, but advanced to college level work by the age of 16 using the program.

Hope returned. We learned about this program- called Little Giant Steps (LGS), which uses a neurodevelopmental approach to addressing a gamut of learning disabilities. Nationally, LGS specialists are part of the International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalist (ICAN) network.

The approach has found that certain children have incomplete neuropathways that cause the brain to become disorganized and information to stored and recalled improperly. By doing certain exercises, these pathways are completed and the brain becomes properly organized so that information can be stored and retrieved efficiently and without obstacles.

When Jenna was first evaluated by an LGS neurodevelopmental specialist, we were shocked to discover that she couldn't skip across a room, crawl or track and object with her eyes. Though she seemed to go through all the stages of development as expected as an infant and toddler, it was clear that there were pathways that were not complete and likely the source of her reading challenges and other physical manifestations we hadn't realized before.

We began the journey of healing. And we are so relieved and grateful. In the first four months alone, Jenna improved one and a half grade levels. Along the way, an extra blessing surfaced. Jenna had also been diagnosed with scoliosis. Jenna's curvature of her spine had advanced so drastically and so quickly that the doctor believed she would require a brace. But to our surprise, Jenna scoliosis not only arrested- it receded (which is medically unheard of) due to a hanging exercises required by her LGS therapy.

Jenna is not even halfway through our eighteen month commitment with LGS, but has made significant strides and for the first time in a long time we, with God's help, feel she is FINALLY on the path toward healing... healing for both body and soul.


Terri is a homeschool Mom of eight beautiful and specially gifted children as well as a taxpayer advocate, columnist for two news outlets, and wife to Roger.


  1. What an encouraging post! Thanks for sharing it:-)

  2. Thank you for posting this. Terri's daughter sounds just like ours. We have been at a loss to know how o help her, as she is otherwise incredibly capable. We'll be checking his out for sure!

  3. Thank you Sommer. It was so encouraging to hear Terri share this with us, I knew we had to pass it on!

    Christa- Praising God that Terri's story may be a help you! My youngest sister is a Public School teacher and she was sharing with me recently that the school specialists are beginning to see the benefits of providing this therapy to repair neurological pathways as well. Amazing discoveries.

  4. I listened to a mp3 download last year by Little Giants its free.
    It is on the Texas Homeschool site.
    You have to look at two different pages to figure what recording is what. Here is the main page

    and here is the mp3 Little giant link