When Viraj and Ria Mohan’s son, Vivan was diagnosed with Autism, their reaction was akin to any young couple—they went through the textbook stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When fate lead them to The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP) in Philadelphia, the Mohans experienced a miracle tailor-made for them.
Vivan was enrolled in playschool when he was about two and a half years old. He was hardly speaking, but he was running around and doing pretty much everything else. Physically, there was no ailment, so even when we went to the paediatrician, we were told that each child is different, so there was nothing to worry about. At playschool, one of his teachers who happened to be a special educator spoke to my wife, Ria and myself and told us that she felt like something was wrong, although she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. Vivan was a little over four years old when we started going to all the local doctors in Delhi to see if we could figure out what was happening, and more importantly how we could solve it.
Disoriented By A Disability
We went to a psychologist who spent two hours in a box-like room with our son. To be honest, I was feeling claustrophobic in that small space; obviously Vivan threw a fit and started bawling. Once this happened, the doctor pulled out some paper tests, filled out some forms, asked us a few questions, and without blinking an eyelid said, ‘he’s Autistic.’ It made no sense to us. She had spent two hours with the child—you can’t know if he’s Autistic!
We found a place in Delhi called Children First and met with their doctor who spent a fair amount of time with Vivan. She said that she didn’t see his issue as Autism. She was interacting with him, instead of doing a paper test and she told us that Autism has a number of things related to it like eye contact, interaction, social abilities etc., and Vivan wasn’t displaying any of these signs. She said that she wasn’t sure what it was but instead of putting a label on what it could be, we should just accept that something was wrong and start working on the solution. I think that was the best advice anybody gave us.
We started all the traditional therapies—Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy (OT is the use of assessment and treatment to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of people with a physical, mental, or cognitive disorder.), and all the standard stuff that one is expected to do. This continued for over a year but we couldn’t see any progress in Vivan’s condition.
The Path To Healing
We went to London for a family event in December of 2011, and happened to be at the airport with some family friends on our way back to Delhi. As is normal, we started discussing life with children, and when I mentioned Vivan, the lady we were speaking to, apart from being shocked about not knowing our situation, insisted that we look up this institute in Philadelphia. On the way home, I looked up Glenn Doman, the Founder of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP). From what I understood then (and now know), this institute isn’t too well-received in the medical world, based solely on the fact that they don’t prescribe any medication; they don’t do surgeries, and they believe in all-natural treatments. We decided to do the course and the first order of business was to read a book called ‘What To Do About Your Brain Injured Child’.
To Philadelphia And Beyond
During the duration of the course, an evaluation was performed on Vivan and we were told that his Logical Age was 29 months. Chronologically, he was six-and-a-half years old. That was not good, to put it mildly. When we got back to India, we did a home programme. As a parent, the course trains you on what to do about your brain-injured child. They teach parents how to evaluate their child and how to figure out where the injury lies and what you can do to fix it. It also includes methods on how to build a programme that is tailor-made to your child’s needs. Armed with all this knowledge, we were determined to give it a real shot. We started the programme on January 1, 2013, and by February 2, Vivan was a different kid. He was doing things we had never seen him do before and the first thing we experienced was shock, followed by overwhelming joy. Suddenly, we couldn’t get enough and I rang the institute and told them that we wanted to join the Intensive Programme. Vivan was not only reading—he was speed-reading. He had started to look better and had become physically better at running. I have to give it to Ria, she is the primary programmer, and she’s the one who works hard with him, day in and day out, and kudos to Vivan for doing it—it’s a tough programme! And now he knows that it’s helping him, and wants to continue to do it.
When he was re-evaluated, Vivan’s Logical Age had gone from 29 months to 41 months with two and a half months of programming. That moment was life changing for us; it was incredible.
IAHP: The Programme
The programme links brain development to physical activity at an early stage. It takes you back to areas you might have skipped. Apart from what we commonly call the army crawl, there’s also a lot of monkey bar work, which we as adults would muscle through, but the kids – they don’t do that. They let gravity take them and literally swing on these bars like monkeys. There’s also something known as patterning, where you put your child on a table and move their legs around. There are breathing exercising and even a detoxification of all medication and all chemicals. You then monitor the food that your child eats. You eliminate sugar, wheat and dairy—anything that can be a cause for slowing them down. You slowly re-introduce these things to see how they react. This is not a lifelong programme. It is not like so many other therapies that go on for years and years, and even then you’re told that your child ‘might’ be functional. The goal of the Institute is to return your child to his or her peer group, either at the same level, or superior, in the shortest possible time-span. Typically, this lasts a few years and kids go back to their regular lives.
The Road Ahead
The problem, as with most things in life is acceptance. Some parents get it immediately; sometimes the mothers are more open about it, while the fathers don’t think there’s anything wrong with their child to begin with. Once they accept that there is an issue, a percentage of them will join the programme. But as they tell you at the institute, even if 100 parents attend a session, 50 of them will go home and do nothing, but at least they will know what is wrong with their child. In that sense, knowledge is a great thing. Often they just don’t believe that the programme works, which is when we literally show them Vivan and tell them that he’s a living example. Before our second or third visit to Philadelphia, I came across many more parents of brain-injured children, and they were like us, struggling and running around the place like headless chickens. I started talking to them about going to Philadelphia and I realised in most of those conversations that many people won’t make it there. For a variety of reasons—whether it is financial means, family problems—whatever it is. So we decided that we would bring the programme to them—in Delhi. And in October 2014, we did, and I think we changed the lives of about 30 more children. Most of the parents that came to that course made it to Philadelphia and are now on the Institute’s programme. We are going to continue to bring the course to India.
Have you ever seen five and six year old brain-injured children doing Algebra? I have. I see it all the time.
IAHP: The Institutes For The Achievement Of Human Potential
IAHP is a group of non-profit institutes founded by Glenn Doman in 1955. It is internationally known for its pioneering work in child brain development and for its programmes to help brain-injured children achieve wellness and for well children to achieve excellence. The first order of business when one visits, is The Institutes Developmental Profile. This measures the growth and development of the brain, which allows them to evaluate a child and make an exact comparison between the hurt child and his or her well peers. On each subsequent trip, a new Developmental Profile is done and a new programme is created based on that. The School for Human Development—for brain-injured young adults, was created by Douglas Doman (Glenn’s son). He and his staff created the world’s first Human Development Course, a circuit utilising physical activities that promote brain organisation and development.
Glenn Doman, who passed away in May 2013, is still part of the Programme by way of video lectures. In one of those lessons, he reads this poem, The Special Mother by Erma Bombeck, which, while being extremely insightful will also pull at every heartstring that reads it.
The Special Mother By Erma Bombeck
Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit.
This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?
Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.
“Armstrong, Beth; son. Patron saint…give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”
“Forrest, Marjorie; daughter. Patron saint, Cecelia.”
“Rutledge, Carrie; twins. Patron saint, Matthew.”
Finally He passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.”
The angel is curious. “Why this one God? She’s so happy.”
“Exactly,” smiles God, “Could I give a handicapped child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”
“But has she patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she’ll handle it.”
“I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has her own world. She has to make her live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”
“But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.” God smiles, “No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect – she has just enough selfishness.” The angel gasps – “selfishness? is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a ‘spoken word'”. She will never consider a “step” ordinary. When her child says ‘Momma’ for the first time, she will be present at a miracle, and will know it!”
“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see…ignorance, cruelty, prejudice….and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing My work as surely as if she is here by My side”.
“And what about her Patron saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air.
God smiles, “A mirror will suffice.”