SUCCESS STORIES

Learning Differences

About the Client

Name:

Alina

Age at Intake:

17

Diagnoses:

Alina's Story

Alina was adopted at three years old after experiencing severe neglect in early childhood. Throughout her childhood, Alina’s mother reported persistent challenges with her maintaining a state of “fight or flight” so significant that it led to challenges with behavioral challenges and school performance. Alina was described as closed off, unwilling to engage, and experienced significant difficulties with controlling her anger, managing stress and anxiety, and social skills. Alina’s challenges were so severe she could not maintain enrollment in a traditional public school program and spent some time in an out-of-state boarding school program and an in-patient rehabilitation center in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Alina enrolled in Jacob’s Ladder programming, desperate for support. She came as a teenager who had a long history of deficits in school, socially, and emotionally – her family was lost, with no clear path toward improvement. During Alina’s evaluation, she was shut down with slumped shoulders and limited eye contact, unwilling to participate in many of the assessment metrics. Alina had little distress tolerance, specifically surrounding academic output activities. Evaluation results indicated significant discrepancies in her auditory and visual sequential processing and working memory skills, early reflex integration, and a fully left-side dominance pattern. Her academic scores were severely below her age level – with some scores at a fourth-grade level – reflecting years of difficulty making academic gains.

 

With these key neurodevelopmental factors identified, Alina’s program specifically targeted areas of deficit while providing abundant opportunities for her to participate in areas of strength. After approximately two years of Jacob’s Ladder programming, Alina made incredible strides and graduated with a high school diploma. She showed proficiency with staying regulated, appropriately communicating her thoughts and feelings, confidence in academic and vocational experiences, and significant academic gains. The Interpersonal Whole-Brain Model of Care® (IWBMC™) worked to understand Alina’s whole picture rather than solely focusing on her diagnoses and outward behavior. Highlighting her strengths rather than weaknesses allowed her to actualize what her family, community, and team at Jacob’s Ladder knew she could accomplish. 

Academic Subject Area

Improvement Within Two Years

Alina’s academic abilities increased by an average of three grade levels within two years of intensive programming despite longstanding challenges in making academic gains.

Incoming Evaluation Results

During Alina’s initial evaluation, she was completely shut down and unwilling to participate in numerous evaluation metrics. She could not manage distress, was frustrated by the sight of academic work, and had a bleak and downtrodden outlook. Alina’s family reported severe challenges with emotional regulation at home, including instances of self-harm, meltdowns, and extreme language. 

 

The evaluation identified significant discrepancies in her auditory and visual sequential processing and working memory abilities. Her Visual Working Memory abilities were at the level of four, a Below Average score; however, her Auditory Working Memory was at the level of seven, indicating Superior performance. This disconnect with how Alina processed information aligned with results from the Kaufman Test of Individual Achievement – Third Edition (KTEA-3), where she had discrepancies between Low academic and Very Superior oral expression scores. These discrepancies indicate poor synthesis and integration of key brain regions, significantly impacting how she can take in, process, and utilize information.

 

Further, Alina completed the Early Reflex Integration assessment, which identified that she had only 1 out of 19 early reflexes integrated, aligning with her developmental history and functional challenges. When these critical early reflexes are not integrated, they greatly impact attention, handwriting, interhemispheric communication, and processing abilities. 

 

When considering the Learning Style and identifying root issues for longstanding challenges with academic performance, the processing scores were significant; however, the presence of a fully left-sided profile was also notable. Alina’s left eye, hand, ear, and foot were assessed as dominant, which correlates to her right hemisphere specialization. The right hemisphere controls big-picture thinking, comprehension, and emotional understanding. In contrast, the primary foundational academic functions lie within the left hemisphere, including symbol recognition, word reading, and mathematical computation.

 

With these findings, it was clear that Alina primarily processed information within the right hemisphere, resulting in highly emotional processing, with limited ability to think and react linearly and logically – a left hemisphere function. Due to her early developmental history and innate wiring, Alina had significant challenges with interhemispheric communication, which was correlated to poor neuronal transmission through the corpus callosum. Functionally, the inability to connect the left and right hemispheres created substantial challenges with emotional regulation, social engagement, and academic achievement.

Results at Program Completion

After approximately two years of Jacob’s Ladder programming in the Hope School and Compass programs, Alina made tremendous strides and graduated with a standard high school diploma. She learned the key skills required to communicate effectively and manage her stress and anxiety.

 

Alina’s programming included a high degree of cross-lateral interventions to increase the neuronal capacity within the corpus callosum, focusing on integrating and synthesizing information between the brain’s two hemispheres. She also completed targeted work to address early reflex integration, sequential processing, and working memory skills. During her transition, Alina had improved to have 15 reflexes fully integrated, and all of her sequential processing and working memory scores fell within the Average range. Alina’s academic scores improved significantly, and her word reading abilities landed above 12th grade. Functionally, she had a positive outlook, eagerly anticipating her high school graduation and transitioning to employment opportunities.

These qEEG images show the electrical activity occurring within the brain. Areas with insufficient activity are noted by cool colors (blue and teal), whereas areas with too much activity are indicated by warm colors (lime green, yellow, red, and orange). The blank spots or white colors indicate any areas with activity occurring within the normal range. All data is collected from raw EEG data and is compared to a normative database based on the client’s age, gender, and handedness.

At Alina’s initial evaluation, significant dysregulation was noted in the delta and alpha frequencies, with significant excessive delta and deficient alpha activity. The red lines in the coherence measure reflect locked communication patterns and an inability for information to flow between brain regions effectively. The cool blue colors in alpha correlate to insufficient electrical resources available in the frequency that enables relaxation, openness, and taking in information.

 

At the time of her transition, the brain map shows cleared activity across all frequencies and measures, reflecting improved neuronal messaging and stability within the brain. The coherence measure indicates an ability for electrical signals to fire between brain regions effectively, allowing her to synthesize information and provide consistent output.

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