Improving quality of life for the differently abled Children & Adults

L.I.F.E. STORIES

Written by Dan & Teresa Brooks                                                  

A famous quote from a popular song reads, “They say you never know what you got till it’s gone” but for our 11-year-old son, Brigham, who has been enrolled at Lauren’s Institute for Education (L.I.F.E) for the past year, we’ve changed those lyrics to read; “We never knew how good it could be, till what we had was gone!” 

Brigham was born with Down syndrome and was diagnosed with Autism at age four.  It seemed as if his disabilities grew along with his body and the more pronounced the disability the more we grew dispirited about his future; it looked darker and darker.  He had been in the public school system since age seven.  During those years we believed the public school system was adequate, but it was all we knew.  However, in the last three years we found the public schools to be increasingly lacking in understanding and willingness to help Brigham with his specific needs.

It was just one short year ago when we sat down with Brigham’s educational team to assess the ending school year and set goals for the coming year when it became clear that “What we had, wasn’t good enough—there had to be something better.”  We found that the school had not been working to meet Brigham’s current goals, and what’s worse, the goals they set for the upcoming year were goals he had surpassed three and four years earlier.    The teacher, the staff and therapists weren’t even aware that Brigham knew his colors, basic numbers or most of the alphabet—in short, after years inside that public school system they didn’t know my son at all.

It was at this point we started searching for alternatives and found L.I.F.E.  We enrolled Brigham for the summer program and within days we knew we had found something special; after six weeks we were convinced that this is where Brigham needed to be.   His affect changed immediately; he was happier and excited to go to school, something we hadn’t seen in a very long time.  We’ve also found that we were happier and in one year we’ve realized that L.I.F.E isn’t just something that happens to our son from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM on weekdays.

One of the most impressive things about L.I.F.E. is the business approach they use to solve problems.  Once a problem is identified they work tirelessly to find solutions, secure necessary resources and communicate and apply the solution uniformly to all appropriate staff, therapists and parents.  We recently attended a team meeting for Brigham with over 15 employees in attendance; for the first time in 8 years attending these kinds of meetings, we became part of the team.  Staff members asked us questions about our son, “What had we tried?” “What had worked, what hadn’t?” and so on.  Every

staff member seemed genuinely interested in learning more about Brigham in order to help find solutions!  This team was professional, solutions oriented, resourceful and most important, they truly knew our son and were personally and professionally invested in helping our him to succeed.

As a direct result of Brigham’s enrollment for the last year at L.I.F.E., we’ve seen incredible growth including the following: he’s more mobile (he will walk longer distances), he’s beginning to independently interact and communicate on a social level, his vocabulary is increasing, and he is trying and eating new foods.  Brigham has been to several movies (in the theatre) and even the Ice Capades (an unbelievable feat).  One of the biggest changes currently impacting our lives for the better is the work that has been done to help Brigham potty train.  We had serious doubts that Brigham would ever be trained and now, thanks to Jessica and Kelly who work with Brigham in the classroom, he’s making great progress and for the first time in his life, we can see the end of pull-ups in sight!

Our experience at L.I.F.E. has been nothing short of spectacular. We truly didn’t know how good Brigham’s life could be until we found L.I.F.E.  His frustration level is down and his level of happiness is soaring.  Because of L.I.F.E. we’re hoping and dreaming again about Brigham’s future.  L.I.F.E. got us back into life!

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