This is the testimony of a mother who shared with us and on her blog her joy of seeing how her child has transformed over the course of a one-month intensive therapy program at KickStart:
At five and a half years old, Leonard was entering an “unusual period” where he was often feeling angry and frustrated, suffered emotional instability, and acted stubborn and insecure in new situations. After reading many parenting books, I was still at my wit’s end; I couldn’t find the root of the problem and felt powerless in parenting Leonard. Fortunately, a friend from church recommended me to bring Leonard to see KickStart’s Ms. Wu for an evaluation. She had been to Ms. Wu’s presentation before and had also recommended some of her friends for an evaluation at KickStart whose children all showed great improvement, so I immediately made an appointment for evaluation.
My Encounter with KickStart:
On the day of the evaluation as we headed for KickStart, I told Leonard in the car, “Leonard, we are not going to school this morning. I am going to take you to another place.” When he heard that he was going somewhere else, Leonard immediately expressed his insecurity by telling me he didn’t want to go and that he wanted off the car. He even took off his seatbelt and hid under the seats, crying, “I don’t want to go!” Seeing how frightened he was, I tried my best to comfort him. “The place I am taking you is very special and fun, and only for children who are very good. I’ve decided to take you there as a reward because you did so well last week. It’s a place we’ve never been to, so you can go there and try first. If you think it is a fun place, we can invite your friends to come next time, okay?” Leonard looked up at me with suspicious eyes, and then slowly asked, “Really? Have I been good lately?” After I said yes, he finally sat back down in his seat, ready and prepared for going to the evaluation.
When we arrived at KickStart, Leonard was quite nervous and held onto my hand tightly. However, his eyes were immediately drawn to the toys and games available as we entered to meet Ms Wu. She was a kind and gentle woman. She noticed off the bat that Leonard seemed attracted to the toys and said to him, “Hello Leonard, would you like to play as I have a chat with your mom?” With that confirmation, Leonard dashed off to play. Ms. Wu and I started chatting, and I told her about the helplessness I feel and the difficulties I’ve encountered in parenting Leonard due to his emotional instability and other challenges. Ms. Wu acted both as a doctor and a psychiatrist as she listened patiently to me about Leonard’s situation. After I finished, Ms. Wu reassured me by telling me, “Don’t worry, Leonard will definitely become better because I have the prescription that you need.” She then took out different books and papers to explain to me the challenges that Leonard was facing and how to help him get better. Since we were about to move to South Africa for three months in 4 weeks’ time, Ms. Wu suggested for us to enroll in an intensive course to help Leonard achieve the best outcome possible in preparation for the new environment, which would for sure be a learning curve for him. I immediately enrolled as if grasping on to a miraculous antidote. This was the beginning of Leonard’s amazing transformation.
Ms. Wu’s assessment concludes that Leonard is hypersensitive to touch; in other words, he has tactile defensiveness, which refers to behaviors that are disliked or avoided in response to harmless tactile stimuli. Even a soft touch on the arm can be very threatening to a child with tactile defensiveness, and if left untreated, it can later affect a child’s interpersonal relationships and social interactions.
The Miraculous Effects of the Therapy Program:
In response to Leonard’s problem, KickStart’s professional occupational therapist designed a course that focused on providing deep pressure to the body, and resistance and exertion activities to counter his tactile hypersensitivity, which were done through fun games and exercises. The therapist also allowed Leonard to pick a favorite “toy” to accompany him in the games and exercises for that day. Leonard thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and always left KickStart feeling happy and satisfied.
Aside from the sessions themselves, each time the therapist would give me a list of “homework” that I could continue to do with Leonard at home. She also asked me to help Leonard brush the backs of his arms and legs with the tactile brush and compress his joints every hour or so. In addition, she gave Leonard an elastic belt, which would help him feel more secure and less sensitive to tactile stimuli. I told Leonard that this is a “magic belt” to help him become better and smarter, and the belt became his best buddy at school. To ensure that Leonard achieved the best results with this set of “homework”, we asked the teacher at school to help brush Leonard whenever she could; however, when the teacher wasn’t free, Leonard volunteered to complete the brushing by himself because, in his words, “It feels comfortable!”
The Effectiveness of the Intensive Course:
I chose to enroll Leonard in the intensive course, which meant coming to KickStart two to three times per week (instead of once a week only). However, Leonard underwent dramatic changes after only two sessions. One of the biggest changes was that his emotions became more stable, and he didn’t get angry as frequently as he used to. He became considerate, caring, sympathetic, responsible, motivated and disciplined. He stopped talking back to me and was able to get along well with his classmates in school. Here’s an example. One day when he came home, Leonard asked politely, “Mom, would you please play Monopoly with me?” I was tired and annoyed because I was in a hurry to make dinner, so I replied in a frustrated tone, “Leonard, Mom has to cook dinner and get a lot of housework done. Please don’t expect me to always have time for you.” Surprisingly, Leonard did not get upset at this. He replied calmly, “I’m sorry that I’ve disturbed you, Mom. Thank you for taking the time to cook for me. I’ll go play by myself then!” OH MY GOD! This was completely different from how Leonard used to be. Before the therapy sessions, if I had refused to play with him, Leonard would’ve thrown a huge temper tantrum. In fact, he was so compliant that I felt embarrassed about the tone I took with him and apologized immediately. To my astonishment, Leonard replied, “It’s alright, Mom! I understand that you are talking to me like this because you are tired, so I forgive you. You don’t have to worry about refusing me next time, though, because I’ve grown to be a big boy and I can understand how you feel now.”
Other than his emotional stability, he also became more manageable. If asked to complete a task, he would begin promptly with a good and cheerful attitude; whereas he used to be rebellious and often talked back. Leonard would now take the initiative to practice piano and do homework on his own without bantering with me. One time when I picked him up after school, he shared with me in the car that one of his classmates was scolded by the teacher for misbehavior. Then, he shyly added, “Mom, I used to be like them. I was often scolded by the teacher at school and I often got angry at the teacher. However, I’m different now.” It was wonderful to see that he had also noticed the change in his moods. This reminded me of an incidence a month ago before he began his treatment, when he hung his head and cried, “Mom, I don’t know why I get angry so easily. I’m also irritated at myself for being like this, but I don’t know how to stop myself!” I believe that what he said at that time was a cry for help. I truly thank God for pointing me in the right direction. With Ms. Wu’s expertise in this field and KickStart’s professional one-on-one treatment sessions, Leonard had transformed in just one month’s time; restored to the beautiful way God created him – a sweet, loving, caring child.
We wouldn’t have achieved so much success if it weren’t for Ms. Wu’s accurate assessment and diagnosis. We truly appreciate what she has done for us. Although she is the founder of KickStart, she isn’t profit oriented. On the contrary, she exudes kindness and geniality. You can often see her observing the children in their sessions in order to inform and remind the parents more about their children’s conditions, earnestly hoping to see improvement in every child. Therefore, if opportunity allows, I really recommend the intensive course for the first month of treatment. I guarantee that you’ll be able to see its effectiveness quite quickly.
I also want to extend my thanks to our therapist, Ms. Hong. She is gentle, patient and professional. Leonard enjoys her company very much. Seeing how patient she could be, I’ve also corrected my attitude towards Leonard, including my tone of voice and parenting style. All of these factors complemented each other to achieve such a wonderful result. I thereby announce that this battle has been won!
I thank God for sending me and Leonard all of these angels – my friend who recommended me KickStart, the amazing Ms. Wu, and our kind and gentle therapist, Ms. Hong. I also thank my husband for his support in my decision to enroll Leonard in a treatment program, allowing Leonard to harvest so much from the process. We will be flying to South Africa soon to meet up with my husband who has been transferred there on business. I’m absolutely certain that he will be very surprised at how much Leonard has changed. Thanks to KickStart, I am now full of confidence and joy about my future endeavors in a new country with my lovely family.
Photo by: Ahmad Zamri Ahmad Zahir