Which Experts to Ignore

Posted by admin on Mar 28, 2013 in Brain Development 
This letter defies what experts once predicted was possible for Adrian Galvan.

Sometimes the experts are wrong.  Eleven years ago, the experts said that Adrian Galvan (who was 6 years old back then) was mentally retarded and had autism because he could not speak or make eye contact, and he threw hours-long tantrums.

Yet, a few years after Adrian began organizing his brain, he was able to clearly communicate his original ideas with others, look them in the eyes, and yes, the tantrums were gone.

But, no, he had still not learned to really read and write since such skills (in natural brain organization) take time.

However, once again, the experts stepped in. At a school meeting, the professionals wanted Adrian’s mother to understand that she was in denial if she believed her son would ever become literate.

Their recommendation was to place him in a life-skills program. There, his educational curriculum would focus on just learning some basic skills that would help him survive in the world.

Collectively, the experts insisted this was the right course of action.  Adrian’s mother insisted it was not.

So instead, she decided to home-school her son. The idea was to give Adrian the grace of time to complete his brain organization and to become literate as part of the process.  A few years later, Adrian successfully returned to public school.

Flash to the present.  Adrian is now a senior in high school.

Much has changed since those experts insisted that a life-skills program was Adrian’s best educational option. For example, Adrian has not only researched how to construct a boat, but he actually built one that he then sailed on Mission Bay. He has led others in many service learning projects and is known for creating incredibly sophisticated, entertaining videos. The list goes on.

So, the recent letter from the principal of San Pasqual High School, sharing how Adrian had been selected as the Student of the Month for the English department, was no surprise to those who know him.

In the letter, it says:

“Adrian is an exceptional student. He comes prepared every day. He assists his peers, and he is a very polite and thoughtful young man.  He has earned an A consistently along with outstanding citizenship. His comments on topic always encourage other students to think deeper about the application of the information.”

The letter ends with the principal congratulating Adrian on his academic success. Yes, his academic success.

But this troubling question remains: What if Adrian’s mother had not known about developing the lower centers of the brain? What if she had listened to those experts?

Here’s what’s also concerning: We usually seek an expert’s opinion when we’re the most vulnerable (when we need help).

Therefore, here are some specific behaviors that now cause me to pause and question the credibility of an expert.

  • They reject whatever you bring to the discussion—even though they have no first-hand experience with whatever information you are sharing.
  • On their own, they bring up and negate other approaches and programs (again, usually without any first-hand experience) within the context of advocating the one they support.
  • They talk in absolutes and present themselves as though they couldn’t possibly be wrong.
  • If you question their prognosis, they tell you that you are in denial.

In contrast, there are experts who respect and acknowledge that parents, too, have their own expertise when it comes to their kids.  Such experts don’t automatically dismiss something a parent brings up, such as a method or program that’s unfamiliar to them. In fact, many of these professionals often express interest to learn more.

Call me crazy, but here’s a thought.  Since the brain is involved in everything we do—and incomplete lower brain development can affect  behavior, academic performance, coordination, health problems, memory, and more—why wouldn’t we start all discussions about our kids by first asking:  What’s actually going on in my child’s brain?

If we don’t know the answer, then why wouldn’t we want to find out before anyone leaps to conclusions or makes recommendations that may or may not prove helpful?

And that’s where Adrian’s mother and the professionals parted back then.  The experts were focusing solely on his current academic output—but she knew what was going on his brain. More importantly, she understood that his current output was going to change once more of his brain was organized.

Without question, Adrian’s story is a tribute to his parents, his perseverance, and the amazing ability of the brain to reorganize itself so that it can function as intended. In fact, I’m thinking the principal who just signed Adrian’s recent congratulatory letter would probably find it incredulous to learn that he’d once been slotted for a sparse life-skills educational curriculum.

That’s why I’m hoping that Adrian’s journey will continue to inspire others to also keep the door open—even if an expert tries to close it.