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Faith, Love and Hope

A parent's story...

Bronwen Vanessa Horne's arrival was six days late. I had been having mild contractions during the course of the day and at about a quarter to five, my husband, Derrick, was racing through peak traffic to get me to the hospital in time. My contractions were now three minutes apart.

I went through the normal predelivery routine but at the same time urging the nurse to get hold of my gynaecologist as I had the urge to push. On arrival, Dr. Anthony Langton broke my water and told me that my baby was "fetus in distress" and that I would have to have a Caesarean.

After the birth of my baby, my doctor informed me that the baby was very undernourished due to the fact that the umbilical cord that is connected to the placenta and feeds the fetus had been "squashed" and that she would have to be placed in an incubator.

Bronwen soon became a bouncing baby, much to the delight of her pediatrician, Dr. Prentiss. I breast-fed her on demand and soon we were allowed to go home.

Bronwen was a very good baby. Just slept and drank. In her waking hours she was a happy, contented little girl. I never made specific notes of the milestones of my children, yet from memory did notice that her milestones seemed quicker than that of her sister.

As parents, we never noticed that there was anything wrong with Bronwen. We now realize that this was due to ignorance.

One day, my brother-in-law, Bruce, who was visiting, remarked on the indistinct way that Bronwen spoke. She had just started pre-primary and her teacher, Mrs. Jacobs, had also shown concern. She felt that Bronwen might be a candidate for a special school as she was very underdeveloped for her age.

God has many angels in heaven but there are some on earth as well. I'd like to dedicate this story to three special angels:

To Derrick, my husband, for always hanging on when I wanted to throw in the towel. To Charnell, my daughter, for always being there for her sister. Lastly, to Bronwen, for always trying her best.

Bronwen wrote this in Charnell's autograph book:

You are big
And I am small
You always help me
When I fall.

I think this is so apt. Thank you for all the "special angels" that are too numerous to mention but who played a part in getting Bronwen where she is today.

I'd like to call my story: FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE.

Bronwen went through a battery of tests in her pre-primary year. The ENT specialist, Dr. Patrick O'Halloran, fitted Bronwen with grommets. There was a wax build-up in her ears that made it difficult for her to hear correctly.

She went to a new pediatrician, Dr. Julian McIver, who gave Bronwen a thorough check-up and made the necessary arrangements for her to be tested at a school clinic. She spent two mornings at the school while being tested. Unfortunately, I do not have copies of these reports. We were just informed that Bronwen could go to normal school.

She then went along to have her eyes tested as the pre-primary school that she was attending felt that she couldn't see properly. These tests also proved negative. We were in midterm by now and Bronwen was just not making the grade, compared to the performance of her peers. Concentration was a great problem and Bronwen was just not participating in class as she should. We took her back to Dr. McIver who prescribed Ritalin. This had an adverse effect on her. It made her more hyperactive, very lethargic and tearful with bouts of moodiness. For example, I would put her in bed at 8 o'clock every evening after reading a bedtime story to her and her sister. Bronwen would still be singing or talking to herself at 9 o'clock.

Bronwen was admitted to the hospital with a urinary infection and stayed there for ten days. I would stay with her the whole day either reading stories or helping her draw. She loved to draw and her whole little cubicle was filled with her drawings by the time she was discharged.

In November of that year, Bronwen went for more scholastic tests at the school clinic. All the tests showed that she was still behind her peers as far as her development and capabilities were concerned. The psychologist thought that she might catch up from the stimulation of "real school." There was one condition, though, and that was that she had to attend a school that had special education facilities. It would then not be so dramatic for the child should she have to go to special class.

Bronwen started first grade. However, concentration was a major problem. She couldn't finish her work in time. Due to the concentration problem it didn't seem that Bronwen would make the grade. She was still on Ritalin and it was still having an adverse effect on her. At the end of the year, the clinic's psychologist, Dr. Turner, informed us that it was better that Bronwen go to a special school as she had not shown the desired improvement to go through to second grade. I hit the roof. After two years, as parents, we had been running around in circles trying to accommodate everybody concerned with her education. We felt that they should give Bronwen a chance to be able to prove herself. I asked that Bronwen repeat first grade. Surprisingly, Dr. Turner agreed with us. He also felt that she had potential. Her nonverbal IQ was higher than the verbal and that in itself was encouraging.

Bronwen started her second year of first grade. She showed considerable progress. We had now taken her off Ritalin and her character seemed to change overnight. She had the same teacher that she had had in her first year of first grade. Mrs. Scott was still concerned about Bronwen 's concentration.

In the middle of May, Bronwen started extra math classes with Crystal Smith. Crystal taught twelfth-grade math. The children did their lessons on computer with assistance from Crystal. She also felt that Bronwen's concentration was poor and we changed her classes to 2 o'clock in the afternoon. She showed better concentration and this seemed to be carried over to her math in school. Her reading also improved.

In the third term, she was called into the principal's office where she was congratulated on the good work she was producing. This source of encouragement was just the ticket for Bronwen and she really started to enjoy school.

In the meantime, my brother-in-law, Tommy, had remarked that Bronwen seemed pigeon-toed. We took her along to Dr. André Snyman, an orthopedic surgeon. He checked Bronwen from head to toe but found nothing wrong with the child.

I also took her back to Dr. Malcolm Rodel, her ophthalmologist. Mrs. Scott remarked that when looking at the blackboard, Bronwen was inclined to put her head at an angle — as though she was struggling to see the blackboard. I was at my wit's end with her. It just seemed that I would get on the top of the mountain and I would slip all the way to the bottom again. I just lost composure. Dr. Rodel showed so much compassion. He inserted drops into Bronwen's eyes and we had to wait a while for the drops to take affect. The right pupil showed a fraction of a centimeter out and she was given corrective glasses. She also went to an eye therapist and was given eye exercises. Bronwen had to wear a patch over the one eye and do weaving. I gave her a net curtain with lots of patterns on it and with different pieces of cotton taught her how to embroider. These "lessons" were only to last for about 15 minutes or when the child got bored. Well, I just couldn't stop her. Her therapist, Jocelyn Wickens, was amazed. We took Bronwen 's handiwork along to her and she couldn't believe it from a child who had a concentration problem.

In the meantime, I was trying to find a solution to Bronwen's concentration problem. I spoke to Dr. Werner Lubbe, a lecturer on remedial teaching at the University. He asked me about Charnell and how she had progressed at school. I told him it was pretty much the same. She had also repeated second grade. He said that this could be a hereditary problem but that an EEG would show nothing positive, as Bronwen was still too young.

Two personal friends of mine, Jean Ferguson and Vicky Ardrey, gave me lots of encouragement. They are both remedial teachers and gave me certain exercises that might help Bronwen.

Marina Walters from the Technikon put me onto Gloria Barrington who also teaches remedial at the University. She offered that Bronwen attend classes on a Wednesday afternoon at the University to assist her. Mrs. Scott was not keen on the idea at all as she felt that we were putting too much pressure on her.

The school year was coming to a close when I was called back to the school clinic. Mr. Phillip White had tested Bronwen again and felt that due to the fact that the concentration problem had still not been resolved, that it would be better if Bronwen now go to a special-education class. He had the form ready for me to sign and I'll never forget his words: "You do of course realize that I can take you to court where you will be forced to sign this document." I said that I would have to discuss this with my husband. I was utterly flabbergasted. I was ready to throw in the towel. More than what I had already done, I felt I could not do any more. The wind had gone out of my sails. I felt as though I had deserted my child.

Derrick went and saw Phillip the following day. He refused to sign the paper and told him that Bronwen had not "failed" twice and, barring her concentration, she was managing in the class situation. Phillip told Derrick that he feared that Bronwen would not be able to make the first term of second grade and this would make it very traumatic for the child.

Derrick said that she would prove herself — and how she has!

Bronwen started second grade with a teacher who really went out of her way to assist. Miss Kate Dickinson is a very special "angel." She put Bronwen next to the brightest little girl in the class, Mary Shelver. Bronwen saw how well this little girl was doing and strived to do the same. She was still slow in her work, so Kate made her work against an egg timer. At the end of the first term Phillip came and saw Kate and asked how Bronwen was doing. She said that she was happy with the progress that she had shown.

From the second term onwards, Bronwen got a new teacher, as Kate had left for an overseas working assignment. Her name was Mrs. Virginia Bassett.

Bronwen's concentration was still a matter of concern and in the third term I took her along to a homeopath, Dr. Mary Hill. She informed me that the left side of Bronwen's spine was pressing against the left side of her brain. I was amazed. She could see that I really didn't believe her and turned Bronwen around. Her left shoulder blade was higher than the right-hand side. She put Bronwen on medication, which I had to supplement with Vitamin E, Biocombin and Lecithin.

She sent Bronwen to a chiropractor, Dr. Gustav Prentiss, who administered therapy to Bronwen's back. She went every week for about a month but now only has to go every three weeks. At night she goes to bed with a cotton reel tied around her tummy. This assists the spine. This method is also used for children with bed-wetting problems.

Bronwen's eating habits have improved greatly. Her sleeping habits have improved. No more singing and talking when she goes to bed. I have taken her off all carbonated drinks and anything that contains tartrazine. I took her to the supermarket and showed her the word she must look out for when buying snacks. Her teacher says she is very good about this. If she is given anything containing tartrazine she gives it to the other children. At long last it is a pleasure having Bronwen around us once more. She has calmed down considerably.

We were receiving all these little rays of sunshine but then a cloud would come along and hide the sunlight away. Bronwen's teacher was not happy with the progress that she was making in class. She was still making silly mistakes, taking much too long to complete her work and couldn't apply new math that she had learned in class. Her reading was also not up to par.

One night she came home with a book that I had to sign. The comment read: "Bronwen took one and a half hours to complete this work." I asked Bronwen what the problem was but could not get much out of her. I phoned her teacher to find out what was the problem. She said that Bronwen had been walking around and disturbing the rest of the class and that is why her work had not been completed. Bronwen had to become more responsible for her actions.

I was down in the bottom of the pit once more. I was reading up in books that I had either taken out from the library or bought from bookstores. Somewhere there had to be an answer.

Crystal gave me this pamphlet one Wednesday afternoon. She was very excited about the prospects it held for children not making the grade at school. She gave me the name of one of the parents that had attended the workshop and I duly phoned her up. She was having the same problems that we had been having with Bronwen at school. She had started the program in May with her daughter and told me how well she had progressed. Her handwriting had become legible and her reading had greatly improved.

I discussed it with my husband and we made the necessary arrangements to attend a workshop.

The workshop is a whole day affair where you sit and listen in rapt attention. Parents with genuine concern for their children just soaked up every word Dr. Strydom was saying. There were teachers who also attended the workshop who were a bit skeptical about Audiblox, but to parents who had experienced the heartbreak, it was like receiving water in a barren desert.

On August 21, I saw Virginia. She was talking along the lines of a smaller class — special education class. I told her about the workshop and asked her just to give it a chance till after the October vacation. I also went and saw Dr. Walters, the principal and informed him what we were going to do with Bronwen. He knew the program and was very enthusiastic. I just knew that with his backing we were at last going places.

The fun thing about Audiblox is that the children think it is a game. They are unaware that they are learning. Bronwen once told one of her friends: "My mom has put me on a diet and my dad plays a game with me every night."

One thing that must be emphasized is that you must be consistent for Audiblox to do the job. Both my husband and I work fulltime. Our children attend an aftercare center so therefore they are pretty tired when they get home.

We have started a routine and it works for us. The children both have a bath before starting Audiblox. We take the children one at a time for half an hour each day. They do their homework, have supper and go to bed at eight. We still have time to discuss the daily events. Don't let the time factor put you off. I do not have household help and still find time to do the normal chores around the house, and no, I don't go to bed at some unearthly hour. We are usually in bed around 10 o'clock. So you see, if we can do it, so can you. If you care about your children, you will.

Dr. Jan Strydom is the lifeboat we all have been waiting for. Audiblox holds wonderful prospects for children with learning problems. The most important rule to remember is that it all depends on you, the parents. It's like going to the doctor if you have a cold. He will give you the correct medication to take but if you don't take it, you cannot blame the doctor if you do not get better. The same with Audiblox. You can buy the package but if you don't sit down every night and do the necessary tasks, the whole point of the workshop is wasted. Then maybe you should have rather spent the money drinking the night away.

We started Audiblox on Monday, August 12th, with both our children. By October 7th we had been informed Bronwen had passed. That in a nutshell, says it all. It had taken just 40 days for Bronwen to be on Audiblox. No mention of special-education class. Just a straight pass into a normal third-grade class. Charnell also benefited from the course. In the June exam she got an E for English. In her finals she got a B.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to you, Dr. Strydom, for sharing your knowledge with us, the parents. Of all the angels, you are the ombudsman. You've made teachers and everybody else involved with education sit up and listen to you. There is no point in remedial teaching. You have to go back and find out just where our children have missed out. Audiblox does this for our children. You have made parents aware that the problem really lies within them but now they have a chance to correct their mistakes. Audiblox holds wonderful prospects for children. You see, God really does answer prayers.

Except for the members of the Horne family, all names have been changed in the above story.