According to Tibetan medicine, disease does not originate in the human body. It starts in a person’s mind. Then it affects his body.
For a child with a neurological disorder, the future seems clear. Or at least it is in everyone else’s mind. Everyone seems certain about what the future holds for this child – what therapy will be needed, what disability this child will have in life.
But the funny thing is that these very people who are so absolute about this child’s future have probably never even really looked at or talked to the child. They’ve never asked the child what he wants or needs. They’ve never given him a chance to decide for himself. Basically everything is decided for the child, right from the start.
Take the case of Alexandra, an eleven-month-old beauty queen who came to our LIFE Program from the United Kingdom. According to her paediatrician and pediatric neurologist, Alexandra has mild cerebral palsy, and can be put passively into a sitting or kneeling position. She cannot turn from side to side or transition actively from a lying position to sitting and kneeling. Needless to say, she is not crawling and standing either. After the first session, her father told me: “This is hard for her; I mean this kind of exercises.” My reply was: “have you seen any exercises? This is her life function.” With the LIFE Program, an approach I pioneered in my clinic, there are no exercises. In real life, people might exercise for many an hour or two each day in a gym. But everything else they do is just daily function. So why should a child with a neurological disorder be put through exercises when what that child really needs to learn is function?
Alexandra progressed nicely in the LIFE Program and her parents were hopeful. Everything was going great until one day, when I came into the office and our secretary told me, “Natan, do not go to the kitchen. Alexandra’s parents are crying there.” I quickly learned why. The previous day, our clinic had received a fax from the U.K. containing a description of Alexandra’s MRI test. The test described what parts of the brain were affected and the diagnosis. Alexandra’s parents had then called their pediatrician in the U.K., who told them that their child’s future was not looking good and that they needed to talk to a pediatric neurologist. They were devastated.
I’ve worked in hospitals, were I saw on several occasions how a patient can walk into physician’s room on his own but, once he learns of his bleak diagnosis and prognosis and is put into a wheelchair, he never gets up again. It is unfortunate that today many doctors rarely look at their patients but instead base their diagnoses and treatment decisions on tests. I find this interesting and somewhat ironic since tests are described in medical books as an excellent tool to either support or exclude a diagnosis. Think about it. Tests do not diagnose. They just help physicians make a diagnosis. And tests cannot predict the future of the patient.
Tests can show what part of the brain or body is affected, helping us gain a better understanding of what is happening. But they are just a part of the entire picture, especially where children are concerned. As a child grows, his brain is developing. So given appropriate stimulation – in particular, function – a child’s brain can and will turn to a pathway other than the affected part to build function. This was exactly what I told Alexandra parents.
If, like Alexandra’s parents, you ever feel discouraged about your child, try doing this: When you work with your child – which is basically what you do 24/7 – observe and compare your child now to the way your child was one month ago or one week ago. Then you will see the difference. Remember: tests show what is inside. But no MRI, CT, physio test or occupational therapy test will ever truly show your child’s level of function. Remember that your child is a smart human being who is aware that a test is being conducted and will not behave as he or she behaves in a normal, everyday setting. Therefore the best test is daily life. And the best assessor, aside from your child’s therapist, is you – the parent, who knows your child best.
So listen to physicians and therapists, but observe your child and make your own conclusions. Talk to them, but talk even more to your child. Ask questions, but compare their answers with what you see in your child.
Do not doubt your child for even one second. Remember that your child is capable of doing things that nobody and no machine can predict. So don’t let anybody decide and write off your child’s future.