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From Surviving to Thriving: Brooke's Story

We recently sat down with Brain Balance parent, Amanda Weber, to talk about her experience in the 12-week at-home program. She enrolled her daughter Brooke at age 11 after growing complications resulting from her phobia, anxiety and meltdowns. In this in-depth interview, Amanda shares her journey from her initial apprehensions and misconceptions about a virtual program to the life-changing breakthroughs her family has experienced since completing the program.

This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.

Q:  What were some of the struggles that led you to find Brain Balance?

Amanda: It's funny that when I think about it, you can't imagine that there's a solution out there that will help you when you're struggling with your kids. And it was through a friend, they read an article and sent it to me, and I just instantly knew that I had to investigate it. But some of the things that led us personally with our story is, our daughter had a lot of anxiety at school. She had a really hard time making good friendships, and that was impacting her confidence. She also had a lot of anxiety around specifically a phobia of weather. And that was extremely debilitating. There were many days in a week when we couldn't get her to school, and it was really starting to erode what self-confidence she had. Because it felt life was unpredictable for her. And then the third thing would be meltdowns. And I really learned to delineate between meltdowns and tantrums. Meltdowns are neurologically based, and the kiddos really don't want them to go on, and they were long, and they were difficult. And every time it just broke us a little bit because our daughter is outgoing and extroverted, and we just knew that things could be easier for her. We just didn't know what the right solutions were.

Q: How old was Brooke when you started to do a little bit more research and found Brain Balance?

Amanda: She is 12 now, so she was probably 10 and a half when we first started reading about it. And you're apprehensive. It's hard to know if something on the internet is really going to give the results that are claimed. And I followed it for a little while to build my confidence. And then by the time she had just turned 11, we said, "Let's give this a try. Let's just see, we have to do something. This seems like it could be good."

Q: When you first started the program, you mentioned feeling a little apprehensive about fitting it into your busy schedule and having one more thing for Brooke to do?

Amanda: Yes, apprehension is probably an understatement. We were really concerned. Because when you have kiddos that are struggling, everything is just another thing to get into a battle about potentially. And the child is exhausted. We're exhausted, we're just trying to do what's right. We were very apprehensive, but we felt that the complications she was experiencing were extreme enough that we had to take a chance. And we very quickly realized that the coaches are really inspiring. They're very focused on finding ways to connect. Brooke, she's really interested in animals. And her coach Jess right away picked up on that. She would put a horse on her monitoring sheet that Brooke saw, and she just felt really seen by the coach. It wasn't just going through the motions. And she is really intuitive and very good at picking up on when people genuinely care, and she caught that right away. And that made all the difference. They connected very quickly, and the buy-in was created, and we were just so relieved.

Q: That's so great. When you started Brain Balance, I'm sure you were doing many exercises and thinking, "What are we doing, and what are we wearing? We're wearing this gear and doing these floor exercises." Tell me a little bit about when you started your virtual program, and what it was like to have her do the exercises at home.

Amanda: Yes, this is really interesting, because during the pandemic Brooke had done schooling at home over video, which I know lots of kids did, and had a visceral negative experience with it. She couldn't sit still, she couldn't focus. It actually got to the point where she would cry if she had to be on-screen. And that really continued with anything online. If her dance program was going online, she wouldn't do it. She wouldn't do things online. We were concerned as to how that would impact the experience. But the kit came with all the stuff. It was super organized. It was just like it looked on the website. I think that was our first, "Okay, this is going to be good." And the sessions were really organized. Brooke had fun engaging. It didn't take long to realize that the online version was actually going to work for us, and I think Brooke was as surprised as we were.

Q: Tell me about some of those first changes you started to notice in your daughter, as you started to go through the program, you did 12 weeks of the program and started to see some changes.

Amanda: In some ways, it's really hard because some things have changed so much that we can hardly remember what it was like before. For example, her phobia of weather—which was anxiety based—it’s completely gone. I mean, if you had asked me before when she was a week or two into the program, I would have said, we probably won't get rid of it, but maybe we'll get a little bit better. It is literally completely gone. That's really big. We started to notice her getting active in the kitchen, whereas before she would sit down and ask for food. She started getting out her kid-safe knives and things and cutting up her own food and saying to herself, "This is what I want, and I'm going to go get it," versus sitting down and asking someone else to get it.

This level of independence was something that we really started to notice. We’d go in the kitchen, and she'd be cooking, and we'd think, “Whoa, we didn't even know." And very confidently, just very age appropriately. We noticed a change in the meltdowns for sure.  I used to think a meltdown was bad parenting or kids misbehaving, but when we understood what was going on behind the scenes through the education process with Brain Balance, we realized that it was really a lot different than what we thought it was. And we softened, I think coach Jess for sure taught us to really soften into what was actually going on. And the combination of us doing that and Brooke working on the Brain Balance program really settled the meltdowns from not only the intensity but the length of them. And it's literally been months and we haven't had a meltdown. And I know maybe that isn't the experience that everyone will have, but even when they started to soften and shorten, it still felt like a million bucks.

Q: And to hear that it's going to get better and to know that it's better, and to know that that weather, the spring starts to come, that's not a concern anymore. That's huge.

Amanda: I spent hours and hours and hours in chat rooms and reading books and trying to figure out how we could help her. We had professional psychotherapy and all sorts of things, but still, in our hearts,  we thought, "Well, this will be here a little bit forever." And to just see how she just released it to the point where now it's not an issue, as a parent, that's all you want for your kids. You don't want them to have to suffer and struggle.

Q: Tell me about this school year now. I know that she did the program within the school year, but how are things going right now?

Amanda: She has good friendships. She has a best friend, which is amazing for her, just for her confidence. I mean, those middle school years, middle school matters. It can be really messy. And she seems just to be able to handle a little bit better the emotions and all those things of those tween years. From an academic perspective, she's definitely doing better. I mean, when she was having a lot of anxiety, she couldn't even concentrate in class. And when she had that fight-flight response engaged, she wasn't learning. She was just kind of surviving versus thriving. And now she's really thriving, and there are always more things we can work on. I don't want to pretend like it's rainbows and unicorns, so to speak, but it's so much better. We feel like we have such a solid base to build on. I would say school is going so much better.

Q: Tell me more about how you fit Brain Balance into your life?

Amanda: When I tell people that we did the program five days a week for up to 45 minutes, depending on where we were in the program, they literally can't believe that we did it. And I almost can't believe it either, but it was fun, Brooke enjoyed it. Some of the things we did is we set it up in one area of our house, and we just called that the Brain Balance area for the duration of the program. That was really good. It was very consistent. It was always the same place. We did it at the same time every day, which was after school. Time for a quick snack and then just let's get it done. Brooke has a delayed gratification mindset, and that worked well for us.

We chose to go with the option of having a coach three days a week. And the reason we did that was our daughter is lovely, but she is independent, and she does not like to take direction from us when it comes to some of these kinds of things. And we actually did it for ourselves so that we wouldn't have to fight with her. But it turned out to be great, because she basically had a coach three days a week, and the coach allowed her to do the program on her own the other two days, she just had to do check-ins with me on a few things. And she really rose to the occasion from an independence perspective. I think if you spoke to her coach, she would say too, Brooke never had a problem showing up and getting it done.

You might think, "Wow, some kids are like that." Brooke wasn't one of those kids. She just got in a mode. But having a coach three days a week was really critical for to being consistent and staying with the program.

Q:  It was important that Brooke and the coach had a great relationship, and she knew that Jess (her coach) cared about her?

Amanda: It was really important that the coach was there for Brooke. There were lots of check-ins for us where we could see the progress, and I really appreciated that. But I loved that Brooke had an advocate and someone that was cheering her on, and kids don't always get that. Even teachers are busy with big classrooms of kids. That one-on-one time was critical for Brooke to have success in the program and to enjoy it along the way.

Q: What would you say to parents who might be in the same position that you were in last year at this time? Where you were scouring the internet and in chat rooms and things like that, watching YouTube videos? What would you say to a parent who's on the fence, "I don't know if I can devote the time or the money or the finances, or will my kid do this program?"

Amanda: I see you. And we had all those same concerns. And in fact, we had a situation where I asked Brooke about the program before we signed up. I wanted her to be on board for it, that I wasn't pushing it on her. And she said, "Yeah, yeah, sure, I'll do it." And then when it actually came time, she got angry and didn't want to do it, and I thought it was going to be a struggle. And I said to her, "Look, it's 12 weeks. Let's just show up and see if we can get this done and what will come out of it." And after the first couple of sessions, she started to notice that it was physical, it wasn't just all looking at screens. She started to build a little bit more body confidence in terms of strength and things like that.

And she really committed to it. There was no pushing. I was really surprised by that because I thought we were going to struggle to go through it. We've done that in the past. This for sure is not a child who says yes and jumps in because she's asked to. She's very independent, and she will do it when she decides she's going to do it. We were really, really surprised by it. The results have been amazing, and they continue. Every week we see a little bit more of her moving just along that continuum of what's age appropriate in terms of all of those different skills. I guess I would say trust that so many other kids have done it and have enjoyed results. And it's as much the kids showing up as the parents in a calm, encouraging way. We had a couple of times when Brooke would have a really difficult day and wasn't sure, and her coach would say, "Well, let's do our best."

And every time she just got it done, she just needed the approval of, "I see you, I see where you're at. We're not doing where you should be, we're meeting you where you are." And with the idea of meeting the child where they are versus expecting them to be on some pre-planned schedule, Brooke really felt seen and she showed up wholeheartedly.

Q: Is there anything else that you'd like to say, any part of your story that you'd like to share?

Amanda: I've already referred multiple people to the program because I'd love this to be in schools. Every child could benefit from it. Just the changes that it makes in the day-to-day of us just being able to enjoy each other's company and feel confident. We just took a family vacation, which used to be a complete nightmare for us. All these things that you don't even think about that are better now because we invested the time and Brooke showed up for the program, and the changes have been made.

Q: It's hard not to talk about, right? It's hard not to encourage people to do it, because you've seen the changes yourself. And then you want that positive change for other families as well.

Amanda: Absolutely. You might think, "Where am I going to find the time? We're already so busy." It's a little window. It's a snapshot in time. And once the 12-week program is done, or if you choose to do a little bit longer, once the 12-week program is done, that's it. It's done. And even though we had to show up for that period of time. Now that it's finished and we're just getting benefits, like family events, after mealtime, you completely forget about it. It's not forever, but the results are forever.

Brain Balance gave her the confidence to see that if she could put the work in and it was focused in the right areas, she could enjoy the changes in how she experiences life. I mean, it's great for us to get to witness that, but ultimately for her to actually have that experience. I mean, that's the greatest gift that you could give your kids.


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