12 May 2017
As told to Leah Cohen
This summer my son Sholom celebrated his fifteenth birthday. My husband and I threw him a huge party. This wasn’t just any old birthday party; it was a celebration of a new Sholom, our Neurolinks miracle.
Sholom was born on a glorious summer day in June; he was an angel of a child. The first year was utter bliss; my three older children were in school full time so I was able to enjoy quality time with my baby. As Sholom grew he was the most loving and compassionate child, very creative and bright. However I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was a bit different about my son.
Sholom had an intense fascination with all things mechanical, from cars to washing machines to vacuum cleaners. He loved lecturing anyone who was willing to listen about the mechanics of our refrigerator and why airplanes don’t fall out of the sky. He usually conversed with adults; in fact he didn’t really have any relationship with children his own age. Sholom was also super clumsy, always falling over. I seemed to always be adding bandages and Neosporin to my weekly shopping list.
And then it happened. Sholom was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, commonly known as Asperger’s Syndrome, although the DSM-5 replaced the term with an umbrella diagnosis of autism in 2013. This diagnosis didn’t really change anything; it simply defined Sholom’s hyper-focused and socially awkward personality. For three years Sholom struggled at home and in the classroom, and we struggled with him. One day I chanced upon an advertisement for Neurolinks in the local newspaper. The boy in the advertisement sounded like Sholom and he even closely resembled him. I called Neurolinks that day and our lives changed forever.
After signing him up, Sholom visited the Neurolinks office four afternoons a week for seven months. He was given a lot of homework, but helping himself became his mission. He was old enough to realize that he was different from the other boys in his class, and he was determined to fit in with the crowd. Thanks to Chayala Taub, the Director at the Neurolinks Lakewood office, Sholom’s life has completely turned around.
During that period I learnt that Sholom’s difficulties with coordination and social skills, as well as interpersonal awareness and disorientation in unfamiliar settings were all a result of problems with spatial discrimination, something typically experienced by those on the spectrum. Neurolinks’ scientifically proven exercises targeted and developed the areas of Sholom’s brain that were responsible for spatial discrimination. Sholom’s reading skills also improved tremendously. Before attending Neurolinks, Sholom’s inability to correctly perceive an object’s position in space severely hindered his ability to read as he was unable to discern the spacing and order between letters. Sholom’s coordination improved tremendously and socially he is a different person, constantly surrounded by a circle of friends. He is still fascinated by mechanical objects but he has learnt not to lecture every person he meets.
So Sholom’s birthday party this past summer was a celebration of life, of an Asperger’s-free boy, of a new son.