Chaim was a regular 5 year old, he loved to run outside, play ball and ride his bike around the neighborhood. True, he could sometimes act a little rambunctious, but he was good-natured and always smiling. When he entered first grade, his parents started noticing a change in him. Chaim began struggling academically and had a hard time keeping up with this class. Although he had been able to grasp the alef-beis in previous years, when he started learning how to read he was lost. Chaim had been able to memorize the letters, but formulating words seemed almost impossible to him.
“My wife and I were very concerned,” exclaimed Chaim’s father, Mr. Gluck, “our other children had learnt to read in just a few months, but with Chaim things were very different. He became frustrated that he couldn’t read a chumash or siddur. He felt very stupid compared to his peers, and it was heartbreaking to see – we had to act.” The Glucks spoke to Chaim’s teacher, who was very troubled by his student’s inability to read. Chaim’s grades were also very poor because he was unable to read the instructions on weekly quizzes nor was he able to revise for a test. The teacher offered to privately tutor him outside of school hours, so every morning before school began the teacher would sit and learn with Chaim. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to help and Chaim didn’t progress. He worked with other tutors over the next two years, but no one seemed to be able to assist. Chaim reached third grade and he still wasn’t able to read a sentence, let alone a tehillim or a siddur. He was so embarrassed by this, there were many days that he refused to go to school.
In addition to the difficulties he was experiencing with kriah, Chaim also struggled to control his temper. He was easy to anger and when upset would lash out as his parents, teachers and even his classmates. When Chaim was angry everyone knew to stay out of his way. “He actually attended anger management therapy at school,” explained Mr. Gluck. “A therapist would take students out of class, around four or five boys, and teach them how to control their anger and keep their emotions in check. It sounded great in theory, but we didn’t see any improvement.” It got to the point that Chaim’s temper was so out of control that he actually picked up a desk in his classroom and tipped it upside down in rage. “The teacher tried to reign it in by offering Chaim prizes for controlling himself, but we were way past that point. Chaim was banging walls and slamming doors regularly, we were constantly on guard in case we set him off. He needed real help, even if the prizes his teacher had offered had actually interested him, Chaim just didn’t know how to control himself.” This also affected Chaim socially because his classmates were scared of him and what he was capable of when in a rage.
The summer after Chaim completed third grade, Mrs. Gluck saw an advertisement for one of Neurolinks’ Zoom sessions. She had seen many of the ads over the years, and had actually called Neurolinks when Chaim was five years old, but he was too young for the program and she had forgotten about it. However, seeing the advertisement reminded Mrs. Gluck of the program and she felt she had nothing to lose by attending. At the session, Yehudis Klein, the Neurolinks Director, described how Neurolinks could help many of the issues that Chaim was experiencing. Mrs. Gluck decided it was worth giving the program a try as nothing else seemed to be helping. The Glucks took their son to be evaluated and Yehudis determined that Chaim was the perfect candidate. He began the program right away, just as he was entering fourth grade.
Once a week Chaim attended a session at Neurolinks’ Williamsburg location, and the rest of the week he would work on the program at home with his father. “Chaim was initially really excited about Neurolinks,” said Mr. Gluck, “he was thrilled to leave school a little early to travel from our home in Monsey to Williamsburg. It was an adventure for him! However, the program was hard work and we were strict as we wanted him to get as much out of the program as possible. We never missed an in-person session, and used incentives and prizes to get Chaim to participate when the going got tough. The hardest part for him was staying motivated when he didn’t see improvement straight away, however he discovered that it was well worth the effort because when he did finally master an exercise or skill he felt so good about himself – and of course we gave him a nice prize for his efforts!”
After six months of attending Neurolinks, Chaim’s parents started to see significant improvement. He had begun to read, and act differently – he had really calmed down. “We would go to my parents for Shabbos,” explained Mr. Gluck, “and they were just amazed each time by Chaim’s improvement. They would commend him, telling him that they didn’t recognize him. Who was this mature, neat boy whose shirt was pressed and neatly tucked into his pants? Who was this boy who stayed calm and knew how to manage his emotions? Over the course of the program they continued to be impressed.”
It has been six months since Chaim completed Neurolinks and the change in him is extremely evident. He is now reading English and Yiddish at grade level, and is able to keep up in class. He is still attending a couple of tutoring sessions a week because he needs to catch up on the years he spent twiddling his thumbs in the classroom. He loves to learn gemara, and seems like a student who has never struggled at all. Before attending Neurolinks Chaim was very bored after school, and at home he would constantly bother his siblings. Now he comes home and learns Mishnayos or reads whatever he can get his hands on.
“I’m so glad we found Neurolinks when Chaim was still young,” said Mr. Gluck, “In fact, when Chaim completed the program and we were saying our goodbyes, his Neurolinks instructor, Zissy, mentioned that he was lucky to have attended the program at the age of eight, so that he didn’t have to struggle for years and years. We are so incredibly thankful to Neurolinks for helping our son and changing his life!”