Keane had been born with his twin brother prematurely, he had suffered a bleed to the white matter of his brain around the ventricles, commonly known as ‘periventricular leukomalacia.’ His cerebral aqueduct was also blocked which meant that there had been a build up of cerebrospinal fluid which had caused hydrocephalus. This had created pressure on the brain which had caused further injuries. A shunt had been successfully inserted to drain the excess fluid, but to top it all, the hospital had allowed infection to seep in and Keane had contracted severe meningitis. This had caused even more injuries.
When I first saw Keane, he was 8 months old. I had been contacted by his mother and had made the trip from Devon to London to assess his developmental problems. I walked through the front door and into the kitchen where Keane was sitting in a baby bouncing chair and simply staring into space, - he was totally disconnected from what was happening around him, - it was as though someone had found his ‘standby’ button and pressed it. Mum confirmed that he was like this most of the time.
The diagnosis and prognosis given by the medical professionals was dire. There had been massive damage to the white matter of the brain, to parts of the cortex, (especially the visual cortex, meaning that Keane was cortically blind) and to parts of the upper brainstem. The forecast was that Keane would be very severely handicapped for the rest of his life and would be totally dependent in every way for every aspect of his care.
I knew we had no time to lose here and set about designing a programme of developmental stimulation there and then in the family’s front room, which I duly taught to them that same afternoon. The programme was designed to attack Keane’s problems in every area of development and to stimulate and direct the natural plasticity of the brain. I knew from both mum and dad’s attitude that they would follow the programme unstintingly every day.
Two months later, I received a telephone call from mum telling me that she thought Keane was beginning to see and that he had become much more alert. Obviously I was pleased, but I persuaded her that it was still ‘early days’ and that we should keep our feet on the ground and just continue with the programme.
The time quickly came for Keane’s four – monthly reassessment and the family had elected to come and see me in Devon. I was delighted at what I saw when they walked through the door of the village hall where I see my families. Keane was clearly scanning his environment and actually made eye contact with me. As I put him through his paces it was clear that we had woken this little boy from his stupor. He had made significant gains in every area of development. I designed a new programme and sent the family home.
Three years down the line, and over those months and years I have received several telephone calls from mum. The first was to tell me that Keane had begun speaking and that one of his first words was a very well known expletive! Wonder where he got that one from, - any ideas dad? The next was to tell me that not only was Keane now walking but that they couldn’t shut him up and he was driving them potty! Good old Keane. Recent phone calls complain of him placing himself on the naughty stair after purposefully being naughty and getting into a fight with another child at a family wedding after a child made impolite reference to his red hair. Mum often makes him talk to me on the phone himself to explain his escapades.
Keane is now developmentally superior to his twin brother in every area. It has been a long journey for the family, who have dragged their son out of the depth of his disabilities by working relentlessly every day for three years. The programme is relentless and is repetitive, but it shows what it is possible to achieve.
Keane starts at school next year, but it won’t be the special school that everyone expected, - it will be at a mainstream school with his twin brother. He is now described as ‘precociously intelligent.’ His doctors are amazed and have no explanation for his recovery. The main thing is that he has his life back. Instead of what would have been a life of suffering and problems he has a life of hope and opportunity. That is how powerful brain plasticity can be.