While I can’t recommend sleeping in airports, Chicago O’Hare went out of their way to accommodate two hundred plus stranded travelers last night with beds, blankets, toiletries and several patrolling guards. I assumed there were more of us due to the weather and championship hockey match than usual but from what I understand, stranding at O’Hare is not that uncommon. We were supposed to be in Toronto the next morning to start “listening therapy” for three of our kids but the earliest available seats were Wednesday evening. Toronto is 500 hours by car from Chicago so if we couldn’t get on an early standby flight, I thought maybe I’d rent a car instead. As I sat in my not-comfortable-but-less-uncomfortable-than-expected cot writing my blog post last night, I wasn’t sure how today would work out.
I found the experience of sleeping in front of strangers walking to and from flights quite unnerving. A sudden throat clearing, a child crying, a man calling for passengers going to Philadelphia, a group passing by having a very intense conversation, all kept me from real rest. The airport dimmed the lights around 11 pm and the auto intercom messages stopped. I also notice that police guards stood about every 50 feet watching over the cots lined in rows between an exit wing and the TSA security station before entering the busier concourse.
At 4 am, just after I had slipped under the ambient noise, I heard a repetitive request “Time to get up. Time to wake up.” It was a group of three uniformed police walking through and gently tapping all the cots. I asked why we had to get up and they said something about cots needing to be put away and people coming through. I chuckled at my fear of not waking before 6 am and setting an alarm for 5:45.
Way to roll, kiddos!
We brushed teeth, tried out the curious little cleansers. I remembered a book, Fly Away Home, about a boy and his father living in an airport with other homeless people. The kids all remembered it, too. It might actually be possible to live in O’Hare even now with all the security if you knew how to get in without a ticket and just blend in.
We found our standby gate and waited anxiously. I was relieved to see we were the first passengers on the standby list. I talked to the gate agent about strategies in case we could not get on together. I would send my 16 year old alone, then the two sisters together, and then I would keep trying to get on the next flights with my son until we all got there. Fortunately, they had four seats and we got on the first flight. We felt like we won the lottery.
Last night, the weather, the cancelled flights, the lack of hotels, or available seats, and sleeping in the airport, all felt like a very bad dream. This morning, the skies cleared and the world was being set right again…”everything is gonna be alright.”
Running on fumes, we landed in Toronto and had just a few minutes to get oriented at Grandma’s house before we had to check in for orientation, testing and the first listening sessions for the children at The Listening Center. By noon, I was too tired to feel stressed about anything. I had no idea what needed to happen. I just surrendered to it all. I explained to the staff that we were in poor shape and I hoped they’d get what they needed from everyone. Everyone was so kind and understanding. Like the cots at O’Hare, the staff at the Listening Center are very familiar with jet lagged patients and disoriented travelers. Paul Madaule said that ever since Doidge’s book “The Brain’s Way of Healing” hit the best seller list, their calendar is full of families traveling from all over North America to get their help.
I had no idea what the testing entailed, what I would talk about in my meetings with Paul or what the listening experiences would be like and neither did the children. When I later sat down with Paul, it was quite interesting to hear what each of the children told him about why they thought they were here and what they would get out of it.
My oldest felt she was here to oblige her parents. When she learned that this was not about getting her grades up but about a feeling of self mastery and flow, her attitude shifted. Paul was happy to see her connect the dots for herself, rather than see this as something to do to please us. He showed her her own behavior experience map based on feedback she and I gave independently in some early questionnaires. He showed her how her own self perception was by a very large margin much more negative than anyone else’s. It will be interesting to see how she feels about herself after doing this for a few weeks.
My 14 year old knew exactly why she was here and also shared her motivation to gain the calm mental focus she desired in order to achieve her own goals in school and beyond. Paul feels she is the “easy one” to help with his technology. He uses audio frequency tailored to each individual’s brain map, based on the testing and behaviors and which parts of the brain are talking or not, to communicate and strengthen neural networks. One of her weaknesses is in the audio processing around reading comprehension in the right hemisphere. He thinks this is a fairly straightforward fix.
My 8 year old son was somewhat aware and articulate about why he was here. But in a new situation, with new people, without a framework for how to behave, he defaulted to his kinetic fright or flight response. He was bouncing off the walls, literally. I haven’t seen him climbing and sitting upside down in chairs since last year. He was up and down and under things, hiding from questions and avoiding anything unfamiliar. Paul was happy he saw the behavior. He said he knows he can calm down the inner “jumpiness” but that his impulsiveness will be harder to address with his program alone. And of course, the impulsiveness is our greatest concern overall.
I have seen so much progress over the past year, that I am remaining cautiously optimistic anyway. He was also impressed with how well he had done with Brain Balance. He asked why I wasn’t continuing with it and I said, frankly, cost. It’s expensive and time consuming. I also think that we should have waited to do the second session until the first had simmered a while. The brain does repair at different rates for different people. He said we should expect to see impacts from this summer’s efforts for months to come.
While we waited for the testing and listening sessions to finish (4.5 hour day today), we met and observed dozens of families and children coming and going throughout the center. My mother in law was stunned to see so many children. This therapy stuff is all very foreign and new to her. She wondered aloud to me why so many children are in need of such support? What is causing so many young sweet children to struggle so?
One family was saying goodbye after coming from Texas to do the program. The mother had two children in the program, a girl who seemed neural typical and a boy who was visibly autistic. I have no idea the condition of the boy when they arrived but the mother seemed very grateful and satisfied leaving the center. I watched the boy flapping his hands wildly and screeching periodically as if he was in pain and I wondered if she had ever heard about the pathogenic component to ASD and auto-immune infections. I wanted to tell her that he might benefit from doing homeopathy, ioncleanse detox baths, gut repair, vitamin therapy based on gene mutations, or nutrient dense diets like raw/vegan, though she may already know. So many ASD families have tried just about everything you can name. Not everything works for everyone. Sadly.
I need to ask the Learning Center what diets they do recommend. In my meeting with Paul I mentioned that our family was split between ketogenic and vegan diets and had no idea how to feed the children. He suggested getting testing because everyone IS different. My husband’s boogieman is starch and grains. My boogieman is too much meat or dairy, not for dietary concerns as much as planetary. It’s not really healthy to eat and it’s killing the planet to consume it. We’re searching for a compromise in there. Veggies and fruit are Switzerland, thankfully…so our kitchen accords are around vegan recipes for 50% of our meals. But so far, the kids and I are not interested in ghee battered eggs with avocado slush for breakfast…no scientific study can sway us.
Speaking of compromises, Paul said we would treat these two weeks like a vacation and have as much fun as possible so the therapy experience is in a positive context. These incredible perogis (wheat and mushrooms or meat) handmade by my mother in law will be on the menu multiple times.
I’ve also been learning so much about how repairing the GI tract renders all this diet obsession moot. A healthy GI can process most foods just fine. It’s the unhealthy guts, leaking toxins and allergenic food particles directly into the blood stream where they set off auto immune responses that is the real problem. Repair the gut, eat what you want.
The hardest thing about researching everything to death is that most of the theories have counter theories and science has not figured out why one thing works well for some but not for others. Until then, we’re all willing or oblivious guinea pigs.
Day Two starts right after a bath and a gorgeous night’s sleep in a real bed…
Gut Brain Injury: How, Why & What you Can Do About It (webinar about the Restore product and the science around it.)