Susan Steele established Learning Breakthrough in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland in 2010. Reason being, her own 2 sons had struggled at times in school, although they were both very bright.
One son, who was kind, funny and great with young children, struggled with low concentration, difficulty sitting down to do homework, he forgot books, couldn’t get to sleep, was a fussy eater and had trouble understanding consequences – he was shouted at a lot!
Her other Son, who was very mature for his age, played very fairly and was never in bother in school was a very slow, hesitant reader who yawned and rubbed his eyes as soon as he lifted a book. He couldn’t retain spellings and had great difficulty writing a story that made any sense. He had great ideas for a story but couldn’t prove it on paper.
Within weeks their eldest felt happier, teachers noticed that he was much more focused and by 6 weeks he was coming in from school and just going and doing his homework. He was more organised and could get to sleep much quicker. Most importantly, for his self-esteem, he stopped getting shouted at at home and at school. He is now a very well ‘balanced’ happy adult who is a fully qualified chef and is now working with Susan helping families and children find the same peace he has.
Her youngest son has since qualified as a surveyor or a firm and passed his HNC with a Distinction/Merit.
Having witnessed such a difference in her own children and home life in general, Susan wanted to provide the programme to other families. A chance conversation with her friend led to her 28 year old son becoming Susan’s first ‘guinea pig’. He had struggled with Dyslexia all his life, had blocked out primary school as it had been so hard; He was sent to another school for extra English while his classmates went swimming or did Art.
His parents had tried everything from flashing light therapy to changing every light bulb in their house to natural light bulbs – none of which worked for him.
Everyone who has completed the course has seen improvements across the spectrum. We’ve seen children move up classes and been able to cope with the more difficult work. They’ve received awards for the best improved child in literacy, moved up reading and spelling groups, been able to stop medication, been able to take part in the Christmas play instead of having to sit on the teachers knee and not take part, they can now throw and catch a ball, ride a bike, join the local football club, understand the rules, run in a straight line at sports day and actually get a cheer from their classmates!!! Confidence and self esteem rise and meltdowns and tears at homework become a thing of the past as the child is no longer frustrated.
She didn’t realise that there was a specific problem until the children were 12 and 10 years old. “In-fact, I felt that I was a bad parent; thinking I must be working too much, I’m not dealing with these situations properly, I shout too much, I don’t shout enough, etc!!!”.
Susan was called to the school with the eldest and told that the teachers were getting increasingly concerned and if he didn’t pull his socks up within 2 weeks he would lose his place in the top class. As for the youngest, when tested by an Ed. Psychologist his reading and comprehension age was 2 years 6 months behind and his spelling age was 3 years 6 months behind…His IQ was 121.
At this point Susan knew she had to do something. She searched the internet and found a balance and movement exercise programme that described the traits that both boys were displaying.
“It simply made sense. It wasn’t medication or injections so I felt it was worth a try”. Especially when Susan’s eldest asked her, “Does this mean that I don’t have to feel like this for the rest of my life?”.
Susan enrolled her sons on the balance and co-ordination exercise programme. They did the exercises every day for 12 months.
The reason he agreed to be the ‘guinea pig’ was that he had started to stutter at 28 and was becoming quite withdrawn. He wouldn’t go for interviews in work and as a result could not reach his full potential. He diligently did the exercises for 15 minutes, once per day for one year.
After a couple of weeks of doing the exercises his stuttering stopped. A few weeks later he was able to just go to bed and go to sleep (he had been lying awake for hours before starting the exercises). He was more motivated and organised and he no longer has problems with his memory. At 7 months he noticed that he was retaining spellings and read his first book ever on holiday.
This year he completed a Business Management Course in the BMC in Belfast. He went for that interview and got the job!!! He sent a text to Susan saying; “I wouldn’t have even thought of applying for the job before as I couldn’t have managed the interview”.
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Where It All Began
In the early 1960’s, Dr. Frank Belgau, working in the classroom with children suffering from reading problems, began carefully experimenting to see if he could find activities that made immediate, observable improvements in the children’s reading and academic performance. The procedure was simple and straight forward – the children read a passage orally, did ten to fifteen minutes of motor skills activity and then read a different passage from the same story. He listened to and compared the two reading samples over and over again while testing different combinations of motor activities. He also asked the students to report any differences they observed themselves.
Upon moving to the University of Houston, where he directed the Perceptual Motor and Visual Perception Laboratory, he continued his work and refined his observations. At the University he directed a parent training program in which parents and children spent 1-1/2 hours, twice a week for a month, working to overcome their reading and learning difficulties. Many of the parents in those programs were scientists associated with the NASA space program. Their insights helped direct his attention to the effect that balance and the vestibular system have on learning processes and, eventually, to the development of the Belgau Balance Board.
Since then he has observed and documented the activities done on the Belgau Balance Board with his own children, school-aged users, adults as well as therapeutic and medical professionals throughout the world. The results have been astounding!
Dr. Belgau developed the Learning Breakthrough Program because of his observations that many learning challenges are impacted by sensory integration disorders. The program is the direct and innovative result of observations, research, interactions and refinements made over the past 30 years. Its foundation is the Belgau Balance Board and includes those materials and activities that are the most effective in showing consistent improvement in reading, academic achievement, physical coordination and cognitive performance.
Dr. Belgau holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX and a Doctor of Education degree from Pacific States University in Los Angeles, CA.
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