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  • Emily Prentice

My Stressful Beginning: Why I Love What I Do

Unlike many of you, I am not a parent. I do not have a child with developmental problems, but I do understand what many of them experience. I was one of those children.

My Story

My story is not your typical story about a struggling child. I always did very well academically, but by the time I was in 3rd grade I had already been to three different schools and I hated all of them. Neither my parents nor I realized it at the time, but I was extremely anxious and stressed, particularly at school. One year I spent more days in the nurses’ office for a stomach ache than I spent out. Between my 3rd and 4th grade years we left Colorado and moved to Oklahoma. Oklahoma has a big home school community and my mother decided to give it a try. I was home schooled from the 4th grade on through high school.

When I was in junior high, my cousin Jack started going to see a Neuro-Developmental Delay (NDD) therapist named Anna Buck. She was the first therapist who was able to give him the help he needed. I was only 14 at the time, but I knew that I wanted to be an NDD therapist! I also decided that, if I was going to be an NDD therapist, then I should know what it was like to do the program. I asked Anna to do an evaluation on me and put me on a program. That was one of my better decisions.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed NDD therapy. I had a retained Moro reflex (among other things) and it ruled my emotional life.

The Moro is the infant startle reflex. It is triggered by any sudden change in head position or any of the five senses. It causes a physiological fight-or-flight response and temporarily shuts down access to the cortex.

I remember one day we had a family meeting. My parents decided to change our chore schedule and they sat all of the kids down to make a new plan. I held it together during the meeting, but ran up to my room after and lost it. I cried in my room for several hours that evening. I was 12 or 13 years old at the time and had no ability to adapt to certain changes.

I also developed an obsessive compulsive disorder. It gradually got worse and worse until I couldn’t hide it anymore in high school and I told my parents. I went to a therapist and she taught me some coping skills. They were minimally effective.

As I worked my way through the NDD program and my Moro started to inhibit and things began to change. My anxiety and stress levels decreased, I became much more flexible, and my obsessive compulsive disorder all but disappeared. These were not the only things that changed, but they were the most impactful. I slowly began to realize what “normal” felt like and it was fantastic!

I spent the majority of my childhood experiencing the world differently. I experienced the world the way many of your children do: through an immature, dysfunctional central nervous system. I am very grateful for that experience; it has given me a deeper understanding for the children that I see in my practice. Each of their stories are different from mine, and I love getting to watch theirs unfold.

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