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Sierra's Story

Written by Suzanne G. (Sierra’s mom)

At the beginning of grade 4, Sierra came home from school in tears saying, “I must be really stupid.” As a mother, it was a very painful moment for me. I knew she was a bright kid but she continued to have a hard time getting focused and staying with activities especially related to learning and language. However, now I was also clearly aware her self esteem was taking a beating. That was the day I made arrangements for a psychological assessment.

Sierra was 8 years old in the Public School system when the assessment came back confirming she was indeed extremely bright and also diagnosing her with ADHD inattentive type and an additional learning disability that causes decoding issues related to writing. We also learned she had a processing speed that was slower than her other intelligences and this gap was causing problems for her in terms of processing ideas and concepts fast enough.

At this time, a friend of mine gave a copy of Paul Madaule’s book, “When Listening Comes Alive”. I also found Dr. Norman Doidge’s book, “The Brain’s Way of Healing”. Reading the empirical evidence in these two books, I had a very strong sense the Listening Centre was the right thing to do – that it was a good fit.  

Since then Sierra has completed the Listening Centre’s full program and two follow up boost sessions. Because it is so helpful we’re planning another boost in the new year.  Sierra’s two initial intensives were in the summer and we saw results immediately. Those who know her noted, she spoke louder and with a high degree of confidence – in a way she hadn’t ever done before. She also stood with more confidence in her posture. She also seemed more content. 

After her first Girl Guide night of the year, her leader called me amazed at the difference in Sierra.  She was standing up and speaking in a much more articulate and confident manner. She was projecting her voice and taking on leadership roles. 

In the past Sierra would become overstimulated by noise. Now she exhibits much better self regulation on many levels. This kid who loves to listen to rock ‘n roll in the car will now ask for the radio to be turned off. She is asking for silence when she knows she needs it. We’re also seeing much better self regulation around intense emotions and hard spaces. She is more mature and self aware. Sleeping patterns have also improved.

What we can say – attention issues are ongoing. They are a part of who Sierra is. However, now she is able to focus and for longer. She is also more self aware of when she can’t focus and is developing strategies to deal with this.

After her time at the Listening Centre, Sierra participated in the “Success Program” within her school board which teaches learning and organizational strategies and skills to strengthen self advocacy; tools she can move forward with. On her graduation day from this program she came to me with very different tears in her eyes and a big smile on her face saying, “I am so happy I have this learning difference because it makes me who I am and who I am is just great. And all these things I have are teaching me about the world.” 

It is wonderful to see her gaining confidence in who she is and what her special skills are and taking ownership of her challenges. We know this critically started with the Listening Centre. I don’t think Sierra would have been fertile ground and ready for the “Success Program” without her time at the Listening Centre. It gave her the confidence and readiness to be able to participate in the program and learn from it.

Coming to the Listening Centre is also something Sierra loves doing. She always wants to come back for her boost sessions. She feels a sense of joy - which is no small accomplishment when it comes to working with kids around their learning challenges.  She feels at home at the Centre and feels supported in a deep way. 

There was also something about the fact the program didn’t demand anything of Sierra. As it helped her, it didn’t require her to focus in a particular way or drain her energy. She simply had to show up, put headphones on and have fun. 

Without a doubt the Listening Centre was a major change agent in Sierra’s life when she needed it most. We really believe it was the perfect intervention at the perfect time - a great investment of money and time and effort to get her there – worth every cent.