Todd and Carolyn Pridemore of Columbia, Mo., do not consider themselves risk takers. But the struggle to find help for their son led them to take risks emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually.
The Pridemores’ middle son, Andrew, “had always been a bit different,” Carolyn said, although she couldn’t explain why at the time. When Andrew entered school at 5 years old, a speech pathologist diagnosed two language disorders.
The couple sought answers and help from a psychiatrist who diagnosed Andrew with ADHD, auditory processing disorder, anxiety, a learning disability and autism spectrum disorder. The ADHD diagnosis was “cut and dried” and the others considered possibilities.
Although the psychologist recommended medication to control Andrew’s behavior, the Pridemores hesitated to take that step.
The couple searched for other options. A second-grade teacher suggested they try neurofeedback, a technique that uses electroencephalography (EEG) to train the brain to change behavior. The treatment required travel to St. Louis twice each week for three months.
At first, the treatment appeared to work. But a few months later, Andrew’s anxiety level rose. He would rip out handfuls of hair and call himself a “weirdo.” He told his parents he wanted to die, Carolyn says with tears in her eyes.
At that point, the couple feared that he might harm himself or others.
Frustration grew as every doctor and specialist who saw Andrew gave different and sometimes conflicting diagnoses. Most told the couple little could be done for their son.
The couple remembered a conversation at Carolyn’s family reunion. Her stepmother suggested they consider Brain Balance, a non-medical approach that treats neurological disorders as disconnections between the brain’s hemispheres.
Though skeptical, they took Andrew to Overland Park, Kan., the nearest center, for an assessment. The 20-page report convinced the couple to take the chance that the program would work.
The report indicated that a few areas of Andrew’s brain were developed at an 11-year-old level, others at a 3- or 4-year-old level. They were still skeptical but had hope.
They were uncertain how to cover the expense and the travel time. The program required Andrew to be at the center three days each week for six months. Todd worked for the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri at the time and Carolyn teaches school. Todd’s boss allowed him to go one day each week, and Carolyn’s father took Andrew the other two.
Within the first month, the family started noticing changes. Then they began getting feedback from Andrew’s teachers and others. His reading scores went up one grade level within three months, and he began making friends at school. His behavior at home improved.
“We saw God’s hand at work,” Todd said.
At one point, a pediatrician had told Carolyn that Andrew would never get married or have children. He might get a job but not one working with people.
“Now my kid is not on meds and he’s happy,” Carolyn says.
They believe God used Brain Balance to minister to their son, so much so that they sought a program franchise for mid-Missouri. A reading specialist with the Ashland, Mo., school district, “Carolyn has always had a heart for children, …especially for those with special needs,” Todd said.
The pair was initially turned down because company officials thought Columbia was too small a market. The Pridemores had asked God to close the opportunity if they were to back away from it. Within a short time, administrators changed their minds.
Several times the company imposed requirements the Pridemores felt unreasonable. For a while, Brain Balance insisted Carolyn should teach at the local center but she did not feel led to do so.
As those obstacles were removed, the family eventually found a location and staff for the center. The staff considers their work as ministry and prays for the children and families being served.
Todd and Carolyn oversee the business side of the franchise while working full time — Carolyn in her post in Ashland and Todd with The Baptist Home.
Both see the franchise as ministry and are working on details to open another in Springfield.
“I asked myself who are the orphans and widows of today,” Todd said. “Those with special needs came to mind.”
— This article originally appeared in Word & Way.