Two of my children have sensory processing disorder, which can result in some inability to focus as well as some sensory seeking behaviors. They’ve both had therapy, which has helped them a great deal. Still, some days remain challenging.
I was interested in reading this book to learn how Frank Belgau was able to help so many children with various learning disabilities.
Overview of the Book
Frank Belgau came from a family of bright children, so when he couldn’t read, he was ashamed and embarrassed. Unlike his bright brothers and sisters, Frank struggled in school, and that affected his self-esteem. His siblings were also great athletes, which he also failed at.
One summer when he was between 4th and 5th grade, Belgau decided to conquer his clumsy body and become good at sports. What he discovered is that learning how to control his body also helped him overcome his learning disability.
Almost a Pilot
After that summer, Belgau excelled at school and was determined to be a pilot. He joined the Air Force after graduation and worked diligently to become a pilot. His only obstacle was that his eye turned inward a bit, and the Air Force liked their pilots to look good, so Belgau underwent eye surgery to fix this cosmetic defect. Instead, the young eye surgeon made his eye turn inward even more, dashing Belgau’s dreams of being a pilot
Teaching Special Needs Kids
Belgau settled into teaching and stumbled onto teaching special needs kids by accident. (He offered to teach the kids for a period to give the special needs teacher a break every day.) He was originally advised to not interact with the kids and to just have them put their heads down on their desk, which is advice he ignored, luckily.
Belgau, through a time of trial and error, learned how to get through to these kids. He learned strategies to help them focus and to learn even though others had considered them incapable of learning.
His work was noticed by others, and soon he was employed at the University of Houston. There, he refined his program that involved having students stand on balance boards, use bean bags, and interact with pendulums. (His premise is that as students learn to control their bodies, connections are made in their brains which help them learn better, much like Belgau himself experienced when he spent the summer learning how to be good at sports.)
Interference of Politics
As happens often when any new idea is being explored, Belgau was the victim of campus politics and eventually left the University of Houston. However, he continued his career working with learning disabled children using his program which is now called Learning Breakthrough Program. He and his wife traveled around the country trying to get the program to as many people that needed it.
Other People the Learning Breakthrough Program Helps
Some researchers discovered that the Learning Breakthrough Program also helped senior citizens who were losing their mental sharpness. Later, others discovered that average or smart students can also benefit from the program.
Today, it is billed as a program to help those with a large array of disorders, from ADD/ADHD to Sensory Processing Disorder, to Autism Disorders, to Stroke and Brain Injuries, and many more.
Who Is This Book Meant For?
This book is mainly meant for adults, though teens might also enjoy reading the book.
My Thoughts on the Book
I found this book interesting, especially considering what a pioneer Belgau was in the 1960s, when he initially began developing the program.
After completing the book, I considered buying the program for my kids and even discussed it with my husband. We can’t afford it right now (the complete kit runs $399), but I do think it would be worthwhile for our family.
My only criticism of the book is that Belgau describes the activities he does with kids using the Learning Breakthrough Program, but I had trouble envisioning them. I would have liked to have seen some pictures of the activities so I could better understand how Belgau used them.
If you have a child with some type of special need or if you have aging parents that are losing their mental sharpness, you’ll likely be inspired by this book.