The Bottom Line
by Frank Belgau as told to Eric Belgau; 200 pages. Subtitle: Discovery of a Learning Breakthrough.
"Learning Breakthrough" is a program that uses a balance board, pendulum, bean bags, and other therapy items to train kids' brains and make learning easier. Frank Belgau, who developed the program, tells of his experiences in the classroom and in academia as he worked with children to find the techniques that would turn the lights on for them. It's an engaging tale, maybe even enough to make you want to seek the program out and buy a kit at the end.
- Engaging story of an educator with a passion for helping kids with learning challenges
- Text is easy to read and fast-moving
- Parents are described throughout as informed collaborators and advocates for their children
- End of the book goes into some detail on sensory processing and brain functions
- You can get started by trying the "Space Walk" detailed at the end of the book with your child
- To go much further with this learning breakthrough will cost you about $400
- Frustrating to see how helping kids falls victim to academic politics and professional turf wars
- If you've tried a lot of therapies with your child, you may be skeptical about this one
- Chapter 1: The Early Days
Chapter 2: The Slow Kid in a Fast Family
Chapter 3: Unseen Magic
- Chapter 4: The Right Stuff
Chapter 5: Beginning to Teach
Chapter 6: Edward
- Chapter 7: F. E. McGahan
Chapter 8: The North Shore Students
Chapter 9: Jack Harris
- Chapter 10: The LaPorte Students
Chapter 11: James Koetting
Chapter 12: A Glorious Time
- Chapter 13: Journey Menshew
Chapter 14: Newell Kephart
Chapter 15: A Partly Completed Puzzle
- Chapter 16: The University of Houston
Chapter 17: Beverley
Chapter 18: The End of a Dream
- Chapter 19: The Pacific Northwest
Chapter 20: The Variable Difficulty Balance Platform
Chapter 21: Tools of the Trade
- Chapter 22: Bean Bags
Chapter 23: The Super Ball Toss Back
Chapter 24: Changing Lives
- Chapter 25: The Missing Link
Chapter 26: Neural Networks and Neural Plasticity
Chapter 27: Making Sense: The Beginning
- Chapter 28: The "Higher" Brain
Chapter 29: The Brain in a Classroom
Chapter 30: The Crusade Continues
Appendix: The Space Walk
Guide Review - Book Review: A Life in Balance
There was a time when I used to chase down every therapy mentioned in an e-mail or blog post by another parent. I researched, I questioned, sometimes I tried and paid for. Everything helped a little, nothing helped a lot, and at some point I decided to stand pat with my kids where they were at. Reading A Life in Balance made me think about jumping on that merry-go-round again to give Learning Breakthrough a try, so well does its creator, Frank Belgau, describe the work that went into it and the belief in special-needs kids that fueled it.
The story starts in the days of the space race, when America was feeling all can-do and tackling every problem as though the solution was just some careful experimentation away. Belgau fell into helping out special-needs students after finding unexpected talent in a child from whom everyone expected nothing, and started working with relish in classrooms full of kids who couldn't read and wanted to. Having survived reading problems as a youth himself, he felt their pain and set about working with them to try out different exercises and techniques and see which ones made an immediate difference.
He soon discovered that balance exercises -- balance boards, jumping and hopping, hitting a ball into a target, tossing bean bags -- somehow woke up the parts of the brain needed to read better. Seeing what worked was easy; describing why it did was harder. His success with students eventually led him out of the classroom and into academic research programs; politics and professional turf wars eventually drove him to market his breakthrough directly to parents, who had all along been eager and observant partners in his research. Initially, that meant crisscrossing the country on the lecture circuit, with Internet sales of Learning Breakthrough kits coming late in the game as a welcome way to get off the road.
Thankfully, the book doesn't read like one long sales pitch, but as the life story of a dedicated teacher who sees the potential in students ill-served by traditional methods; in that way, it reminded me of one of my favorite special-education stories, A Smile As Big as the Moon. If your child has benefited from sensory integration therapy, the theories here may particularly resonate. I'd be interested to hear from parents who have tried Learning Breakthrough -- please fill out a form about it and tell us how it worked for you. I'm sure I'm not the only reader who will finish this book thinking it might be worth a try.