Finding balance, little by little


The entire alphabet hangs on a wall in the dining room at the Miller home. Throughout the rest of the house, stenciled words like "Inspire" and "Greatness" decorate other walls and halls.

Although they surrounded him, Sam Miller couldn't identify a single letter.

Leslee Miller knew early on her son was "different." That was the only way to explain how he could stand barefoot on asphalt in the Vegas summer and not feel a thing. It's why she couldn't get him to sit at the dinner table, much less eat at it. And, it's definitely the reason he knocked out his front teeth three times, broke his nose and fractured his ankle by age 6.

It's just Sam, her husband would tell her, and their family knew how to deal with Sam. She replied one day with a question that changed everything: "Yes, but does the rest of the world know how to deal with Sam?"

The short answer: No, they don't. But according to Leslee, there's this place in Henderson that does.

Sam, now 7, displays symptoms of Asperger's and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The Henderson-based Brain Balance Achievement Center specializes in these and other disorders using the theory that they're caused by an underdevelopment in one half of the brain.

That alone isn't what motivated the Millers to sell a family car so they could fork over $6,000 for the three-month program, though. It's the holistic approach. Leslee wanted to help Sam without drugging him.

The left-side, right-side philosophy especially resonated with her after Sam kept spilling his drinks. She carefully gave him a cup of juice one day and observed how he handled it. All was fine until she asked him something.

"You could visually see his thought process change from holding his cup to answering my question," she says.

He dropped the cup.

Sam started his training at Brain Balance this summer after first doing blood work to determine the foods he should eliminate from his diet. For one hour, three days a week, he worked on sensory-motor, coordination and balance and academic exercises. All of them geared toward developing the right hemisphere of his brain.

Between the Brain Balance work and the highly restrictive diet, which is nongluten, nondairy and noncheap, Sam started making great strides.

Before Brain Balance he was never hungry. He refused numbing at the dentist because he didn't notice the pain. He could memorize a story if it was read to him, but he couldn't read it himself. He didn't understand the concept of "no." Those were all Asperger's symptoms.

The ADHD showed up in the form of an attention deficit, blurting things out and practicing zero caution.

If just a few of those symptoms could be helped, the Miller household, Sam's classmates and his future would all benefit.

But Brain Balance isn't without its critics. Some experts have questioned the science behind the left-brain, right-brain logic and challenged the evidence used to support it.

Leslee doesn't care for the criticism. She just knows her son can now read, feel pain, filter his words, get dressed himself and show a little patience.

She just wishes she'd discovered the problem, and what she sees as its solution, sooner.

Considering both disorders are still new to the medical field and many adults have suffered from late or non-diagnoses, she discovered it plenty soon. One day, Sam's wife will thank her.

As for Sam, he's still Sam, just a more developed version.

Three weeks into his training, he and Leslee sat down to do some of his physical exercises in the living room. Before they started, he pointed to the wall. "Hold on, Mommy," he said. "E-V-E-R-Y. Is that right?"

It was so right, she burst into tears. He was pointing at a picture that read, "Every cloud has a silver lining."

The Millers have found their silver lining.

Contact Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.