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How Training the Brain Helps Heal Dyslexia, Autism, and ADHD

ARS Electronica CC

Zoe Romanowsky - published on 08/13/15

Brain Training of Maryland founder, Kate Ortman, talks about her work

When Kate Ortman started a family years ago she had no idea she would one day be running an organization dedicated to brain healing. As founder and director of Brain Training of Maryland in Columbia, Maryland, Ortman now works with a wide range of clients from around the country — but among her very first clients were her own children.

Ortman and her husband eventually became parents to six kids, some of whom experienced challenges such as ADD, learning disabilities, brain injury, and attachment issues (in some of their adopted children).

"I went everywhere to find help, and at one point had six kids in six different schools. You name it, I did it, and I sought many specialists to try and help," says Ortman.

A turning point came when one of Ortman’s sons, Dan, who had been on the Dean’s List in college, needed brain surgery. He recovered, but had lingering issues. Using a program called Interactive Metronome, Dan got better and Ortman began using it to help other students. She saw amazing results and decided, in 2011, to move operations from her dining room table into a professional office.

Today, Brain Training of Maryland employs 16 staff and sees approximately 125 clients each week, not including the many long-distance clients they work with. The organization recently moved to a larger facility to accommodate a growing clientele. 

Ortman recently spoke to Zoe Romanowsky about her work and the hope it’s bringing to many individuals and families.

*******

Zoe Romanowsky: Kate, you’re not a doctor or a brain scientist, but you now run an organization focused on training and healing the brain. What inspires people to walk through your door?

Kate Ortman: They want to be healthier. There are different kinds of people who come to us: Those that are desperate, who’ve looked everywhere for solutions—they often know the latest brain science research and have heard of the modalities we use. There are also the curious ones who want to see what we do and how it can help them. We serve a wide range of clients such as people with severe concussions and stroke, children with various challenges, and peak performers and athletes who want to gain more of an edge. 

The notion that you can train or even retrain the brain is still largely unknown to people. Can you explain how it is possible to rewire our brains? 

Through brain science, brain imaging, and other tests, we now know that new neurons, new connectivity in the brain, can be built. I use the following analogy with kids a lot:  Our brain has many dirt roads and sometimes they have roadblocks, so we need to build new dirt roads to get information from one area to another. But we don’t just want to stop there; we want to pave those dirt roads and then turn them into super highways.  As our brain is processing better we can enter into a calm, focused state.

We pay a lot of attention to data and research and we’ve seen brain imaging after usage of our programs. These images reflect a healthier brain. We evaluate and track our clients’ progress throughout the process. We do intense evaluations and re-evaluations every three months and we see brain connectivity change—for example, a child who needs special education being able to go into a regular classroom, or someone who was in the 25th percentile now in the 75th percentile in reading after just six months of brain work.

Can adults rewire their brains, too, or is it just children?

Yes, they can. It’s a little harder; it takes longer, but we can definitely change our brains throughout our lifetime. Neuro-timing, for example, is important for adults. When the brain and body are in sync, a person is able to do more with less effort.

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