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Great Expectations: Parents Put Faith in Learning Programs
Linda Ann Chomin, Observer & Eccentric, April 16, 2006
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Like all parents, Staci and Steve Bockmann expected their son to talk by a certain age. When Blake continued to babble at 2 1/2 their concern turned to shock when the diagnosis came back as autism.

Rather than sit and grieve, Staci and Steve sought effective therapies early on. Today they not only have great expectations for Blake, an 8-year-old student in a mainstream first-grade classroom in Canton, but for children with special needs ranging from ADD/ADHD (attention deficit disorders) to behavioral problems, speech and reading difficulties, sensory overload, and autism. Their Great Expectations learning center allows parents to choose from a variety of programs aimed at overcoming the challenges to their children's development.

"There are so many different therapies," said Steve Bockmann. "It took about 2 1/2 years of research. When he was about 4 we thought, what if there was one place to go to choose from therapies? We offer everything from speech and occupational therapies to sensory therapy, Brain Train, SoundSmart, and Play Attention which is like playing a game."

Corey Monroe uses a Play Attention helmet to control images on the screen and in so doing strengthens his focusing skills. The John Glenn High School junior was having problems with reading until enrolling at the center in Livonia. Three sensors inside the helmet track the 17-year-old Westland student's attention span as he controls the screen with his mind.

Monroe first went through the STEP (Sensory Training and Education) program which uses music, light and movement to improve sensory and cognitive processing before using Reading Plus. When a student wears a pair of computerized eyeglasses for reading, the software program is able to follow his or her eyes. The information allows an evaluator to assess the reading level and then customize a program for the child.

"I liked them all," said Monroe. "The light (STEP program) is fun because I don't have to do anything. Play Attention helps me pay attention more. With Reading Plus I'm reading faster and can understand what I'm reading better."

Holly Sutherland, a 12-year-old student at Marshall Middle School in Westland, has noticed improvement as well since working on Reading Plus.

"I was having problems with reading," said Sutherland. "Now I can stay focused. I'm reading better."

Kent Langlinais brings home less school work since going through STEP and Reading Plus which he calls "really good" programs. The 9-year-old is a student at All Saints School in Canton.

"He started in November with the STEP program," said Darlene Langlinais, Kent's mom. "It helped him focus better in school. Since beginning Reading Plus he's reading faster and comprehending. He has better confidence and is starting to improve."

Staci Bockmann cautions parents not to get caught up on labels. Kent has problems staying focused in class, but was never diagnosed with ADD.

"A lot of kids are misdiagnosed and put on medication," said Bockmann. "We always ask why the kids are doing what they're doing,why they're acting out behaviorally, why they're not focusing. We do our own evaluation before looking at results of prior testing.

"We did a lot of research and went off of the experience of our son. When you're living it 24-7, you learn that they learn it visually. We had our son try the programs out. Sensory training is basically new technology that the hospitals haven't recognized yet."

Reese West was only 3 when he went through the STEP sensory program last year. His mother, Sonja, noticed a difference in his development almost immediately. She drove all the way from Woodhaven to seek help for the boy who was diagnosed with autism through the school system.

"First and foremost it increased his speech and language abilities tremendously, and from day four or five his ability to answer questions and have a little bit of back and forth conversation. That was the biggest improvement, but eye contact improved, socialization with his younger brother and even my husband and I increased dramatically."

In addition to sensory training and educational programs for ages 2 1/2 through adult, Great Expectations offers tutoring. Liberty Kids, their nonprofit, provides therapy scholarships for children with special needs. For information, visit The Michigan Association of Student Councils and Michigan Association of Honor Societies have chosen Liberty Kids as their charity for 2006-07 and will be working to raise money for the scholarships.

"Insurance doesn't cover this therapy. It's out of pocket expense for parents," said Staci. "We've done it ourselves, mortgaged our house twice for our son."

To learn more about Great Expectations, call (734) 762-0332 or visit


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