Today we’d like to introduce you to Heather Wells.
Heather, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Well, I was born legally blind. My parents blamed themselves for the fact that it took them so long to figure it out, while I appreciate everything they did to search for the treatment I needed once they realized there was a problem. Initially, my dad thought I was clumsy, often telling people that, “Heather would trip over a toothpick” because of the multiple accidents I had requiring stitches (including a major bicycle wreck on my birthday), the consistency with which I spilled drinks, and my propensity for running into objects. They came to find out that I was very athletic and rather had issues with sight and equilibrium. Hindsight is 20/20, something I reiterate to the wonderful families I have the privilege of working with on a regular basis.
Once my visual acuity was corrected to the point that I could see well enough to read, my brain didn’t know how to perceive or process this unfamiliar input. Doing schoolwork was a challenge for me, as the letters and numbers jumped around on the page, and the lines of text merged together. I had to focus so hard on getting the symbols on the page to come into focus and be still in order to decode them that I couldn’t pay attention to the content of the passage. I remember sitting in my desk at school wondering why I had no idea what I had just read and trying to understand the reason I was so slow in completing assignments. Teachers told me I needed to work on my handwriting and made other comments such as, “You should be a better speller,” and asked, “Why don’t you have a larger vocabulary?” Discerning spatial concepts was another challenge, as I couldn’t figure out the differences among various shapes and how they were oriented. I lived in a state of being physically and mentally exhausted as I strained to perceive and process the information, and I suffered excruciating headaches due to a misshaped optic nerve that applied pressure on my brain. I made good grades out of sheer determination and a great deal of prayer, but wow, it was a struggle.
Due to these and a few additional life circumstances beyond the control of a child, I also did not have a voice in many aspects of my life, and thus the course and purpose of my life were formed. I am a huge believer that the obstacles we all face are also a blessing because they uniquely prepare us to bless others on a level we might not otherwise be equipped to accomplish. To that end, I engaged in causes that would allow others to be heard and enjoy dignity, and I pursued degrees that would ultimately lead to playing a role in transforming the lives of children and their families facing neurological imbalances.
After the completion of graduate school and my fellowship, I founded the Communication Disorders department at a hospital (inpatient and outpatient) and then was asked to come aboard to do the same for a home health agency. Those were fantastic opportunities to ensure that individuals were receiving the services they needed which had not previously been available to them. It also provided an exciting platform to educate physicians and other staff, practice in speaking the language of a Board of Directors, create proposals for necessary equipment along with evaluation forms following legal guidelines, and learn how to merge the business and quality care sides of working in these environments for the welfare of the one with the neurological impairment, as that is always my central focus. Later, I transitioned into the schools and Early Childhood intervention (ECI). I relished the opportunity afforded through ECI to engage with not only the child who was developmentally delayed but also the entire family and to help them identify teachable moments for their children throughout daily routines and set up an environment that would elicit growth in the areas of deficit.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There have definitely been some obstacles along the way. Having said that, all the struggles led to a depth of empathy, insight and understanding that prepared me to connect with people on an even deeper level both personally and professionally. Early in my career, I had to overcome preconceived notions based upon what was considered a young age to hold such a leadership position and win the trust of physicians and colleagues. I am happy to report that the mission was accomplished, and we formed a unified team with outstanding patient outcomes.
It also took a while to find my ideal professional niche. In so many settings, you work with the one experiencing the neurological challenge but have too little interaction with key members involved in that person’s life and care. I was cognizant of how essential an all-around approach was for the welfare of everyone involved and craved an environment in which each of those pieces worked coherently.
On the personal side, my sweet dad was diagnosed with a large tumor that claimed half his brain. There were many complications, one of which was the development of a seizure disorder with associated falls. Years later when he started deteriorating drastically, I underwent the frustrating process of finding a neurologist willing to listen as I explained, “I know my dad, and this is a different ‘new normal’ for him. It is not just his brain tumor.” As it turned out, he had developed Parkinson’s disease. Dad continues to be such an inspiration to me. Despite his setbacks, he is still the one who lights up a room with his warmth, love, and positivity. Then my mom suffered a massive stroke in 2012. She worked diligently in rehabilitation to regain whatever skills she could. My parents’ physical and mental challenges serve as a constant reminder of how hard these children with neurological imbalances churn when doing routine tasks that we can so easily take for granted.
Additionally, two amazing boys lived with me for some time when they were in elementary school. They had social, emotional, and behavioral challenges in addition to their difficulties with focus and academics. I went through a major grieving process when I did not have the opportunity to adopt them, and it was one of the most devastating experiences of my life.
The good that came of these valleys is that they provided me with an enriched perspective on the grind the families in our center face daily because I am in the trenches with my own loved ones. I will never be the professional who doesn’t listen to what a family is conveying to me. Rather, I communicate to them that, “Everything you share with me matters and is significant,” and they recognize how much we value them and their input by the follow-through they witness in our actions. I have firsthand awareness of the ways in which family dynamics are often altered when your child is facing these types of obstacles. It’s one thing to obtain the degrees and professional experience; it is quite another to have lived it yourself. I understand on every level what it is like to be the struggling student as well as the parent or family member wanting to do everything possible to find resolution and help your child or loved one live his or her version of highest quality life possible, and that further fuels my passion for transforming the lives of all the kids and families we are fortunate enough to work with in our center.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Brain Balance of Southlake– tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
At Brain Balance of Southlake, what brings parents to seek our help are the struggles their children are exhibiting in areas including social, emotional, behavioral, academic, language, sensory, focus, motoric, and associated realms. One of the things that sets us apart is how we get to the root of children’s issues and address them at the foundation rather than putting a Band-Aid on symptoms.
We are educational rather than medical and do not put labels on these kids. Having said that, some of them come through our doors already having been diagnosed with mild to severe ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, learning differences, anxiety, sensory processing disorders, language delays, autism, emotional disturbance, and others. All of these issues are caused by an imbalance in the brain. At Brain Balance, we administer an assessment in which we thoroughly evaluate over 1200 functions. We discern where the strengths and weaknesses are from the perspective of the hierarchy of our neurological development and customize an integrative program that stimulates the part or parts of the brain that are weaker based upon what science has proven about the incredible neuroplasticity of our brains. In addition to the sessions we engage in with our kids, we establish an individualized home program that takes about 15 minutes a day, and this further accelerates their progress. We also conduct school visits, as this is an opportunity to provide a broader perspective for teachers and administrators on the combination of factors leading to each student’s difficulties as well as strategies that can result in greater success while we work to help them overcome their challenges at the foundation. A nutritional component is included with our program in which our registered dietitian has a method for determining whether food sensitivities are exacerbating any of the difficulties the child is experiencing.
Because of the holistic and customized Brain Balance approach, the hemispheres of the brain become more balanced and capable of processing and communicating input appropriately, and synchronization of the signals between the brain and the body is achieved. The outward manifestation is a child who can now be age-appropriate in the areas of concern – social, emotional, behavioral, academic, sensory-motor, attention, and others. Since we determine the “why” behind the obstacles these kids are facing and address the root cause(s), these life-changing transformations are phenomenal and permanent.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are proactively dedicated to raising greater awareness in the community, and I am on a mission to educate individuals working with kids of all ages and provide the solutions they are seeking. So many children are struggling without the ability to articulate what is going on (because they don’t even understand it themselves), and parents are desperately searching for answers, not knowing about what we do that is so unique. I have been conducting an increasing number of trainings for teachers and physicians from across the country who are involved in pediatric care. For example, I was asked to be a speaker at the Autism Summit, followed by involvement at the Breathing Wellness Symposium in NYC, in addition to many other educational forums for those who work with kids facing a variety of challenges. We are becoming much more active in hosting helpful events at the center as well as in sharing our message via social media and other outlets. We are also partnering with various nonprofits to further improve the quality of the lives of the kids and families in our wonderful city.
I am on the advisory board for Brain Balance at the national level to continually improve the quality of the remarkable Brain Balance program, and that is such an honor. We have enhanced the home program and follow-up support we provide our families, as we are always striving to facilitate even more incredible outcomes for all the families we serve.
Being part of astounding, positive change in the lives of individuals facing these obstacles is a driving force for all of us at Brain Balance of Southlake. The entire staff is spectacular, and each of them forms very special bonds with the kids. When parents bring their children to us, we realize that they are entrusting us with a precious responsibility, and we do not take that for granted. The caregivers know with certainty that we are all extremely invested in doing everything within our power to bring about the dramatic change they are desiring for their children and the entire family unit. Our pursuit now and in the future is to make this transformational Brain Balance program available to all who will benefit from it because everyone deserves to have dignity, to be heard, and to live his or her version of highest quality life possible.
- Mention this article and receive $50 off assessment and $250 off enrollment
- Address: 100 W. Southlake Blvd., Suite #160,
- Website: BrainBalanceSouthlake.com
- Phone: 817.416.9828
- Email: Southlake@BrainBalance.com
- Facebook: https://www.brainbalancecenters.com/locations/Southlake/
- Twitter: brainbplano
Effie Ostin Photography