Friends, as you know, the pandemic has sent all the children of the Dorna Centre Home for Autism home and has put our neurofeedback program on hold. We have committed to extend the program for seven months in the hopes that all the children will still have the opportunity to experience 30 sessions of NeurOptimal®.
Some of the children are very eager to return to school. As you can see here, Elijah is sitting with his packed suitcase, ready to go – he packs his suitcase every morning hoping this will be the day he gets to go back!
New regulations for schools have placed an unexpected strain on the school as they are having to make major improvements to expand the space available for students to be separated per the new spacing mandates.
Dorothy has been working nonstop to make sure that her school will be able to accommodate all of the children returning rather than limiting enrollment and excluding anyone. The cost of expanding the schools building facilities to comply were unanticipated and not budgeted for. For this reason, I am raising the goal of this fundraiser to try to help with some of these costs.
During this time of uncertainty in the world, I realize it is not an easy time to raise money but even a small donation can make a huge difference for this school in Uganda. The total cost of bringing the additional space into compliance to accommodate all the children is 13,200,000 Ugandan Schillings (roughly $3,500 USD).
Could just five sessions of NeurOptimal® neurofeedback training really help? When Nikki Sopchak of Serenity Neurofeedback chose to partner with the Dorna Centre Home for Autistic Children in Uganda, the plan was for all 31 children to receive at least 30 neurofeedback sessions over the course of the spring semester. Then COVID-19 sent the boarding and day students home after just two weeks—and only five sessions—for the children. What could be expected from so few trainings?
As one mom came to pick up her daughter from the Centre, the child began saying “bye-bye” to her teachers—without any prompting. The mom began to cry. Her daughter had never before spoken.
This was just one of many “firsts” for the children of Dorna Centre Home in those two weeks of NeurOptimal® neurofeedback training.
Five previously non-verbal children began to speak for the first time. Junior began saying single words, such as “yellow,” “apple,” and “go.” Katamba said, “give me” and “porridge.” Others began to repeat words spoken to them or imitate simple sounds. Catherine’s speech improved—and also her shyness. After just three NeurOptimal® sessions, the staff noticed how audible and clear she was while talking to her friends.
There was another first for Leon, a boy who had never before participated in group games or sport activities. For the first time, he joined in. The Dorna Centre staff also noticed several “first” signs of joy in children’s faces when one boy won a game or when another boy had accomplished an activity.
Parents of day students at the Centre reported that their children’s troubled sleep had improved. Dorothy Nambi, founder of the Dorna Centre Home, says that she used to hear some noises in the night at the boarding house, “but now it’s total silence.” Their report says that three of the children became “very calm.”
There are still other “firsts” for these young lives. For the first time, a student could sit by herself and eat all her food—with no “funny movements while eating—amazing.” Another student was willing for the first time to wash his utensils after a meal—“that has never happened before.”
The mission of the Dorna Centre Home is to help these children have independent lives and engage as members of society. Their motto is: “Out of the Hidden World: Awareness, Action, Acceptance, Inclusion, Appreciation.” Dorothy Nambi says, “What we do at Dorna Centre is train.” This includes class work and vocational training. With the addition of NeurOptimal® training, the teachers report that concentration has improved and aggressive behavior decreased.
One of the students, John, had this first in his life: He went from often being aggressive and “challenged by managing his behavior” to beginning to peer tutor his fellow students in some vocational activities. The staff report says of John that “after 5 [NeurOptimal®] sessions we have noticed a very different person.”
Theses “firsts” in the lives of these children were possible due to the sponsorship of Serenity Neurofeedback and because of the passion of the Dorna Centre staff for helping these children. It is possible thanks to 28 individuals who have already given just over $2,000 to sponsor children at the Centre.
Fighting the Odds
Even though the meals and special instruction require just $5 a day per child to cover costs at the Centre, this is beyond the means of many single mothers who must prioritize the basic needs of their family over more specialized education and care for their children with autism. Sadly, the majority of these single mothers were left by their husbands who believed the child’s disability was a bad omen or curse—representing some kind of sin or punishment for the mother. Because of the societal shame and stigma for parents, some even try to keep autistic children “behind the curtain,” preventing the children from getting the medical care they need.
Dorothy Nambi and her Dorna Centre Home for Autistic Children is fighting the odds to change this. On the Centre’s playground wall is painted the words: “Look at autism with our hearts.” As word began to get out about the NeurOptimal® neurofeedback training and results, more parents began coming to the Centre to ask for this training for their child. Dorothy writes, “I have to say ‘not now’ because it’s all I can do to give my children [already at Dorna Centre] sessions and must first give my children a chance.”
Even with the developments of the world pandemic, Dorothy and Nikki at Serenity Neurofeedback are committed to seeing this through. Nikki writes, “To learn about the reality for these children and their mothers in that country broke my heart, and to see the genuine passion and heroic efforts by the school’s director, Ms. Dorothy Nambi, on behalf of these children inspired me. I am totally invested in seeing these kids thrive—in helping them to be the best versions of themselves.” While much is uncertain in this extraordinary time, Nikki plans to extend the pro bono loan of the NeurOptimal® system to Dorna Centre Home so that each of the 31 children who have begun sessions can receive the benefit of at least 30 sessions. For this hope to be realized, Nikki and Dorothy will need to find sponsorships for more of the children in the months ahead.
Nikki writes, “I know how much NeurOptimal® helped my loved one on the autism spectrum with self-confidence, anxiety, sleep and so much more.” On a personal note, I write these articles pro bono because I know how much NeurOptimal® training has helped me in my life. I feel we owe it to children at least to know about this kind of dynamical neurofeedback, which works by giving real-time feedback “without judgment.” It’s my hope that we can make this kind of neurofeedback as accessible as possible to those in greatest need.
The “firsts” of these children—and what it means for their whole lives—keeps echoing in my mind, as does this comment from Dorothy: “They are really happy for what is going on with them. They wait anxiously for the next calling of their name,” for when it’s time for their next NeurOptimal® session. We hope that they can all return safely to Dorna Centre Home and find the financial aid they need for $5 a day, so that their names can be called again for another NeurOptimal® session—and the new “firsts” in their lives that might give them.
Meet the kids at Dorna Centre! Serenity Neurofeedback has partnered with Dorna Centre to provide sessions for the staff and kids at the home. They’re excited to get started and plan to run 30 sessions on each student this semester!
I became a neurofeedback provider over seven years ago for the same reason as most others who choose this profession: I wanted to help people. I saw the great potential of NeurOptimal® neurofeedback to improve lives and reduce suffering. Serenity Neurofeedback was founded for the purpose of raising awareness of the benefits of neurofeedback and making it accessible and affordable to all who wish to use it. I have worked tirelessly over the years to achieve these goals, reinvesting business profits into community outreach, research, and affordable training opportunities.
To date, Serenity Neurofeedback has conducted one in depth case study and one year long double blind pilot study of NeurOptimal® neurofeedback for stress and burnout in the workplace. We have provided over 600 hours of community walk in training ($25 sessions and free sessions for military, veterans and first responders), over 20 free presentations at universities, conferences and community groups, and we provide worldwide outreach through our Facebook forum and YouTube channel. Over 47 trainers have become certified via our live NeurOptimal® neurofeedback classes, and we have helped launch and support businesses for countless new neurofeedback trainers.
For the last two years, I have been attending monthly behavioral health meetings to support first responders because we all know this is one group that could really benefit from the stress resilience that comes with NeurOptimal® neurofeedback training. I have done my best at these meetings to explain why and how NeurOptimal neurofeedback should be made available to first responders, not as a patch for PTSD, depression, insomnia, anxiety, anger or other problems after they emerge but rather as a proactive tool for building stress resilience as a coat of armor to help protect these heroes from the inevitable pressures and tolls that come with their profession. For two years, I have attended these meetings and explained what NeurOptimal® neurofeedback could do for these men and women. I thought perhaps with repeated exposure, one day it would click. I offered my services for free and even offered to collect data to show results of a program for a large municipal department. I received no response to my offer. I was feeling defeated; it’s hard to listen to the stories of suffering and the same plans for addressing the problems after they emerge all the while knowing of such a powerful tool for preventing or reducing such suffering from reaching critical mass in the first place. I could not understand why I was asked to join this group if there was no real interest in what I was offering. I felt selfish giving up, yet I felt like I was wasting my time continuing to attend these meetings. I decided to pray about it. I asked God to make his will in my life clear, to use me for his purpose and let me put my ego and my own will aside. I prayed that God would put me where I could really help people, people who were ready and wanting such help.
The next week I received contact from two individuals inquiring about neurofeedback: one in Uganda and one in Kenya. I didn’t think much about it as I speak to hundreds of people worldwide about neurofeedback weekly. But then something interesting happened: I had a curiosity to reach out to these two people and learn more about neurofeedback in their countries. I looked at the website for the Dorna Centre Home for Autism in Uganda and my heart melted. To learn about the reality for these children and their mothers in that country broke my heart, and to see the genuine passion and heroic efforts by the school’s director, Ms. Dorothy Nambi, on behalf of these children inspired me. Here was someone with a heart of gold who wanted to find a way to bring neurofeedback in to help her students and here I had been trying to give it away to people who weren’t ready to receive it. It became clear to me what I needed to do so I reached out to Dorothy with a proposition of a loaner system and instruction / support for her and her staff for a pilot program for the students at her school. I would provide equipment and supplies and they would administer the sessions and collect and share data, pictures and reports of observations. It was clear to me from my first interaction with Dorothy that she is a woman of God and is called to do this work to improve the quality of life for children with autism in Uganda and I am very proud, honored and humbled to have been given the opportunity to partner with her in her mission as her sister in Christ. This experience has been a blessing beyond measure for me as every picture, every video of these children, every comment I receive just makes my heart burst with joy. I look forward to news of program progress and I thank God that I was put in a position of being able to help when the opportunity presented itself. I asked Dorothy if she could take a publicity photo of one child training for me in a company t-shirt that I could share on my website. Dorothy suggested that all of the children and staff would be more than happy to receive branded t-shirts…I don’t know if she anticipated how much seeing all of these beautiful children wearing my company t-shirts would impact me but I now feel a connection to these kiddos that I can’t even describe. I am totally invested in seeing these kids thrive, in helping them to be the best versions of themselves. I know how much NeurOptimal helped my loved one on the autism spectrum with self-confidence, anxiety, sleep and so much more, and I can’t wait to see how it helps these boys and girls.
7 Children at the Dorna Centre Home for Autism in Kampala, Uganda (Daniel L., Leone M., Elijah M., Jacob M., Justice A., Elijah K., and Robert A.) are in need of sponsorships for the spring semester.
What if we lived in a culture where people called autistic children “mad”? In a recent feature on autism by BBC News | Africa, a parent explains, “There are all sorts of beliefs that somebody sinned, somebody was cursed or somebody was bewitched.”
Because of the societal shame for parents, many even keep their children from the medical care that they need. In 2018 the mayor of the Kampala region went on Urban TV Uganda with this message: “Should we catch you keeping a person with a disability behind the curtain, we are going to arrest you.”
This is what the Dorna Centre Home for Autism in Kampala, Uganda faces—and works to overcome. Their motto is “Out of the Hidden World: Awareness, Action, Acceptance, Inclusion, Appreciation.” Veronica Nyakato, a medical doctor, who is involved with the Centre says, “We have seen couples where, if the mother has a child with autism, the husband abandons—because they think it is due to witchcraft. They think it is a problem of the mother.”
In fact, the majority of parents who come to Dorna Centre are single mothers, left by husbands who believed the child’s disability was a bad omen representing some kind of punishment for the mother. At the Centre, which operates as a day and weekly boarding school, autistic children can find the special education they need to take care of themselves, get a job, and be a part of a community. Dorothy Nambi, the founder and director of Dorna Center says,
“At Dorna Centre we train them to survive on their own. We receive children who can’t help themselves, for example with bathing. You find a 16-year-old boy who doesn’t know how to bathe himself. But what we do at Dorna Centre is train. We say Dorna Centre is another life.”
A recent visitor to the Centre wrote,
“The children are loved and warmly cared for by Dorothy and her staff. She loves to help them and I loved visiting. They do wonderful work on a low budget.”
Another visitor to the Centre says, “You feel a sense of wellness being with them. May God bless many more people to reach out to the children and make them whole.”
The cost of therapy, daycare, and two meals at the Dorna Centre is $5 per day. Yet even at this highly discounted rate, Dorothy reports:
“Most children’s families cannot afford this and do not bring their children back to The Centre. This is one of the biggest problems facing Dorna Centre.”
Because of the poverty of the abandoned single mothers, they must prioritize basic needs for the entire family over specialized education and care for their autistic children.
No amount is too small – again just $5 will cover special instruction and two meals for a day for one child. $335 will cover full tuition and meals for one child for a semester. This semester, there are seven children who are in need of sponsorships in order to continue to be provided with the therapy, education, meals, and care they need. All donors will receive an update and pictures of the children that their donations have helped directly.
Each gift helps the two biggest problems that face autistic children in Uganda. These children won’t receive the care that they need because of poverty unless there is this financial help. Each gift also sends a vitally needed message. As Dorothy says, “the importance of caring and loving for every single child, autistic or not, will resound because of your heart in giving.”
I learned about this need from my friend Nikki Sopchak who is a NeurOptimal® dynamical neurofeedback trainer. Thanks to Nikki and Serenity Neurofeedback, the children at the Dorna Centre will each have 30 dynamical neurofeedback sessions with a pro bono NeurOptimal® neurofeedback system.
NeurOptimal® has been used worldwide for over 20 years and well over 4 million training hours. This kind of neurofeedback—that is, dynamical neurofeedback—helps each brain to improve its own functioning by simply providing real time feedback about its behavior. Much like a mirror, NeurOptimal® does not cause changes to happen; it merely reflects what is happening, thus allowing the brain and central nervous system to improve in a way that is best for each individual. NeurOptimal® training is enjoyable, effortless, relaxing, non-invasive and carries no risk.
NeurOptimal® is used for stress management and holistic brain fitness purposes and is not a targeted treatment. Below are some testimonials of just how much this training can help children with behavioral issues:
“At my son’s ARD meeting a couple of weeks ago his teachers were amazed at the extent of maturing since last spring. At school he has much better self-control. His behavior was really getting in the way of his learning last year, they thought they would need a BIP (behavioral intervention plan) but they hadn’t even noted behavior problems this year. The only thing that has changed since spring is that we trained with the rental unit over the summer” – Mother of 13 year old son diagnosed with HF Autism
“This seems to be having an effect on me, last night I did something I never would have done before I went out to a haunted house with friends… And I enjoyed it!” 19 year old dxd with ASD – Mom had said she was worried about him because he had no friends and was too fearful to go out, she was blown away by this transformation in 4 sessions
“Neurofeedback has been a gift. My client for years had issues with outbursts, tantrums and self-harming behaviors. These behaviors have completely subsided. I now see a young man who is more redirect able, and he is learning more quickly. Overall, B. is more confident and happy today and the neurofeedback has been a huge contributing factor to this change.”
“He (my son) has a better flow of conversation and seems more “connected”…he is better able to “push” through exercises when before he would just quit.” 13 year old with Autism
“A non-verbal three-year-old boy started talking after approximately seventeen sessions. As is often typical with kids on the autistic spectrum he was also very much in his own world and didn’t show much interest in others. During his time using NeurOptimal, he started coming out of his shell and began noticing and interacting with others around him.” —NeurOptimal® Trainer Survey 2014
“I have a 6-year-old boy with autism, that didn’t speak. After the first 10 min (the first session) he started to speak more and more efficiently. After 17 sessions he focused his eyes, and his doctor was very impressed.” —NeurOptimal® Trainer Survey 2014
Because the children at the Dorna Centre are receiving free neurofeedback sessions this semester, it is an even greater loss if they cannot find the sponsorships they need to get through the spring. I know how I have personally benefited greatly from NeurOptimal training. This is yet another reason why I wanted to take action and reach out to as many as I could about this opportunity to truly make a lasting difference in the lives of these seven children.
I felt called to share this cause because I believe we also receive so much even as we give to the autistic children of Kampala.
Mackenzie Hawkins, Guest Blogger
P.S. – Please share with others who may be touched by this article — and how it gives a perspective that we can lose sight of. We have come so far in terms of our societal prejudices about disabilities in the U.S. and we have so far to go. But by lending this helping hand to others in Africa, maybe we can further see how much we can appreciate each differently-abled child without the prejudices of shame, blame, and fear.