Originally from South Africa and married just a week, Joanne Sinclair and her husband took the plunge and emigrated to Canada, as she said “with four suitcases, love and fresh air.” She worked in HR with one of the big banks until she had her three sons.

She’d always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and as she jokes, maybe it’s just as well because she instinctively knew that something wasn’t right with her third son, Andrew.

First he was born with the cord wrapped tightly around his neck eight times causing oxygen deprivation, and there were other clues along the way that indicated all was not well. Plus she’d had two other children so she knew the different childhood milestones.

However getting medical professionals to admit something was wrong proved challenging. She would get fobbed off with comments like “he’s got flat feet and just needs orthotics.” Or “he’s just wanting attention.” It was hard for Joanne to get anyone to pay attention. By Junior Kindergarten, it was becoming more evident that he was not learning or developing normally.

At a time when resources for special education were dwindling, Joanne was worried. And when she had the first of four psychological evaluations done when he was eight the psychologists told her that her son would never learn to read or write, or initiate social relationships or interactions appropriately. The school said that he should be placed in a life skills program by grade 4, as he would not be able to learn in a regular classroom in spite of being above average intelligence

A woman of strong faith, she prayed that the answers would show up and become clear to her. And for years she devoted her time and energy into finding answers and ways to help Andrew. She discovered numerous therapies and tried many of them, but there were three different therapies that proved critically important to her son’s development.

She found a physical therapist in London who practiced specialized kinesiology and every week she would drive there so she could work with Andrew. Within ten weeks she began to see a difference, so she continued taking him to London for several years.

Next she discovered the Arrowsmith Program which works on the neuroplasticity of the brain. He was in the program for three years. Again, Joanne driving to and fro every day. She actually was a nervous driver, but as she said, “If someone told me that riding to the North Pole on the back of a camel would provide the answers to Andrew’s difficulties I would go out and buy a camel, point it’s nose northwards and get going!”

And then she learned about The Listening Centre, which through sound stimulation therapy helped her son learn to read. When he started there he was 11 but at a grade 2 reading level but after 30 days he was reading age-appropriate books and loved The Hobbit. It was such a dramatic result.

When Joanne started out on this quest to find help for her son, he was not expected to be educated beyond grade 4, was unlikely to hold down a minimum wage job and was expected to live in a group home. Thanks to her research, persistence and advocacy, he not only graduated from high school on the honour roll, but has graduated from Brock University with an Arts degree and more recently completed courses in media and film from Sheridan.

Because of all that she has learned, Joanne felt compelled to share her research and findings so other parents could benefit from what she’d discovered. “Writing my book was also therapeutic.” shares Joanne. She had been journaling and documenting what she was learning as she went along.

“It’s been my mission to understand the “psycho-babble” and I now help other parents decipher and navigate the system. “ And her book, Living and learning outside the box: A mother’s quest to overcome her son’s neurodevelopmental difficulties, helps parents realize they are not alone.

She shared her mantra with me and frankly it says it all – “There are always options. The only wrong thing to do is nothing. Never work around something you can fix.”

To obtain a copy of her book, go to her website – www.livingandlearningoutsidethebox.com