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"Lessons from a metronome"Photo of Adam

The Signal- Santa Clarita Valley

Adam Solomon's future looked bleak. His self-esteem was tanking.

By the second grade, he could barely read at a kindergarten level. Conferences between his parents and teachers at Bridgeport Elementary School ended in tears. His instructors constantly returned report cards displaying multiple Ns for "Needs Improvement."

Diane Solomon admits that she and her husband no longer knew how to parent their oldest son.

When Adam was 18 months old, he contracted Kawasaki disease, a rare childhood condition that involves inflammation in the blood vessels.

After recovering, Adam contracted the disease again at age 5 and suffered an aneurysm in his right coronary.

"As a result, my son had all these sensitivities. He had a lot of attention and focus problems" Solomon said.

His problems weren't limited to the classroom. An attempt to ride his bike without training wheels in the summer after second grade ended in disappointment.

"It was horrible, crash and burn" his mother said.

Photo of Adam practicing Metronome training

Re-timing his brain

The Solomons took Adam to psychologists, therapists and other doctors. They hired tutors. Nothing or no one seemed to be able to help their son.

In the spring of 2008, after a co-worker referral, Solomon took Adam to see Sherrie Hardy at Hardy Brain Training in Camarillo. Adam became Hardy's first home-based Rising Star Metronome Program client during his summer before fourth grade.

By the end of the program he would spend four to five days a week at the computer for about 40 minutes, forming circles with his hands and then clapping every time he heard the tone through headphones.

Visual guides and auditory sounds give immediate feedback about the accuracy of responses to the beat.

"It re-timed how his brain works" Solomon said. "So now every thought that comes into his head, it goes straight to where it's supposed to go."

The exercises are repeated thousands of times as the brain gradually begins to improve its processing, Hardy said.

She discovered and bought the metronome program when she was trying to help her daughters as they struggled through kindergarten more than a decade ago.

"The more we get our millisecond timing perfected, the easier everything we do becomes" she said. "As the brain gets more and more organized it increases his ability to be able to learn, pay attention, focus."

In the beginning of third grade, Solomon quickly began to recognize a change in Adam.

By the middle of the third grade, Adam had tested out of special education.

But Solomon worried that Adam would digress when he broke his femur, was placed in a wheelchair, had to miss school and stopped the metronome training.

To Solomon's surprise, Adam maintained grade-level expectations and they began the training again in early 2009.

He started to bring home 70-percent test scores. Then 80, 90 and 100 percents, his mom said.

"As the year progressed, he continued to be able to learn easier, focus better and function better" said Adam's third-grade teacher Emmy Bonja at Bridgeport Elementary.

"He persevered when he had come out of the back of the classroom playing with toys in first and second grade."

By the end of third grade, Adam was almost testing at an "advanced" level" Bonja said.

At the start of fourth grade this year, Adam was reading at a third-grade level, Solomon said.

The metronome system completely changed Adam's life, Solomon said.

Adam with his Family

Organized brains

According to Hardy, problems with completing school work, attention, reading and math are often not the underlying issue - they are just visible symptoms.

The real problem is a processing weakness in the brain that can be easily improved once it is discovered, Hardy said.

The founder of the Hardy Brain Training believes there are specific brain processing skills every child needs in order to have an easy time focusing, learning and completing work, she said.

Hardy studied her master's in marriage and family therapy, focusing on how kids with learning and attention problems fit into their families and schools.

After receiving her master's she began to apply different brain activities to children with these problems and discovered life-changing results, she said.

Hardy assesses each of her clients individually. She determines where a child, teen or adult is struggling and customizes her programs accordingly.

For example, "if it's the right hemisphere (of the brain) not working well, we'll want to bring the right hemisphere up" she said. "Your right hemisphere knows what to do with all your facts."

Hardy's programs start with simple exercises that can be done over four to six weeks - such as the metronome system - that can dramatically improve a child's brain function, she said.

The metronome system puts the brain on overload, Hardy said.

"There's no way the brain can process that much information that fast without building some new connections or strengthening ones already there" she said.

Hardy has worked with children, teens and adults with Asperger's syndrome, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, dyslexia and other disabilities.

But she's also used the system on students wanting to boost their SAT scores or become better athletes or musicians, she said.

Hardy has helped about 800 kids since she and her daughters founded Hardy Brain Training and about 2,500 over her career, she said.

The home-based program first attempted by Adam has allowed the center to branch out of Camarillo, and, in turn, reach nine other kids in the Santa Clarita Valley, Hardy said.

Releasing family strain

Time and time again, Hardy has seen the positive effects the program has on the relationship between parent and child.

"(The parents) become their child's coach rather than their opposing team" Hardy said.

Solomon said she, her husband and two youngest sons used to stand by Adam, encouraging him and participating in the clapping as he completed the training program.

Parent-teacher conferences are no longer a source of angst for the Solomons because now they are no longer required to attend. Getting ready for school in the morning became much easier as Adam finally understood how to dress himself on his own without getting distracted.

"A day in our life before was so chaotic" Solomon said. "He was in tears; I was in tears."

Adam can ride his bike without training wheels.

"It was like a bird out of a nest" his father, Martin Solomon, said. "He just took off."

The Solomons spend much more quality time together as a family.

"His self-esteem has grown and so has the whole family's self-esteem" Diane Solomon said.

High grades and aspirations

Grades of As and Bs scatter across all subjects on Adam's report card this year as the 9-year-old nears the end of fourth grade.

"I feel more intelligent than I was" Adam said on Wednesday at his Bridgeport home.

His inability to focus and process instructions used to frustrate him, he said. He also didn't enjoy getting pulled from class for special education, he said.

"I was having trouble in those days but I didn't know I wasn't improving in anything" he added. "I realized that in the third grade."

He can ride his bike, without training wheels, for more than an hour without sopping. He digests Harry Potter books without hesitation.

This is the first year Adam did not receive one "Needs Improvement" score on his report card, his mother pointed out as her eyes welled up.

Adam wants to be a scientist one day.

His third-grade teacher has no doubt that dream will come true.

"I'm sure he will be" Bonja said. "He was able to keep a vision for himself and pursue it when he was only a little kid."

To read more about Hardy's programs, visit Solomon developed an informational Web site about Kawasaki disease and Adam's story at




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