Dx: Cerebral Palsy – Ferruccio Success Story

Ferruccio – The boy who was on our program for a million years


Ferruccio still returns to The Institutes campus to update his program

Ferruccio’s Early Life

Ferruccio was born in Venice, Italy. His parents were both physicians. He was a premature baby and by the third month of life his arms and legs started to become rigid. By his second birthday, Ferruccio’s parents knew their little boy was in trouble and they learned about the work of The Institutes. They were eager to start treating their little son. They designed their own physical and intellectual program and began at home while waiting for their first appointment.


Mother holds up little Ferruccio his legs are already getting very tight and beginning to cross

Nature of Ferruccio’s Neurological Problems

When Ferruccio was three years old, the family had their first visit to The Institutes. By that time, Ferruccio was already beginning to read. His biggest problem in life was the tightness in his legs. His feet were rigid, like a ballerina “on point” and his legs sometimes “scissored”.


Little Ferruccio, age three, with very rigid legs

His conventional diagnosis was severe cerebral palsy which is an old-fashioned term for a child injured in the subcortical areas of the brain (a midbrain injury).

Untreated, the midbrain-injured child gets worse as he ages. He may start life as a chubby, cute little baby but he quickly starts to become tighter and tighter. At least in part, this rigidity is a result of a compromised respiratory system and poor oxygenation of the brain. As the body grows, the need for oxygen grows as well. If this need is not met, then the child becomes more rigid and function is greatly compromised. As this process continues, the midbrain-injured child becomes a prisoner trapped in a cage the exact size of his own body – a truly horrifying prospect.


Little Ferruccio was always up for a physical challenge

It was the plight of a severe midbrain injured child more than sixty years ago that so horrified Glenn Doman that he turned his attention from adult stroke patients to severely injured “midbrains”. The thought of a child trapped in prison the size of his own body for his whole life was deeply disturbing to him.

Ferruccio’s Challenge

Right from Day One Ferruccio’s parents were clear – no matter what it took, their son was not going to spend his life in a wheel chair or with his nose pressed on the glass watching his peers become capable while he could only watch. With an intensive program of stimulation and opportunity designed at The Institutes, Ferruccio progressed in his crawling and creeping. At the age of five, he first walked the overhead ladder independently – an amazing feat considering how tight his legs were.


A young Ferruccio navigating the overhead ladder

During the same year, Ferruccio earned a writing victory demonstrating that his intellectual abilities were already well ahead of his peers.


Building a bigger, better chest: Ferruccio using his ladder here, not to walk, but to brachiate.

However, the rigidity in his legs still prevented Ferruccio from being able to walk. This is a monumental problem for midbrain-injured children. When Ferruccio was 7 years old, a new program was being developed at The Institutes to improve respiration. Ferruccio was one of the first children to benefit from this program.

Within months of starting the new program, Ferruccio was walking an overhead ladder, no longer holding on with both hands, but using one finger.


Very straight, legs locked and ready to take on independent walking.

The following year he actually walked eight steps – a stunning accomplishment for him. Within four months, Ferruccio was walking independently inside the house and he started to walk outside the house. Six months later, he could walk thirty minutes non-stop outside. He could walk everywhere for transportation.

Mother reported that it was impossible to get Ferruccio to sit down and eat a meal. All he wanted to do was walk, walk, and walk!

Finally, by the age of nine, he was at last awarded a walking victory.

By 10 years of age, intellectually – Ferruccio was 4 years ahead of his peers, physically – he was an independent walker, and socially he was totally capable of joining his peers at the top of his class. His parents were still not satisfied.

They knew that Ferruccio’s walking was not yet normal. As other midbrain injured children, he walked with his knees bent, his arms raised, his motion was uncoordinated, and his feet were severely turned-in.

Glenn Doman agreed.

Glenn knew that each day Ferruccio would grow heavier. As he did so, gravity would be pushing him down. His bent knees would become more bent and one day he would sit down and not get up again. He would end up spending his life in a wheel chair.

Becoming Well One Step at a Time

Of all Ferruccio’s problems with walking, the one most prominent by age ten was his severe “toeing-in.” This was caused by the rigidity. Conventional practitioners consider this impossible to change. Expensive, painful surgery is a common practice. The Institutes over the past sixty years have developed techniques that help the brain to put the feet into a more functional position.

Early on Glenn asked “What if Ferruccio were to walk on a pair of skis? In such a situation, if Ferruccio were to walk even one step, he would have to turn his feet out, otherwise the skis would cross.”


Ferruccio as a pioneer – a whole new type of skiing – his mother is thrilled.

Ferruccio walked hundreds of miles on his skis. After doing so, when he walked in bare the position of his feet were almost normal.

By the time he was fifteen, his final challenge was to have his legs totally straight. He achieved this with his right leg, but the left leg … even today not quite. With this accomplished. his walking could be perfect.

The Goals for Graduation

Glenn Doman proposed that to graduate from the Home Treatment Program, Ferruccio had to achieve three goals:

• To demonstrate a gymnastics routine in front of an audience,
• To give an academic lecture in a formal setting.
• To sing a song in public.

Ferruccio worked incredibly hard to learn the rudiments of basic gymnastics. Again, unheard of in the world of midbrain injured children. Because of the weakness in his lower body, Ferruccio developed incredible muscles in his upper body. When he demonstrated his Gymnastics routine, his coach, a world class gymnast, said she had never seen a better “Swedish fall” except among top gymnasts. His strength in his upper body was world class, as he had to compensate for the weakness in his lower body. He achieved his first goal very easily.

Ferruccio never studied English as a school subject, he only studied the grammar and literature as part of mandatory high school curriculum taught at home, and occasional conversations with native English speakers who visited his home to help with his physical program. As he travelled to The Institutes every six months with his parents, Ferruccio learned English naturally. He often helped his parents, who spoke Italian, as a simultaneous translator during the lectures and conferences with the staff.

The second goal was the easiest. Ferruccio was a natural lecturer. Over the years since this goal was originally given, Ferruccio has given lectures to our parents, to the students of The Evan Thomas Institutes, and to members of The World Organization for Human Potential which meets annually at The Institutes.


Ferruccio, wrapped in the flag of The Institutes, addresses the mayor of Fauglia and his council at a special congress honoring him and celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Institutes in Italy.

It took him sometime to accomplish the third goal. The content of his speech is excellent but his articulation is still not perfect. This made singing very hard for him. Glenn knew this.

Six months later, as Ferruccio sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” in Latin, thus, all his goals for graduation were fulfilled.

University Life and Beyond

Ferruccio never sat in the class room until he was 18 years old. He had simply been too busy doing his program every day to attend one minute of grammar school, junior high or high school. He decided to take “La Lauria”, the National College Entrance Exams. He did extremely well. In fact, he was one of the top candidates in mathematics. Ferruccio decided to begin his university life. He applied to the Faculty of Mathematics and Science at the University of Padua where Galileo Galilei once taught and was accepted.

He attended classes three days per week. Other two days, he borrowed notes from his fellow students. His classmates also helped him record the sessions which he could not attend so that he listened to the audiotape for many hours while he continued his program at home. He had to travel by “water bus”, train, bus and walk to attend the University.

The most difficult year for him was the first year. More than 50% of the students failed the exams at the end of the year and thus they had to drop out of the program. Ferruccio was not one of them. He thrived and advanced easily to his senior year. He was encouraged to go to graduate school there to get his master’s degree. When he completed his masters, he was accepted into the Doctoral Program there. He successfully completed his doctoral dissertation in computer science.

He continued to study this subject and lectured and published several scholarly papers. He has been accepted as the member of the Faculty of Computer Science of the University of Bologna.


DND: Professor at work

Several years ago, he was invited to lecture at a conference in Philadelphia. He kindly invited the staff of The Institutes to attend. We asked him to tell us honestly would we understand anything at all in his sophisticated mathematical paper he would present? He laughed and said “No you will not!”. We invited him to lunch after the lecture.

Dr. Ferruccio’s Advice

What was the best thing?

“Most assuredly, the significant changes in the mobility field and having achieved major results for my efforts and dedication in their application.”

Any advice for the children doing the program?

“To have faith in the program which is the only path to take to improve, and to try to do it as cheerfully as possible.”

Why do you think the program is so important?

“The program is vital for the hurt child not because it turns the child into a well child (everybody is happy about that) but because it produces progress which allows this child to reveal a potential that severe injury would leave unexpressed.”

Today Dr. Ferruccio teaches the Masters Course in Theoretical Computer Science at the University of Bologna.

Ferruccio has been on our program a million years (Glenn used to say a trillion years!). But today he walks independently across the campus of the University of Bologna – the second oldest University in Europe. He has not spent one minute in a wheel chair or one second with his nose pressed upon the glass watching others have a life. He has fulfilled his parent’s dream for him and more. He has achieved every goal that we ever set for him and more.


Ferruccio with Glenn and Katie at the Awards Dinner of the World Organization of Human Potential held in Pisa, Italy.

Ferruccio has been on our program for a million years. He has a mother who is beyond description in her love for her boy and willingness to move heaven and earth to help him.

During those million years, he has not only had a challenging physical program but an equally challenging intellectual program designed by his mother. That program kept him stimulated and happy and resulted in a wonderful academic career at a world-renowned university.

A million years and he continues some part of the program on a regular basis, though he is almost 50 years old. You may meet him in his class at the University of Bologna, or in the streets of his hometown, Venice or on our campus in Philadelphia, checking in with us to see what he could add to his program.

Ferruccio has the world’s record in toughness and determination – our program for a million years.

He does not care; he is always getting better.

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