The Institutes has been providing service to parents and children for more than 60 years.
The story of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential begins with the great genius Dr. Temple Fay.
Dr. Temple Fay established the Department of Neurosurgery at Temple University Hospital in 1930, and is renowned for his groundbreaking work in therapeutic hypothermia. Dr. Fay inspired an entirely new field in rehabilitation and of child brain development with a simple yet profound statement: “Brain injury is in the brain.”
Glenn Doman, a young physical therapist who would become the Founder of The Institutes, met Dr. Fay, the Dean of Neurosurgeons at Temple University Medical School, in 1940. Glenn joined him on his hospital rounds and in the operating room, and together they would begin their pioneering work in the non-surgical development of the brain.
Dr. Fay and Glenn Doman began with adult stroke patients. Instead of allowing these once vibrant men and women who were now partially paralyzed to languish, they hoisted them out of bed to move and to be stimulated, towards reactivating brain function. Progress began to be made towards regaining normal function.
In the first decade of work, Glenn Doman, now Director of the Rehabilitation Center (established in 1955) would meet a long line of extraordinary people who would make significant contributions to the new field of child brain development.
These included: Dr. Raymundo Veras, an eye surgeon from Brazil who brought his own son, José Carlos, after a tragic diving accident left the teenager paralyzed from the neck down; Dr. Edward Lewinn, Chief Internist at Albert Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia, who came to the Rehabilitation Center to see a patient, and amazed at her progress joined the team to lead research and development; and Dr. Evan Thomas, a renowned public health physician who came and stayed to work in the Children’s Center, as the work had now evolved to the treatment of children with neurological problems from birth or later trauma.
The early team would travel the world, heading back in time to meet the Xingu of Brazil, to help unravel the mysteries of human brain development from long ago. They then traveled ‘ahead in time’ to Japan, to see the great potential that exists in tiny children playing the violin, due to the great genius of Shinichi Suzuki.
Within that first decade, a study of The Institutes work appeared in the Journalof The American Medical Association (Insert “Children With Severe Brain Injuries” September 1960), documenting both the treatment and the successful results that had been achieved. Breakthroughs occurred—always after much time, effort, and countless hours of intense work on the part of that early team.
The Institutes Development Profile was one such unique accomplishment. As Glenn wrote, “If The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (as the Center was now called) is to be remembered, it should be for this Profile of human brain development, and the measurement of the six most important pathways, three sensory and three motor. Both children and adults can be measured on it, comparing their chronological age with their neurological age, to identify where they fall short, are average, or even superior. Most importantly, the Profile reveals what to do, especially for the brain-injured child, towards achieving total wellness.”
In that first decade of search and discovery, Glenn would go on to write: “It has always been assumed that neurological growth and its end product, ability, was a static fact: This child was capable and that child was not. This child was bright and that child was not. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that neurological growth is a dynamic and ever-changing process.
In the severely brain-injured child we see the process of neurological growth totally halted, but it is now clear that this process of neurological growth can be speeded as well as delayed. We have now begun to see brain-injured children emerge who can perform as well as average children, and even some who perform at above-average levels. It is exciting beyond measure…it seems clear that we have underestimated every child’s potential.”
After meeting a severely brain-injured three-year-old child who could read (and helping many more to do the same) the potential of all tiny children to read at the earliest possible age was clear. Inspired, Glenn wrote the book How To Teach Your Baby To Read.
This book has been translated into two dozen languages and has been in print for more than a half-century, and there are hundreds of thousands of children the better for it.
Katie Doman, founding mother of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, first taught a mother of a severely brain-injured child how to teach her child to read. Katie went on to teach more mothers how to do so than anyone in history. Katie was the love of Glenn’s life; they married in 1944, and had three children together.
Glenn wrote the Book What To Do About Your Brain-Injured Child during this second decade, documenting all that had been learned, most significantly from the parents and the children themselves, who had achieved new levels of function.
It was clear to Glenn that the family is the answer, putting their love and devotion into action at home on behalf of their hurt child, working tirelessly under the Staff’s guidance and direction.
After two decades of work, The Institutes journal, The In-Report, was born, to record the results achieved by the parents and the brain-injured children on the program.
The very first issue of The In-Report, in 1973, recorded a 19-month-old brain-injured child from Pennsylvania who had begun to read. Little Matthew went on to become a National Merit Scholar, attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Ultimately, he became a partner in a venture capital firm.
Thus far, The In-Report has reported on more than 15,000 victories that have been hard won by mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and the brain-injured child. Together they have fought the battle against great odds, to be able to see, hear, walk, talk, read, and write, just like all the other kids. The Staff of The Institutes are tremendously proud of the parents and their children and the Victories they achieve, and to be part of The Institutes exciting work.
Janet Doman founded the Evan Thomas Institute for Early Development in 1975 and has been the Director of The Institutes since 1980, following Gretchen Kerr.
In 1973, Janet traveled to Japan at the invitation of Masaru Ibuka, founder of the Sony Corporation and an advocate for early childhood education, to put her father’s work into practice overseas. Janet taught hundreds of Japanese mothers how to teach their tiny children to read, and returned home to create The Evan Thomas Institute for Early Development. The Evan Thomas Institute is the first school designed to teach mothers how to teach their own babies how to read, to do math, learn foreign languages, to play a musical instrument, accomplish gymnastic skills and routines, and to gain encyclopedic knowledge of the world.
Soon after, Janet and her father would create the “How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” Course. This course provides parents of well babies the opportunity to learn how the brain grows, and how to teach their babies joyously at home from birth onward. By welcoming parents to The Institutes campus, they issued a worldwide invitation to join “the gentle revolution.”
Named for Evan Welling Thomas, beloved staff member and outstanding public health physician, the oncampus Evan Thomas Institute celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015. The reality that well children could be better – much better – has now reached hundreds of thousands of parents through this course, and through The Institutes books, teaching materials, and instructional videos.
In the 1970s, The Institutes Staff inaugurated the School for Human Development, a residential school on The Institutes campus for severely brain-injured young adults, with the objective of achieving wellness. One of the school’s landmark achievements included a team of our students and staff completing the entire 2,050-mile Appalachian Mountain Trail, the longest hiking trail in the world. At the time only one other group in history had ever accomplished this.
An historic moment: The Challenge Team reaches the top of Mt Katahdin, Maine the end point of the Appalachian Trail which starts at Springer Mountain, Georgia.
Our students completed the Philadelphia Marathon, one of many marathons they ran. As Norman Vincent Peale announced on his radio broadcast “…among the thousands of competitors in a recent running of the Philadelphia Marathon, one group of young people was distinctive. Not because all eighteen finished the 26-mile course, which they did, but because on the long road to marathon running all had overcome serious physical impairments with help from The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential of Philadelphia.”
After thirty years of experience in the treatment of brain-injured children, Glenn and the Staff designed the “What to Do About Your Brain-Injured Child” Course to teach parents to understand how the brain is injured, how to evaluate the injury, and most importantly what to do about it.
Janet Doman has led a team of young people –and now not so young people – since 1980, proud in every way to be part of the ongoing story of the great potential of hurt and well children, now into the 21st century. The Physical Excellence staff have developed the Mobility Pathway, to take a paralyzed child from immobility to crawling, to creeping, to walking, to running, and ultimately to physical superiority, based on the model of these important stages of development in the well child.
The Physiological Excellence staff have designed respiratory programs to deliver more oxygen to the brain, and to enhance the depth and rate of breathing, so that the brain-injured child can more easily breathe, move, and speak. In addition, they have developed nutritional programs to prevent and resolve health problems, and nurtured the optimal functioning of the brain at all times.
The Intellectual Excellence staff have created reading, math, encyclopedic knowledge, writing, foreign language, music appreciation, and social growth programs. These programs guide parents to teach their own children, brain-injured and well, from birth onward, to reach superior intellectual levels. This is the potential that exists in all children, and is every child’s birthright.
The administrative staff works diligently and cheerfully to insure that The Institutes functions smoothly every day, to best serve the parents who arrive from around the world.
The strong relationships forged early on in Brazil, Japan, and Italy have spread to many other countries, as the international flags along the stone wall of The Institutes campus attest.
All over the world, there are dedicated staff, helping parents to benefit from The Institutes work. By giving greatly of their time and effort, the international staff introduces parents to The Institutes through the Founder, Glenn Doman, and his team.
Our children are meant to stand on our shoulders, the brain-injured ones and well ones, and our children have done just that.
By the 1990s, the world had caught on. The decade was devoted to neuroplasticity, and the brain’s ability to grow in response to stimulation and opportunity. Neuroplasticity was fast becoming a well-accepted idea.
In the final chapter of What To Do About Your Brain-Injured Child, Glenn wrote about the Past, Present, and Future of the brain-injured child. He described four eras. The first era he titled Despair, and said there were no heroes, except the kids themselves, always tough, always brave. The second era he called Discovery, in which innovators appeared, with the courage to match their beliefs, Dr. Temple Fay the most prominent among them. His genius, Glenn wrote, “his mere presence, could not help but draw our attention away from the brain-injured child’s symptoms which existed everywhere in the child’s body from his toes to his eyes, and to direct our attention to the brain itself, where the child’s real problem actually existed.”
The third era he called Rational Treatment, in which the objective of treatment was not to make the hurt child a happy or successful cripple but instead to make him a non-cripple, in both physical and intellectual terms. “The majority of brain-injured children we are seeing today are markedly and measurably improved, it is not surprising that we sometimes fail in a world that still believes that significant change or improvement are an impossibility. Instead, It should be surprising that we sometimes succeed.”
The fourth era, he called Prevention. In this era, a brand new group of innovators would find the real answer to brain-injured children, and that would be to prevent our children from getting hurt in the first place. He wrote, “Whoever they are they will be absolutely right, and most importantly, they will learn how to do it…and when they come, they will welcome us with open arms and learn from us, as we welcomed and learned from the truly great Dr Temple Fay.”
The Institutes has the support of many wonderful contributors without whom we could not survive, including the very generous people of the Jett Travolta Foundation. Our worldwide family of mothers and fathers and children continues to grow.
The children of parents who attended our “How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” Course in the 1970s now enroll in the course as adults. They are welcomed to sit where their parents sat and learn about child brain development so they can teach their own babies.
Children who were on our Intensive Treatment Program years ago are now out in the world. Some of those graduates are changing the world very much for the better, some have their own families and are raising their own children using what they learned and experienced, and some are now taking care of their own parents, the parents who cared so deeply for them when they needed it.