When my ex-husband and I divorced, I braced myself. Our separation was just the first of many messes we were about to make. I knew that family reconfiguration was not a chore I could opt out of. Everything from who would walk (and keep) the dogs, to who would monitor the kids’ homework, would need to be renegotiated. It was this inevitable task I feared the most, because redefining roles posed a great risk.

When my ex and I were still married, our good-to-bad cop ratio was a 70/30 split. I was the unwilling but unarguable resident disciplinarian, and our divorce was poised to exaggerate this dynamic, no matter which way you spun it. If he got less time with the kids, his presence at the bake sale or soccer game alone was a feat of heroic proportions. If I got less time with them, I was doomed to play catch up. I knew that I would be scrambling to get them to their appointments; that I would be unable to resist the urge to pre-plan their science projects. My good-intentioned hampering and light neuroticism would be the forces that ultimately divorced me from my kids, too.

Then Cognition Builders entered the equation thanks to a referral from my Collaborative Divorce Attorney. During our first meeting, we sat down to discuss how, exactly, they were going to fix my fractured family. Leading the discussion was a buoyant, but serious 20-something. She defined her role as a Family Architect. On instinct, I asked about her children — she had none. The seeds of skepticism were sewn. When she spoke about creating consistency and cohesion, they grew. These ideals were so lofty by then that they bordered on fiction.

But I agreed to give the program a go, retaining a healthy dose of disbelief. By the end of the first day, our Family Architect had created new schedules for every individual family member. By the end of the first week, she’d provided scripted dialogues that upgraded our quick morning exchanges into living, breathing conversations. Did you know that you can have a meaningful moment with your kid with less than 5 minutes? I didn’t.

Our Family Architect created contingencies for managing our kids’ behavior, through which my ex-husband and I could both determine what the reward or consequence should be. We found ourselves more united in divorce than we had been in marriage. Our Family Architect worked out a system of communication where my ex-husband and I could keep continuous track of the kids’ lives and report back to one another. If the seeds of skepticism had been planted, I’d long since forgotten to water them. Our Family Architect even taught me how to turn hampering into guidance. As much as I hate to say it, until I started my program with Cognition Builders, it just hadn’t occurred to me that I should teach my kids how to plan the assignments that I’d been doing for them.

In everything that life had thrown at us, my family was taught systematically and specifically just what it is we needed to do about it — and how. And Cognition Builders taught me that family harmony, even post-divorce, does not need to be the stuff of fiction.

It’s hard to admit, but when I began to look for help for my son, I wished that whatever was eating away at him had come with a neat label. I secretly hoped that it would be a diagnosis that even insurance companies would recognize. Brian (not actual name*) was a junior in high school at the time. Like every other teenager, he was moody and intense. My wife and I have always seen Brian as an artist. He is extremely creative; always seeing the forest for the trees. But his social life became more isolated, and we found him spending too much time alone in his room, on his computer. Our son was not alright, and that was all we knew for sure.

Despite my Google searches for help, I did not have a name for what was happening with my son. I struggled to identify what was not okay, wishing that whatever it was that was making him skip meals and isolate himself in a dark room would fit into a box to check on a search engine. Brian was willing to engage in therapy with a wonderful psychologist who felt he could do some good, deep work with him to get some of the reasons for the changes in his personality. But Brian’s psychologist also suggested that he could use some support changing what had become unhealthy patterns of behavior.

Brian’s therapist gave us a brochure and the website for Cognition Builders. I was both intrigued and encouraged by the “What We Do” tab on their website. It said, “with the completeness of our presence, we see our clients through — whether life-shattering or every day — all the trials and tribulations that come with the human experience.” I thought to myself, whatever is going on with Brian would certainly be included in this, and immediately drafted an email.

I was relieved to find out that a clinical diagnosis is not a prerequisite for support with Cognition Builders. I will always remember my first meeting with our Family Architect, who would later become one of Brian’s greatest influencers. My wife and I told her, quite frankly, that we were at a loss with our son. I told her that we had some insights that could be described as wild guesses, but no real diagnosis to speak of. She appeared completely unfazed by this admission. “We are not really interested in the ‘why,’” she said, “We’re much more interested in the ‘how.’” She described the Cognition Builders program as being focused on the outcomes of a problem, regardless of where it’s roots lie. However, with our permission, and Brian’s, she also worked as part of a collaborative team with his therapist.

Although I do not know what had a hold on Brian, I do know that his Family Architect had the solution. My wife and I began to see our son slowly returning to us. It seemed that Brian was beginning to find joy again, whether through support in creating a schedule for each day to provide structure, or seeking out volunteer and cultural opportunities to bring him variety and purpose. For the first time in his life, Brian went to a museum. Although we had lived in the outskirts of a major city for his entire life, he had never ventured inside. Something in his temperament seemed to be a poor match for the city, until Cognition Builders, at least. His Family Architect dodged his excuses, all while teaching him to become more involved in the community by scheduling and attending workshops, talks, and art classes. Whether Brian wanted her to or not, she accompanied him in the community, demonstrating how to navigate his environment effectively. After some time, Brain no longer needed accompaniment or motivation.

Six months later, on an otherwise normal Tuesday, he received an acceptance letter from his top choice school. He now studies fine art and gets out A LOT.

After years of turmoil with my daughter, I accepted that life was always going to be chaotic and unpredictable. It wasn’t until my family started working with Cognition Builders that I realized life could continue in a different track.

Since the first day I can remember, my daughter was turbulent. As a baby she cried relentlessly and as a toddler she threw tantrums. Her fits felt like they would never end and often escalated to an unnerving place. It seemed like she could not be comforted. Our family could not get answers or solutions. Every doctor told us that she was a neurotic child and it was just a “phase.” It was not a phase.

By the time she reached early adolescence, her temperament became hostile and she became more aggressive. I constantly feared she would self-destruct. This fear consumed me. Her hormones escalated her explosivity. When she did find happiness, which was extremely rare, I tried to savor these moments. I appeased her; I was so careful to calculate every word before I spoke, doing my best to not offend her. I stayed absolutely silent when she talked down to me or physically attacked me. It was exhausting. I will never forget the time when she hurled a lamp across the foyer. I cleaned up the shattered glass as she watched from the couch while eating an ice cream sandwich.

I knew that the problem was out of my league. I brought my daughter to an adolescent psychiatrist, who spoke about our therapeutic and medicinal treatment options. I then sought out the guidance of an educational consultant, who referred us to a company called Cognition Builders. Our educational consultant told us that Cognition Builders provides in-home support to help improve the family dynamic and change behaviors at home. Rather than us meeting with Cognition Builders in an office, they would come to us every single day and for every waking hour — if that’s what it took. I hadn’t heard of any service as immersive as Cognition Builders claimed to be, but I decided to give them a call.

When we began with Cognition Builders, I had no hope left. Our Family Architect coordinated with our educational consultant and asked to be introduced to my daughter’s psychiatrist. Our Family Architect organized collaboration between all of those helping us to help our daughter. She scheduled meetings with them, exchanged feedback, explained her plans and my daughter’s program. Our Family Architect helped pull together a united team.

During her first meeting at our home, our Family Architect laid out the rules and curricula for not only my daughter, but for us parents as well. It took a very long time for me to stop going against the guidance of the Family Architect that entered our home. Once I began to really follow the program, everything changed.

Cognition Builders really was with us every single day! This is no exaggeration, as our Family Architect moved into our home to give my family intensive and unyielding support. She was present for every disastrous breakdown and every precious moment of peace. She provided immediate directions as problems were taking place. She told us what to do and ways to do it and she transformed my daughter and our family. I finally learned how to respond to my daughter!

There was no amount of screaming or aggression that shook our Family Architect. She gracefully attended to my daughter’s needs and then to mine. For the first time since her toddler years, my daughter was adeptly prevented from showing physical aggression. In addition, I no longer worried about the possibility of self-inflicting injuries.

During the early stages, my daughter viewed the Family Architect as her worst enemy. As time went on, she began to tolerate, then appreciate, then truly respect her. The structure, tenacity, and wisdom our Family Architect imparted gave my daughter examples of all that she could be. My family will be forever thankful for our Family Architect.

I remember first time I knew that Cognition Builders had made a real difference. One night after dinner, my daughter forgot to clear her plate. I instructed her to come back to the table and take care of it. She returned without a sigh of complaint. She just picked the plate up and walked away. Then, she stopped suddenly and turned her back around sharply, as if she had forgotten something. With a sweet smile she said, “Thank you for dinner, Mom. It was really good.”

When my son Adam (not actual name*) was diagnosed with PDD, or Pervasive Development Disorder, I discovered that there was stigma surrounding the word ‘autism.’I really wanted to be optimistic about the diagnosis, but everything I already knew about autism worried me. Autism meant that there was something wrong with the way he was ‘programmed.’Autism meant he was not compatible with how the world worked. At least, that’s what I thought. Then his psychologist told us about Cognition Builders, an educational company that provides in-home behavioral support. Adam’s therapist had other patients who had used Cognition Builders, and she was impressed with their results. Adam’s therapist told us that she felt Cognition Builders would help Adam build the skills he needed, while she continued helping him clinically.

When we started with Cognition Builders, I was hesitant to think that we could teach him how to be someone other than himself. From what I understood, PDD was who he was, period. But Adam’s Family Architect told us not to give up hope. Once they began working together, I understood why. Our Family Architect immediately broke down all the skills that Adam found difficult. With his Family Architect, Adam worked on: regulation, conversational skills, socialization and emotion management. Adam was taught through exercises made specifically for him, to help him build the skills he lacked or needed to build. With his Family Architect, Adam worked on making eye contact, holding still, and so many other skills he needed.

His Family Architect also introduced plans that would help my son develop independent living skills. Together, we created routines broken down into steps that Adam could follow, memorize and implement on his own. Before Cognition Builders, Adam couldn’t hold a conversation or come with me to the grocery store. Before Cognition Builders, Adam wouldn’t look at me when I walked into the room, or ask me how my day was. By the end of his program, Adam could be described as the kind of person who strikes up a conversation with a stranger while standing in the checkout line. The measure between what I thought Adam could do and what he can do is astounding. I am so grateful to Cognition Builders for showing what my son is really capable of.

Families fall apart when little conflicts come up again and again. The strength of my family was not worn by large, glaring issues, but by small moments of passive aggression. When I called Cognition Builders, I was at wit’s end; and it feels safe to say that the rest of my family was, too. Without any of us realizing it, our conversations had devolved into run downs of the day’s events. We didn’t have meaningful discussions. Instead, we acted like acquaintances who sort-of cared about solving one another’s dilemmas. A typical conversation looked something like this: “how was your day?” “I went to the mall to return that shirt, but I forgot it at home and I had to go all the way back.” “Next time, maybe check the car before you go.” “Yea, maybe.” Whenever we disagreed, an argument always ensued. The cycle repeated itself and none of us knew how to stop it.



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