Interview With Matthew Newell, Director of the Family Hope Center
© Article, images, videos and all other material courtesy of The Brain Possible
Matthew Newell has dedicated his life to helping children and adults with special needs and brain injuries since 1981. For more than 35 years Matthew has created neurodevelopment programs internationally, working with parents and specialists from more than 34 countries. He has helped and educated well over 15,000 families. After spending twenty years creating and managing development programs for an international clinic for brain-injured children, Matthew believed that integrating new advances in brain development were the keys to a child’s successful neurological growth and development. In 2002, he co-founded the Family Hope Center with Carol his wife, and brought together a team of physicians and clinicians to help teach, guide, and support parents in helping develop their children. Matthew notes,
“There’s a secret ingredient that is built into a family, that when surrounded by the love they share, plus an approach that is brain directed, it creates some pretty significant changes in children.”
The Brain Possible Founder and CEO, Emily Abbott, recently interviewed Matthew Newell about the Family Hope Center and how it serves as a holistic and knowledgeable international resource center for healing children with atypical neurological conditions.
Emily has first-hand experience with the Family Hope Center, as the center served as a source of support for Emily’s son, Carter Abbott, who passed away at the age of 20 months old. Emily explains how much the center helped her and her family.
“The Family Hope Center provided us with a light in the darkness so to speak. We heard about them from dear friends of ours who are fierce mama and papa warriors and advocates. They try all of the best treatment modalities and are known not to leave any stone unturned in their research to support and heal their son with cerebral palsy, so we were inclined to listen to their recommendation. Before the team at the Family Hope Center will even see your child to create and recommend anything for them, it is required that the parents attend their parent training course.
We flew across the country and figured out how to make it work to attend their course for three days without our son. We learned the basics of brain development and how and why developmental milestones either happen or not. We learned how if something is skipped in the process, it affects your child and their vitality and spectrum of abilities that are possible. It was extremely useful for us to have a crash course in creating routines and a home environment to nourish our son’s senses, physical and physiological processes, and emotional and cognitive self. When we went home, I threw out the things that were not serving us and our son’s healing and development and brought in new tools, created new habits and routines, and recipes that would help him heal. It’s a fantastic course that I honestly think is useful for any parent, whether their child is well or not.”
Emily’s interview with Matthew:
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I started thinking about working with the brain when I was about 22-23 years old. I was studying exercise physiology and exercise science. I got the opportunity to work in the University hospital and in the clinics to help out the different therapists, and as I started doing that, I spent time in the clinic, and I began to see more and more adults who were coming in after a stroke, with Parkinson’s, and with TBIs, and I gravitated toward helping them.
I then decided to get into Occupational Therapy and then moved into brain development and worked at an organization that specializes in helping families understand the brain and implementing a therapeutic approach to supporting that. That was the Institute for Human Potential, run by Glenn Doman, who was a protege of Temple Fay. Fay was the first one to say, “If you’re going to heal the brain, you need to know what normal is, and you have to duplicate normality with the hurt child.”
For example, if you’re dealing with a child who has blindness, you have to go back to the lower levels of the brain and create a light reflex. You have to start where a kid has an ability, and build on that ability rather than trying to manage a disability. Temple Fay said you have to duplicate wellness first.
I became the Clinical Director at the Institute at the age of 35, managing thousands of children. I got the opportunity to be around some really smart people, and these people had been in the field before me for 25 years, so I took the opportunity to learn as much as I could from them. I got to learn so much from a lot of the masters.
Eventually, I knew I had to be teaching people what I know so that none of us are holding information and data. I realized you have to teach the parent in order to teach the child. There is a synergy between the parent and the child, and there is healing that goes on because the parent and child trust each other. There’s a secret thing that is built into a family, that when surrounded by that love, plus an approach that is brain directed creates some pretty significant changes in children. I thought to myself, “I should be able to partner with a parent to help their child.”
I met my wife Carol at the Institute, and we have three children together. We wanted to start the Family Hope Center because we really wanted to get bigger. This is where we brought in hyperbarics, neurofeedback, infant reflexes, and a lot of auditory programs. I studied Chinese medicine and acupuncture and got certified in craniosacral work.
We wanted to do this out of joy as opposed to obligation. I do feel responsible about the ability to give parents a protocol that fast-tracks the healing process for the child. We started FHC in 2002, and we can’t wait to get up every day and engage with the kids.
We travel four or five months a year to different countries to heal kids there. Most families with kids on the autism spectrum, for example, can’t endure a flight to the U.S. Our first objective is to teach, support, and guide parents to significantly heal the brain of a child, so that new abilities suited to the child’s current level can be achieved.
Can you share about your parent training and what kind of conditions you see?
The 3-day parent training was born out of our intense desire to teach the parents — this is how the brain works — and if you understand it, you will understand your child better. We want to teach parents to teach the brain and map the brain. We see kids with ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, Down syndrome, kids who are blind, deaf, and paralyzed, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, even dementia in grandparents. Every single diagnosis that is brain-related, we are in.
The thing we want parents to realize over the course of the 3 days is that no child really has the disorder – they just have a disorganized region on the brain.
Can you break down what happens during the 3-day workshop?
Day 1 — Mapping the brain. Kids who have been told they have a lifelong condition that’s creating 1000s of seizures every month — we look at it physiologically. The whole first day is mapping the brain. The brain is injured, here is the extent, and then my child’s brain appears. Kids are not a collection of symptoms and disabilities. They have a brain, it got hurt, and here’s the extent and degree to which they are injured.
Day 2 — This day is focused on the question, “How does the brain grow?” We also teach nutrition. How can we change the chemistry of the brain through food? There are certain ways you can really upgrade the brain through food. We teach nutrition, and then from the middle of the second day, then we move on to how successful families work together because we don’t want couples to end in divorce. There is a greater percentage of parents with hurt kids who wind up divorced. The parents love each other, but this existential experience just makes things collapse.
Day 3 — Now what do you do? The brain will begin to respond and begin to change. To the degree that you can be more effective as a parent because you understand how the system works, you win. I’m actually growing brain tissue as opposed to managing this oppositional behavior. Kids don’t want to be oppositional and hyperactive. We all wanted to be accepted and appreciated. When you have a brain injury, you struggle to live up to everybody’s expectations. If the parents know it’s the hard drive and not really the kid, then he/she can breathe.
Our results are 300% better than the national average of outpatient clinics because we coach the parents. We are like life coaches for the brain.
We try to teach the parents to step into their child’s brain and communicate with us every month because we care. Intention leads to attention. Parents want to be really good at it, so we partner with them for no additional fee. We can also help parents via Skype and Zoom, so they don’t have to spend money on airfare, etc.
We understand parents are coming in stressed and from multiple different languages and cultures. We look at the parents’ mental health and arrange every day with high-quality food, time to breathe, time for questions, and we show people what they can do in a practical way to go and heal their child.
Over 85% of the people after parent training tell me that they came into this as a skeptic but want to work together with us to help their child. We want to put parents in the driver’s seat and be their GPS. We always strive to learn better ways to communicate and teach the info so parents can feel empowered.
If I can’t get a parent to see their child, somehow I have missed the mark.
How did you come up with the name Family Hope Center?
We called it the Family Hope Center because a mother told us that’s what we should call it. I initially wanted to call it The Institute for Neurological Organization. This particular mother convinced me that we had to call it something else. She said, “You gave my family hope.” My child was blind and couldn’t read or walk, and then 4 years later, after your training, he could do both and he had bonded with us. So it needs to be called the Family Hope Center.
The thing is, when the child begins to change, the parents get more healthy. And the siblings get healthier, too. When they see their parents unequally dividing their time but lovingly supporting everybody, they become more secure. They now understand why their brother has a seizure or is oppositional, etc. Instead of being in fear, they get to engage.
We go to the root and figure out where the injury is, and by organizing that area of the brain, we can heal that child.
This video features stories of two families who attended the 3-day parent training course.
You can find more information about the Family Hope Center on their website. You can also purchase the parent training course online on their website. To hear more of Emily’s interview with Matthew Newell, please tune in to The Brain Possible podcast.
Courtesy of © The Brain Possible