GLENN DOMAN’S LEGACY: Glenn Doman took Temple Fay’s brilliant ideas and made them into practical methods.



As a young physical therapist, Glenn Doman had the opportunity to work under the brilliant neurosurgeon, Dr. Temple Fay. Fay held the chair of Neurosurgery and Neurology at Temple University Medical School. In the book What To Do About Your Brain Injured Child (1990), Glenn explains how he met Dr. Fay. He explains how Fay became his mentor, and how they went into private practice together after the war. Fay was decades and decades ahead of the other “experts” in the field of neuroscience. As his student, Glenn took Fay’s ideas and made them into practical methods. He then taught these methods to parents so they could apply the information for the betterment of their children with special needs and brain injury.

Glenn never failed to give credit to Fay for his brilliance and for laying the foundation for what became the field of Child Brain Development and the Doman Method. Many of the vital principles of brain growth and development which are explained in the What To Do About Your Brain-Injured Child book and the Doman Method Course: From Special Needs to Wellness came from Dr. Fay. 


Dr. Fay taught “First there was a need, and then there was a facility. Nature is an opportunist. Can you blame her for wanting to put words to song and not merely sounds to tone?” (Fit Baby, Smart Baby Your Baby p97). Fay took this principle of neurophysiology and turned it to poetry. It means that for anything to happen, first there must be a need for it to happen. 

As a negative example of this principle, there are institutions around the world where hundreds of thousands of special needs children and adults are warehoused. No parent puts a child or adult with brain injury into an institution happily. It happens because parents are told by authorities that the child is hopeless. There is nothing parents can do. So they put the child in an institution. Or parents become too old to be able to take care of the child or they pass away. Thus the child, young adult, or adult ends up in an institution. Nothing could be worse for such innocent people. 

In the institution, there are people that feed the child, move them around in wheelchairs, clean them, and take care of them. Inadvertently, these well-intentioned individuals are stealing the needs from the child or the adult. The child doesn’t need to feed himself, dress himself, or do many things that are being done for him. In many cases, if he was given time to do these things himself he may well eventually become independent at feeding himself or dressing or moving. 

As a university student, I had the opportunity to study and live with native peoples in the Chocó River Valley in Colombia, South America. Hundreds of years ago these native Africans escaped slavery and created communities on the Chocó River where they would be free. When I lived with them in the early 1970’s, I saw a child who was perhaps 11 or 12. He had Down Syndrome. This child with Down Syndrome looked different from the many children I had seen with Down Syndrome in the past -- and I had seen many observing the families that came to my see my father for treatment. This child was very advanced in his development. He had chores and responsibilities in his family. I do not know if the family was even aware that he had a genetic abnormality. But it was clear they had expected him to grow up like the other children and do all the things other children did. The parents had expected him to fulfill his needs exactly as an average child would. He appeared to me to be pretty average. 

I thought if he had been born into a wealthy family in the United States he probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as high in his capabilities. In the US he would be considered to have a “serious” developmental problem and would have needed “help”. His needs would have been taken away from him and he would have never had the chance to develop normally. Not so for this child, born to a fisherman. 


This principle is a key principle for the development of mobility for children with brain injury. If a child is three years old and cannot crawl on the floor, the chances are good that they have been carried around their house for three years. The parents take the Doman Method Course From Special Needs to Wellness. They learn about the inclined floor and how it helps children begin the process of crawling. They learn about the Immobility to Mobility Program. They learn about patterning. When they go home to do these programs they need to know that first, they have to create a need for the child to crawl. From the child’s standpoint, there was no reason to crawl before. Now, parents provide needs to the child to move, move and move. For example, parents wait at the bottom of the inclined floor and encourage the child to join them. When the child crawls down the parent's hug and kisses the child and dance around the room with the child. The child is thrilled. This is a new game. The child thinks, “I crawl and parents make all these wonderful things happen.”


This principle works for language development. Children who do not talk often understand very well. We, adults, tend to get into the habit of talking for the child. We might ask, “Would you like something to drink?” The child cannot say “yes.” So we answer for the child. “You must be thirsty I will get you something to drink.” And then we get him something to drink. The child doesn't need to talk because the child knows that eventually, we will answer for him. If we adults were more patient and asked: “Would you like something to drink?”, and then we maintained eye contact with the child and patiently waited for a response, the child may make a noise. It may mean yes or no. But the child had a need to respond. By repeating that process eventually, we will understand what the sound means. Now, the child has his first word! 

This principle works for manual development. We have seen dozens and dozens of severely brain-injured children who learn to grasp objects for the first time as a result of our Breathing Enhancement Pack. The pack is held in place on the patient’s face with an elastic cord. The pack creates deep breathing. Usually, the patient will wear it for no more than 60 seconds. But they may start to breathe deeply at 45 seconds. This creates a need for them to remove the pack. And so they work to get their hands to the plastic and pull it off their face. Parents explain to the child not to do this. But luckily we have created a need for the child and he has learned to remove the mask for his own comfort. For the first time in his life, he can reach out and grab something. Wonderful. 

Intellectual and social development can also be speeded by creating intellectual and social needs for our children with brain injury. In many ways, it was Glenn Doman who kept Temple Fay’s legacy alive. During his entire lifetime, Glenn kept the world aware of Fay and his brilliant work. Fay was a very well respected published, scientific researcher. He published many articles in famous medical journals. The day will come when some famous neuroscientist or medical doctor discovers Fay’s articles and realizes the brilliance of his work and how far ahead of his time he was. 

Can you imagine if the parents for all children with special needs were taught this principle? If they knew from the time their child was diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental condition that they needed to provide needs to their child, imagine the difference it would make positively for the child’s development and life. Just this principle alone could greatly improve the quality of life of special needs children. It would also save social services millions and millions of dollars a year. 

“First there must be a need, then there will be a facility.” Wise words from a genius.

Douglas DomanComment