Glenn Doman: He Listened to Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Glenn Doman Listened to Parents of Children with Special Needs

As a young physical therapist, Glenn Doman had a unique and rare experience for a professional. The doctors he worked with thought it would be a wise idea for each member of their rehabilitation team to spend an entire day living with a family with a child who had suffered a brain injury. This was considered a wild and radical idea at the time.


After each professional spent a day with a family and child with special needs, they met to discuss what they had observed and learned. The doctors were discussing the mother with whom Glenn had spent the day. He noticed that what the doctors were saying about her was all wrong. Being a junior member of the team and only a physical therapist, Glenn spoke up and said, “But this mother said that ....”. Glenn looked around the room and saw all the doctors looking dismayed. This is the moment that he learned from his colleagues that it’s a “waste of time” to listen to parents.

He didn’t agree. He had spent the day with the mother, and she was a very sensible person. He learned many important things from her about her child. The experience was very valuable and he never forgot it.


He often spoke of a very good friend who was an adult with severe cerebral palsy and athetosis. More than sixty years ago, Glenn had determined that these people had an injury in the midbrain, a part of the brain. They are characterized with symptoms of speaking in a monotone. Because of their respiratory problems they are always struggling to have enough air to speak and run out of breath when speaking. If they can walk, which is rare, they do so with chaotic movements of their arms, legs, and torso. As a result, people who are ignorant about their condition may consider them stupid or maybe drunk.

Since they are often not injured in the cortex, their intelligence is not impaired. While a stranger who is ignorant may consider them unintelligent, it is very possible the person with cerebral palsy might have a higher IQ than they do! The friend of my fathers was an adult and sold newspapers. He owned several newsstands throughout the city and was a successful businessman. Glenn Doman not only listened to parents of children with special needs, he listened to people with brain injury to better understand how he could help them.

My father was invited to a professional conference about athetosis. He knew the mindset most professionals had when listening to parents and people with brain injury. He thought it would be enlightening for the professionals to actually listen to someone with athetosis. His friend was happy to speak despite his considerable problems with speech. When the time came for Glenn’s friend to speak, he stood up and with difficulty he projected his voice and held a book over his head. The book shook because of his chaotic movements. He said, “Is this book a good book or a bad book?”. The professionals looked puzzled. He repeated, “Is this a good book or a bad book?” The professionals in the room were mystified. He was sending a clear message to all of them -- don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Some of the audience understood the message and other’s didn’t. Many of them saw a disabled man, when he was a wise and successful entrepenuer. Glenn said it was one of the best speeches he had ever seen.

Glenn Doman incorporated into his philosophy to listen to parents, they are the world’s leading experts in their own children. He also learned to listen to children and adults with brain injury.


In my own experience of more than four decades, I have had many “Aha!” moments while listening to parents. It is patently obvious that if you want to learn about the child, you need to talk to the child’s parents. They have lived with the child the child’s entire life.

It’s a basic philosophy of the Doman Method that we operate as a team. The team is composed of parents who know the child best and the staff of Doman International who know how to develop the child cognitively  physically, and socially better than anyone else.


As a result of Glenn Doman’s listening to parents, we have learned that the top priority is supporting parents. Parents want answers to their questions. They want solutions for their child’s problems. Our responsibility is to listen to them and provide the services the parents want and need.

It is essential for all our parents that when they have any doubts or concerns the very first thing they should do is to call or write their staff coach. This is what we do, we listen to and support our parents. We tell them -- pick up the phone or write us via email or text message. We are here for you.

In Glenn’s book What To Do About Your Brain Injured Child, and in our Doman Method Course: From Special Needs to Wellness we teach parents that they are the answer for the problems of their children with special needs. Knowing that parents are the solution comes from our experience of listening directly to parents.

We look forward to listening to you too.

Douglas Doman