Family starts business for children with neurological disorders

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COLUMBIA - Carolyn and Todd Pridemore were inspired to open the Brain Balance Achievement Center of Columbia in early September by their son, Andrew.

"He would reach his hands up into his hair and start to yank out handfuls of hair," Carolyn said. " He started saying that he wanted to die. That he was a weirdo and he didn't have any friends. All of these things were signs that something was terribly wrong. We knew we had to do something."

Andrew was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at the age of eight. After noticing more symptoms and looking into further diagnostic methods, the Pridemores learned Andrew also has Aspergers Syndrome. 

After seeking extensive treatments, the Pridmore's noticed they were constantly being told their son had different issues without being given hope or a solution.

Although she did not want to put Andrew on medication, Pridemore was one day away from breaking down and getting a prescription when Andrew's teacher called to tell her about the Brain Balance Achievement Centers. 

In a final attempt to help their son, the Pridemore's travelled to Overland Park, Kansas where the closest Brain Balance center was located.

"I was horribly cynical," Pridemore said. "I walked in, and I told them,""I really can't get my hopes up again because they've been bashed so many times, but I don't have anywhere else to go.""

The first difference Pridemore said she saw in Brain Balance's approach to treating Andrew was providing an explanation for his behavior. Pridemore said it was the first time she was being told what was causing her son's behavior with a plan of action to treat it.

After six months in the program, the Pridemore's said they saw drastic changes in Andrew.

"Within a matter of weeks we were getting emails from his teacher about all of the cool things he was doing and all of the changes in behaviors she was seeing," Pridemore said. 

However, one of the biggest moments Pridemore recalls is when she took Andrew for a check-up with his physician who had previously told the family a list of things he would not be able to do because of Aspergers. Andrew's physician was shocked with his progress.

"It was really overwhelming to sense that there was hope for our family when, for so long, we hadn't had any," Pridemore said. 

That sense of hope, and wanting to spread it to other families led the Pridemore's to open a center in Columbia. 

Initially they were denied due to the Columbia's size, but the Pridemore's refused to give up. They flew to the company's headquarters in California and continued to push through barriers until plans were put into action to open a center in Columbia.  

Todd Pridemore said he isn't a risk-taker. He said he's logical and likes structure, so this act of passion was out of character. 

"We joke that if we just wanted to open a franchise we would've opened a Chipotle," Todd said. "This is much more than a business. This is a ministry."

For the Pridemore's, the balance of running a business with wanting to help can be a little bit tricky.

"I just want to tell everyone about Brain Balance and what it's done for my family," Carolyn said. "I want to tell everyone whose child is suffering about all of the ways the center can help, but I don't want to sound like I am simply promoting my own business."

The Pridemores said they are curious to see attendance numbers in the coming months. For the couple, numbers are less about money and more about how many children are receiving help.