Solis family
Charles and Conceição Solis won accolades from Vatican for their brain therapies.  
Solis family
Charles and Conceição Solis won accolades from Vatican for their brain therapies.

Charles and Conceição Solis believe God keeps creating us after we’re born. That’s the reason the Medford Catholic couple gives when asked why their therapy for brain damaged children succeeds where others fail. They are founders of REACH Family Institute and St. John Paul II once praised their work.

Charles and Conceição give parents techniques to help their children’s brains develop optimally, especially if there was a problem somewhere along the way — traumatic birth, a car crash, near drowning, autism, dyslexia, attention deficit, epilepsy, cerebral palsy or neglect.

“What they have in common is that something is not going right in the brain,” Charles says.

Ordinarily, the brain increases in organization, helped along as infants kick, crawl, grab and respond to touch, lights, sounds and faces. But some children miss out because of disability or neglect.
Doctors once thought brain damage could not be undone. Charles and Conceição proved them wrong.

Take the case of Leopoldo Vollmer, a Venezuelan boy born without sight, hearing or touch.  

“It was a nightmare scene,” says Christine Marcellus de Vollmer, Leopoldo’s mother. “Our child had been given up for hopeless.”

Then the Vollmers brought their son to the Philadelphia clinic where Charles was working in the mid-1970s and where Conceição came soon after. The therapist-couple would have Leopoldo’s parents shower the boy with sounds and light several times per day, mimicking what all infants go through when they are growing up.

Charles and Conceição also prescribed breathing exercises. The stimuli eventually got through to Leopoldo’s brain, which began changing. He focused his eyes for the first time on a priest dressed in black who had come to visit the family. Expected to die in infancy, the boy lived to age 14 and his family considers his life a blessing.   

“The respect for the creative force God puts into children is very very high in this program,” says Vollmer, now a member of both the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Charles and Conceição, members of Sacred Heart Parish in Medford, traveled to Venezuela in 1983 to help children there.

Eventually, they began making house calls for low-income families who lived in mountain villages. Charles learned then about the transforming powers of parental love; professional therapists just can’t match its healing effects, he says.

After four years, the patient list had soared to 32, with a waiting list of 500. Charles and Conceição decided that what they needed to do was train Venezuelans in their methods. With funding from the Vollmers — heirs to Venezuela’s oldest rum company — they trained hundreds of health professionals, designing courses and recruiting experts. They established 20 local clinics.

It was in 1997 that Charles and Conceição were invited to organize and speak at a Vatican conference on children with brain injuries. They met St. John Paul, who during his own speech cited their work as an extension of the Gospel of Life.

The Venezuela work ended with the arrival of President Hugo Chavez, whose policies slowed the Venezuelan economy so much that charitable funding dried up.

Charles and Conceição had to depart, but some clinics survived.

“I sleep secure knowing that plenty of children in Venezuela are being helped,” Charles says.

Living a gypsy-like life with their daughter, the couple continued work in France and did some service in South Africa. Eventually, they took up steady residence in Medford.  

Charles tells parents that they can observe God’s ingenious plan for human development by observing their newborns. For example, a reflex in the feet up until 10 months puts the toes in just the right postion to crawl. The reflex changes later to accommodate walking.

“It’s such a beautiful thing,” Charles says.

Charles and Conceição ask parents to put their children through physical routines: crawling, walking the balance beam, swinging on a hammock. “When we move we use almost all our other abilities,” Charles says. Firing senses get the brain’s biochemistry flowing.

Treatment includes eating good foods, enhancing breathing and handling allergies.  

It was not until 1997 that scientists agreed that the brain had plasticity — it could advance and grow. “The brain can change at any age if you know the laws that govern development and you use them correctly,” Charles says.

Charles and Conceição’s daughter attended Notre Dame. Now 33, she gave up a job at the University of Chicago to be a full-time mother. She uses her parents’ methods and her 1-year-old is advancing rapidly.

“All kids have that same potential,” Charles says. “All we need to do is give them those opportunities. That is the message we are desperately trying to get out to the world.”