16-year-old Thadd has been training with Manju since May of 2021, making him one of her very first clients when she opened her Special Strong location in June of that year. Two and a half years later, he knows exactly when his sessions are, and makes a point of being ready for them on time each week.
Thadd was always on a gluten-free, dairy-free, and casein-free diet, but his family noticed that he’d started putting on significant weight. Despite Thadd’s clean diet, his dad Ronnie realized that he could probably benefit from exercise to cleanse his body of toxins, get his body moving, and give him something to work toward.
He’d been involved in baseball when he was younger and had done Special Olympics in school since the 5th grade but hadn’t done anything as scheduled and consistent as he was about to experience with Special Strong. After a year of working with Manju, Thadd had lost 47 pounds. Since then, she’s only tracked his clothing size, which has gone from an XXL to a size medium.
“He’s so agile, confident, and happy,” said Manju. “I don’t need to measure his weight anymore. It’s always been about his confidence and whether he’s happy or not – and we’ve achieved that.”
In addition to the physical transformation, there have been other lasting effects. Thadd is more focused than ever on healthy eating, getting sleep, and exercising regularly – even if there’s a missed day he’ll make an effort to exercise with Manju on Facetime.
She also notes his independence. “He does his schedule and routine on his own when he’s not training with me. After 6 or 8 months, we never had to ask him – he just did it. He knows the day he trains, he’ll remind his dad or mom when his session is.”
That discipline was built in, instilled by a family who’s always had Thadd’s best interests in mind, who knew what cues to give him throughout his life and who can now see how much it’s helping him.
“He has an internal fire, he’s got a tenacity about him. He gets something in his head that he wants to do and he’ll do it – and he’s consistent with that.”
“There are things Manju will tell us that they talk about in training that we’ll need to reinforce or talk with him about at home,” said Ronnie. “We may have an issue surrounding something he saw in the news, and Manju will work on it with him, too. We’re both teaming up with the same message and the same way of working through things with him.”
Ronnie points out the special bond that Thadd and Manju have. It’s a social connection that makes them all feel like part of the same team – like family. Even when Manju is on vacation, she makes a point of checking in with Thadd over Facetime.
“For a lot of parents, it’s disconcerting to let your kids out of your watch or control. Even with therapy, you bond with some people or you don’t. This was that combination of bonding between him and Manju and also letting us know that he was safe with her. That helped us get to the point of really being excited to work with Special Strong and someone like Manju.
“It’s a trust thing. A lot of folks might not do that for their kids because there are trust issues. You really get to bond with who you’re working with – yourself and your child.”
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