Stowell Learning Center

How Retained Reflexes Impact Behavior and Learning

It’s the holidays, and along with the fun comes a whole other set of stressors that may cause already inflexible children (and their families) to miss the magic.

Why Does My Child Act This Way?

A big snowstorm near one airport can cause flight delays and cancellations all over the country.  While people got to their destinations eventually, this causes a great deal of anxiety and disruption to people’s lives, especially during the holidays.sc

Just as air travel is dependent upon an organized system of flight patterns, our nervous system is organized around a system of reflexes.  Primitive reflexes support survival and development in infants, to be replaced with higher-level reflexes as the brain and muscles mature.  Reflexes need to be working properly in order for us to move through life with ease and flow.

When reflexes are not integrated, or working properly, they are like cancelled flights and closed airports, causing disruption, disorganization, and distress to the person’s functioning, attention, learning, and family.

Retained/not integrated reflexes are often at the root of the behavior that causes parents worry and wonder:

Why does my child act this way?

Did you know that:

Bedwetting beyond the age of 5 and sleep problems may be related to a retained Spinal Perez reflex?

A child who hates to wear shoes may have a retained Babinski reflex?

The child who continually drops or knocks things over when he turns his head, may have a retained ATNR (Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex)?

An aggressive, defiant child prone to temper tantrums may have a retained Fear Paralysis Reflex?

An infant with problems nursing may have an inactive Grasping Reflex?

A child who craves sweets and tends to snack rather than eat whole meals may have a retained Moro Reflex?

A student with memory and reading problems may have a retained STNR (Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex).

A student who speaks well but can’t get her thoughts on paper may have a retained ATNR reflex?

A student with poor organizational skills may have an unintegrated Landau Reflex?

The list goes on and on.  It is fascinating to see how everything is connected.  Frustrating or difficult behaviors and challenges with learning are related to something.  They are not about not caring, being unmotivated, bad parenting, or being “bad kids.”  They are related to reflexes and underlying learning/processing skills that are not supporting the person well enough.

The encouraging thing is that these reflexes can be integrated and weak underlying skills can be developed.  When the pathways are open, the brain is available and ready to pay attention, learn, and function properly.

Neuroplasticity research tells us that through targeted and intensive training, the brain can be rewired to process information more effectively.

Do you or your child struggle with dyslexia, reading, spelling, learning or attention?

These challenges can be changed.  While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills and remediating the affected academic areas.  Need to know more??

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

 

“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

Happy Halloween!

hallowI remember going to a “Haunted House” on Halloween when I was in the 6th grade.  At one point, we were given peeled grapes in the dark and told that they were eyeballs.  It was so deliciously creepy!

What is it about that little thrill of fear that is so fun?  Maybe it’s that we get to experience that little adrenaline rush while knowing deep down that the fear is temporary and not real.

Fear causes our senses to elevate to high alert:  Our pupils get large to take in as much light as possible.  Our ears become hyper-sensitive to sound.  Our sense of touch is heightened.  This is survival mode.  When we are afraid, our survival mechanisms kick in.

A little self-induced fright on Halloween is fun, but it is not a state that we want to live in as it is not conducive to communication, learning, or general well-being.

In order to move comfortably through our world and function with ease and flow in our lives, the messages that are coming into the brain and being communicated between the brain and the body need to be clear, complete, and accurate.

At the most basic level, much of the communication flowing between the brain and body via our nervous system happens as a result of reflexes.  Reflexes that are active when not needed or not active when needed, create glitches in that communication.

Unintegrated reflexes, or reflexes that are not working properly, cause stress to our whole system and push us into “fight or flight” mode.  Spending too much time in “fight or flight” when we don’t actually need to be fighting or running for survival, can lead to anxiety, depression, illness, fearfulness, lack of confidence, and a myriad of learning or attention challenges.

Thankfully, we know now from decades of clinical evidence and research that reflexes can be integrated and most learning, attention, and related fearfulness and anxiety issues can be corrected.

Our goal for students is that they become comfortable, independent learners at grade level or at their potential.  This not only involves remediation and development of reading, writing, spelling, language, and/or math skills, but identifying and addressing the weak underlying skills, including unintegrated reflexes, that are causing the student to struggle academically and feel confused or anxious.

Do you or your child struggle with dyslexia, reading, spelling, learning or attention?  These challenges can be changed.  While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills and remediating the affected academic areas.  Need to know more??

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

 

“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

DON’T Get LOST on the First Day of School!

SCHoolI woke up this morning a little bit panicked from a dream I was having about the first day of school.  I was attending a new school that was essentially cabins spread out in a huge area in the woods.  (I know – crazy – but it was a dream)!

My mom was with me and knew where my first class was, so I managed to get through my first class, but I spent the rest of my dream wandering, and then running through the entire campus trying to figure out where I was supposed to go.  I didn’t have a class schedule, couldn’t find the office, and in the end, complete with having run through Poison Ivy, broke down in tears…which woke me up.

My first thought was, that I was thankful it was just a dream.  My second was that I needed to remind parents that if their kids are going to a new school and haven’t gotten on the campus to see the lay of the land, they might need to.

I haven’t experienced Back-to-School Jitters in a long time, but with school just around the corner, I know some students are.  Going to a new school can be overwhelming to some students, especially those who have to change classes for the first time.  Getting even a little bit familiar with the school ahead of time can help make the first few days less intimidating.

Before the first day of school, go to the building. Take a look at it. Where are the entrances? Where is the playground? What can you figure out just by looking at the outside?

Is there a map you can download or get from the school? 

If you can get inside, do some exploring:

  • Where is the lunchroom?
  • Where is the PE area?
  • Where is my classroom?
  • Will I have to change classes? If so, where are the other rooms?
  • Where is the office? (Hint…It’s almost always near the flagpole).
  • Where are the bathrooms?
  • Where is the library?
  • Are there multiple ways to get to all of these rooms?
  • In what order might I need to go from room to room?
  • Take a few pictures so you can remember what it looks like

Getting lost can happen to anyone, but it is more apt to happen to students who struggle. Start the year by removing this anxiety. It’s such a simple thing to fix beforehand, but getting lost during school can ruin a whole day.

Make sure the first few days are fun and not an exercise in frustration.

Do you or your child struggle with dyslexia, learning, or attention challenges?  These challenges can be changed.  While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills that are causing the student to struggle and remediating the affected academic areas.  Need to know more??

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

 

 

“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

“I Want My Son to Love School Again”

sc“I just want my son to love school again,” said a mom at a recent parent information meeting.  She went on to share that the summer before her son began kindergarten, he was so excited about starting school that he asked repeatedly, “Can I start today?”

That’s how learning should feel!  Like an adventure that we just can’t wait to start!

But this boy, who started off so excited, now marks off each day on the calendar until he can get to a day with no school.  He counted down the days to the end of his second grade year in relief.

What saps the excitement out of learning?  The same thing that saps the excitement out of anything – lack of success.

It is hard for parents, friends, relatives, and even some teachers to understand how a smart child can struggle in school.  After all, everyone does it and its not rocket science, right?

But learning requires tools.  Just as a carpenter has sets of specific tools to create and build with, are there whole sets of underlying physical and mental tools that need to be in place in order to learn comfortably and effectively in school. When any of these underlying tools, or learning skills, are weak, it can cause students to have to work harder and longer than expected, and often with lesser results.

Children and teens spend a huge amount of time in school.  Struggling students may find ways to compensate for their challenges, but after awhile, those compensations take their toll in time, effort, energy, attention, and motivation.

A carpenter wouldn’t dream of using a screwdriver to do a job that requires a hammer.  So why would we expect a student to perform in school without the right tools?

I think the real answer to this question is that parents and most educators simply don’t understand what the underlying learning skills are and more importantly that they can be developed.

We tend to accept that students have dyslexia, auditory or visual processing disorders, attention deficits, and learning disabilities, and try to support them and give them “work-arounds,” but you rarely hear people talking about actually correcting these challenges.

However, it is absolutely possible for a smart but struggling student to learn to love school again.  The underlying skills that support learning can be developed.  Like the carpenter, they can access the right tools for the job.

We have worked with thousands of children and adults over the past 30 years, developing the needed underlying learning skills and remediating the affected reading, writing, spelling, or math skills.  We know it’s possible, and the brain research over the past 25 years proves that the brain can literally re-wire.

I remember working with a boy with severe dyslexia and attention challenges when he was in the 3rd grade.  It was not a quick fix – we worked with him from 3rd to 6th grade – but when he went on to junior high, no one could believe that he had struggled in school.  By high school, he was able to play sports and independently handle honors classes.

As an elementary student, Kris hated school and tried to avoid it at all costs, but as his learning skills and reading changed, he found that he actually liked learning!  When I ran into his mom a few years ago, she shared that Kris is an avid student and had just gone back to school for a second maters degree.

We want students to love school again.  And we know that it is possible!

Do you or your child struggle with reading, writing, spelling, math, attention?  These challenges can be changed.  While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills and remediating the affected academic areas.  Ready for a change??

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

 

“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

Brain Break

BikeFrom Break to Meltdown in 30 seconds – How Did that Happen?

At mile 20 of a 21-mile bike ride this weekend, my husband and I stopped to take a little break.  It had gotten warm and we wanted to remove a few layers.  When we started riding again, my legs let me know that “enough is enough” and I thought, “I really don’t want to ride anymore.”

It made me think about a couple of students that we tested recently whose parents reported that their kids try so hard on their homework, but have a terrible time coming back from a break.   In fact, one of the students refused to take a break, saying, “I just won’t do anything after a break.”

You would think that after all their hard work, kids would welcome a break, and I’m sure they do, but when students have dyslexia, learning disabilities, attention deficit, or other struggles in school, the amount of effort, energy, and motivation that they have to muster in order to do the task can be monumental.  Building that back up again after a break can be extremely daunting.

People Need Breaks.  Brains need breaks.

An overloaded brain is less productive, so periodic breaks are necessary for optimal performance, especially if what you are trying to do is as taxing as homework is for many of our struggling students.

As an employer, I’m required to give my staff members breaks.  So how do we give our kids a much-needed break without losing the focus, momentum, or determination that we’ve worked so hard to establish?

Try Building in Brain Breaks

Brain Breaks are not as definitive as a coffee break or a play break, which completely re-routes your focus and energy.  They can be done without ever leaving the homework space and are a quick and easy way to revive attention, mental resources, and energy.  They help students of any age get “unstuck.”

We work with students on recognizing when they need a Brain Break – when they feel too frustrated, sleepy, bored, emotional, or confused – and let them choose a brain break.

Here are some Brain Breaks that we suggest for students:

Five-Count Breath (3 – 5 times)

Student instructions:

  • Inhale slowly through your nose and count to five on your fingers.  Without holding your breath, begin exhaling slowly through your mouth in five counts as you put your fingers back down.

Deep breathing immediately forces oxygen into the brain, which improves thinking and encourages muscles to relax as they are flooded with oxygen-rich blood.

Palming (2-5 minutes)

Student instructions:

  • Warm your hands by rubbing them together briskly.
  • Softly place the heel of your hands gently over your eyes.
  • Keep your neck and back straight; shoulders relaxed. Rest your elbows on the table.
  • Breathe in and out slowly, feeling the warmth and darkness soothe the muscles of your eyes and whole body.

This is an excellent way to rest and refresh the mind and eyes.

Heart Breathing (1-5 minutes)

  • Place your attention on the area around your heart or center of the chest. It helps to put your hand over your heart area.
  • Now pretend to breathe in and out of your heart. Take three slow breaths. (This is called Heart Breathing).
  • Think of someone or something that makes you feel happy, like your mom or dad, your friends, or a special place that you like to visit. Feel that happy feeling in your heart as you do your heart breathing.

This technique is good for reducing anxiety and increasing focus and attention.

 

Brain Gym® PACE (2-5 minutes)

PACEEnergize:  Drink water (especially good for energy, test taking, productivity)

 

Clear:  Brain Buttons (increases clarity for any visual activity, reading, and thinking)PACE1

While holding navel with one hand, rub points just below the collarbone on either side of the sternum.

PACE2

 

Active:  Cross Crawls (activates the brain for reading, writing, and spelling.  Helps students get “unstuck.”)

Touch hand to opposite knee; alternate moving one arm and opposite leg.

 

Positive:  Cook’s Hook-ups  (diffuses stress, establishes positive orientation)PACE3

  1. Cross legs at ankles. Cross arms over chest or intertwine arms/hands as shown).  Sit this way for one minute, eyes closed, breathing deeply.
  1. Uncross legs, and put finger tips together, breathing deeply for another minute

For more information about Brain Gym:  www.braingym.org

 

Arm Swings (5 – 8 cycles)

Student instructions:

  • Stand barefoot with your feet about 12 – 18 inches apart.
  • Loosely swing your upper body and arms from side to side. At the furthest point in the swing, look over your shoulder.
  • Do 5 – 8 left-right cycles.

Breath Stretch (3-5 times)

Student instructions:

  • Breathe in deeply through your nose as you bring your arms up above your head and come up on your toes.
  • Hold for a slow count of 2.
  • Exhale through your mouth as you bring your arms down and come down off your toes.

 

All of us need Brain Breaks once in a while when we are working hard.  Children and teens struggling with attention or learning may need these little breaks more often, as they are exerting much more energy than their peers to do the same task. Building these little brain breaks into your homework or learning session gives students the mental break they need in order to shift into a more productive and resourceful state without the trauma of coming back after a break.

These activities are also very effective to use before going to school, starting homework, or when transitioning from one task to another.

Do you or your child struggle with dyslexia, learning, or attention challenges?  These challenges can be changed.  While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills that are causing the student to struggle and remediating the affected academic areas.  Need to know more?

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

 

“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

22 Simple Strategies for Supporting Students Who Struggle with Learning And Attention

helpParents and Teachers…

Do you need simple strategies that you can implement immediately to help your struggling students?

Do you wish you could help students with ADHD improve their attention?

Then save this date:  November 11, 2015 at 7 – 9 p.m.

Jill Stowell, founder and executive director of Stowell Learning Centers, Inc. will be presenting at the Orange County CHADD meeting, 22 simple, practical strategies that parents and teachers can use to help struggling students improve:

  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Math Facts
  • Memory
  • Comprehension
  • Proofreading
  • Organization
  • Test Study
  • Independence
  • Attention

 

Where:  Stowell Learning Center, Irvine

1150 Main Street,  Suite C

Irvine, CA 91765

Phone:  949-477-4133

 

When:  Wednesday November 11,2015

7 – 9 p.m.

 

Meetings are NO COST and open to the public. You do not have to be a CHADD member to attend.

For more information contact ADHDmeeting@pacbell.net or call 714-490-7022

CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is the nation’s leading non-profit organization for individuals with ADHD, their families and professionals. Over 200 local chapters across the U.S. offer support for individuals, parents, teachers, and professionals. NO COST monthly support group meetings provide a forum for continuing education for parents and professionals interested in learning more about ADHD in children and adults.
For more information about CHADD NATIONAL, please visit: www.chadd.org.
For more information on your Greater Orange County CHADD Chapter, please visit: greaterOCchadd.org CHADD does NOT endorse any one treatment, medication, provider, publication, service or product.

Clinical Openings for our Chino and Irvine Centers!

90We are looking for quick learners who love kids, love working with people, and who want to make a real difference for students who struggle.  We may be looking for YOU!

Clinical Openings for our Chino and Irvine centers:  Clinicians needed to provide specialized one-to-one instruction for students with dyslexia and other learning and attention challenges.

Permanent part-time position with the possibility of full time.  Must love learning, working with people, and being a part of a team.

Requirements:

  • Availability M – TH 2 – 7 and Fridays 1 – 7; Saturday hours desirable
  • Junior level or above in college
  • Interest, experience, or education in psychology, child development, education, speech/language, or compatible field

Due to the extensive training provided we do expect an individual to make a minimum of a one-year commitment, though certainly we would prefer longer.

Stowell Learning Center is a national training center for numerous cutting edge programs for educators and therapists. Clinicians gain the benefit of this highly sought after training and get paid for it!

If you are interested in our clinical staff position, please email your resume and cover letter to:

CHINO:  lorena@learningdisability.com  (Lorena Ghale, Clinical Director)

IRVINE:  briana@learningdisability.com  (Briana Alejo, Interim Clinical Director)

What Does a Meltdown Mean?

GJessie, was a cute 7-year-old girl when she came to work with us at the Learning Center.  But her behavior wasn’t so cute.  In fact, when I think back on her first several sessions, I think of the Charles Schultz character, Pigpen, NOT because she was messy or dirty – far from it – but because she was surrounded by such extreme anxiety and angst.

Jessie was severely dyslexic and had major meltdowns at the first sign of print, a pencil, or paper.

When Jessie left us as a third grader, she was reading at the top of her class.  She was a happy, engaging girl who skipped in and out of her sessions.

So what were those meltdowns all about?

Academic and social success depends upon a solid foundation of cognitive learning skills.  If you think about these skills like a ladder or a continuum, academics and school subjects are at the very top.  Many other skills must be in place in order to learn easily at the top of the ladder.  When the underlying skills, or skills lower on the continuum are weak, they may keep children and adults from learning and functioning as well and as independently as they should.

This can be extremely frustrating to smart kids who can, even at a very young age, look around the classroom and realize that they are not measuring up, no matter how hard they try.

Children experience meltdowns when confronted with schoolwork or homework for various reasons, but in most cases, the problem is related to challenges with underlying learning skills, particularly those at the bottom, or most foundational level of the Learning Skills Continuum – Neurodevelopmental, or Core, Learning skills.

In the first 9 months to 3 ½ years of life, the primitive reflexes that were necessary for birthing and survival as an infant are gradually integrated as more mature motor abilities and higher-level functions in the brain take over.  These neurological connections provide a critical foundation for internal organization and comfortable learning and functioning.  When primitive reflexes are retained, they can cause neurological interference, producing anxiety and causing the person to have to work too hard and less efficiently than would be expected.  This is called neurodevelopmental delay.

Challenges in this area might show up as follows:

  • Poor posture
  • Awkward or uncoordinated
  • Fatigue, low stamina, anxiety
  • Laying on desk
  • Confusion with directions, spatial orientation, letter reversals
  • Hard time getting started or following through
  • Lack of organization – always losing or forgetting things
  • Poor handwriting
  • Can’t sit still
  • Trouble getting self going
  • Operating in “fight or flight”

With stimulation, primitive reflexes can be integrated and more efficient neurological connections can be made, supporting attention, visual skills, spatial orientation, organization, coordination, and stamina.

Jessie had many retained reflexes and experienced a great deal of disorientation and symbol confusion.  With a combination of Core Learning Skills training and specific and sequential reading skills remediation, Jessie absolutely blossomed!  No more meltdowns, no more angst!

I am so thankful everyday, for the dedicated clinical researchers in the field of learning and the brain that have contributed to our understanding of the Learning Skills Continuum.  What a joy to see the amazing transformations that our students get to make as those underlying skills are developed so that they can become the learners they have the potential to be!

Do you have a child, teen, or adult in your life who is struggling with dyslexia, reading, learning, or attention?  Are you ready for a change?  Here’s your next step:

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Teas, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

Parent Education Classes and Registration

Need strategies for helping your child with homework or schoolwork?  Check out these Parent Education Classes held at SLC Chino. For more information and steps to register: click, download and print from the link below!

Parent Education Classes and Registration

Conquering SATs, Test Anxiety, Senior Moments, and Learning Challenges

www.thecollegesolution.com

Tyler was a motivated high school junior, potential Ivy League football player, and solid AP (Advanced Placement) student.  But he was SAT-Challenged!

Jessica was also an excellent student in her junior year in high school, but her test anxiety was so great it could only be controlled with prescription medication.

Cheryl is a 50-something baby-boomer with more and more of those embarrassing “senior moments” that leave her at a loss for names and having trouble finding the words she wants to say.

Ryan is a 12-year old dyslexic learner, bright but struggling to read and write.

As diverse as these four individuals seem, they can all be helped with mental fitness, or cognitive skills, training.

Recent brain research indicates that the brain can continue to grow and change throughout our lifetime.  The kinds of skills needed for

  • Quick thinking and problem solving on the SAT,
  • Relaxed, efficient retrieval of information for tests and Common Core,
  • Sharp memory and thinking as we age, and
  • Overcoming learning challenges are learned cognitive abilities that can be improved with training.

Tyler’s Story:  Conquering the SAT

Tyler was a good student and a good football player.  He was being looked at by scouts from Ivy League colleges.  However, his SAT scores were nothing to brag about and he feared they would keep him out of the college he wanted to attend.

Tyler went to a colleague of mine in Addison, Texas, The Core Learning Group, for help.  After completing a 12-week course in cognitive skills training, his SAT scores improved by 200 points!

The SAT is as much about knowing how to think quickly, problem solve, evaluate, and apply knowledge as it is about knowing the material.  The SAT time limits are the enemy of many test-takers.  Students who do well on the SAT must be able to rapidly make good decisions so they can quickly spot and answer easier questions, leaving more time for the tougher ones.

For Tyler, as with many other college-bound students, the stress and length of the test was enough to compromise his performance.  After completing the program of cognitive training, Tyler had the speed and confidence to overcome these challenges.

Jessica’s Story:  Overcoming Test Anxiety

Jessica, a high school junior, was an A student in advanced placement (AP) classes.  In spite of being a top performer, she had extreme test anxiety that had to be managed with prescription medication.  Her parents really wanted to get her off the medication, but Jessica was afraid to because she “didn’t want to screw up her classes.”

Jessica enrolled in an intensive processing skills program over the summer to boost critical underlying skills for confident, efficient learning including auditory and visual processing, short and long term memory, processing speed, attention, logic and reasoning, visualization, and association.  Many of the activities are done to the beat of a metronome, which enhances processing speed, internal organization, and quick decision-making.  For Jessica, activities were worked on at such a fast pace that she couldn’t afford to split her mental energy with anxiousness.

When Jessica went into AP Calculus the following September and began scoring higher than anyone else in her class on her tests, her classmates began calling her “The Brain.”

Jessica attributes her success to her intensive cognitive training.  It showed her that she could perform without anxiety and gave her the skills to hold numbers and formulas in her head.  She was amazed at how strong her ability to do mental math had become.

Jessica’s parents were thrilled that Jessica developed skills that allowed her another kind of success:  She was able to get off of her anxiety medication!

Cognitive Training for Struggling Students

Students who experience learning challenges, including dyslexia and other learning disabilities, usually have areas of inefficient processing, which are interrupting expected academic development.  In order to make real changes in their learning, we need to explore the underlying skills critical to academic and social success.  These include skills such as:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Processing Speed
  • Auditory processing, language, and communication
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Visual processing
  • Logic and reasoning
  • Internal timing and organization
  • Motor coordination and sensory integration

Weaknesses or inconsistencies in one or more of these areas can cause difficulties with efficient learning.  Consistent, targeted cognitive skills training has consistently been shown to improve students’ underlying thinking/learning processes in order to bring independence and success into the learning process.

Keeping the Brain Fit as We Age

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, awareness of brain health has dramatically increased.  Several outstanding books have been written recently by medical doctors who outline steps for maintaining mental sharpness and treating and preventing neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, and Parkinson’s.   The steps consistently include:

  • Nutrition,
  • Exercise,
  • Sleep,
  • Meditation or relaxation exercises, and
  • Brain Training

The brain is a powerful resource.  At any age, we can stimulate our cognitive skills for more efficient thinking and functioning!

 

Here are a few good resources for further information on brain health:

The Better Brain Book by David Permutter, M.D.

Making a Good Brain Great  by Daniel Amen, M.D.

The Memory Prescription by Gary Small, M.D.

 

The brain, at any age, needs strong underlying learning/processing skills in order to learn comfortably, efficiently and easily.  The brain research over the last 25 years and our experience, as well as that of our colleagues across the U.S. over the last 30 years, has proven that learning and attention challenges can change as a result of intensive, targeted cognitive training.

If you or someone in your life is struggling with memory, attention, or learning and you are ready to make a change…

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

If you’re feeling alone as a parent trying to help your struggling student, we have a FREE parent support group (P.E.A.C.E.) that’s just for you.

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

Homework Blues Already?

nailAt our Parent Information Meeting this week, a parent shared that her son spends 5 hours a night on what should be less than an hour of homework.

Another parent said about their son, who also seems to do nothing but homework once he gets home from school, “We just want him to have his life back!”

When my son was 8, I distinctly remember him saying to me in exasperation, “You don’t know!  That’s not how my teacher says to do it!” 

Even when there are no learning challenges, parents doing homework with their kids can be difficult.  There’s just too much emotion involved and kids know just what buttons to push.  Finding that balance between enough support and giving too much help is tough.

Add in dyslexia, ADHD, or other learning struggles and everything just got 100 times harder.

Students with learning challenges have to expend so much more mental effort than their peers all day long in school to do the job.  It can be mentally and physically exhausting.

When we think about school, we think about reading, writing, math, and subject areas.  But there are whole sets of underlying learning/processing skills that support efficient, easy learning.

  • Sitting still in a chair
  • Paying attention and staying focused
  • Getting all the information when listening
  • Understanding and remembering what is read or heard
  • Coming up with logical responses
  • Organizing information on the page

These things need to be working automatically in order for the brain to be available to learn new information, but they don’t just happen because you’re old enough to go to school.  The ability to do these things automatically is the result of strong, specific underlying skills.

When the underlying skills are weak or inefficient, students may struggle with school and homework in spite of good intelligence.  Kids with learning challenges expend so much effort and energy trying to manage at school, that by the time they get home, they are often mentally exhausted.  They’re done!

And the homework battle begins.

The only way to really stop this cycle is correct the problem…to identify and develop the underlying skills that are causing the problem.  This IS possible!  For more information about underlying learning skills and correcting learning and attention challenges:

 

JOIN US for a Parent Information Night

GO TO www.learningdisability.com for dates, details, and RSVP

Also at www.learningdisability.com sign up for FREE HOMEWORK TIPS

These are simple things that parents can do to support their children and teens with all different aspects of homework.

It’s Fourth of July. Dogs and Sensitive Kids Beware!

fIt’s Fourth of July.  Dogs and Sensitive Kids Beware!

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qMy neighborhood happens to be one of the few in Southern California that allows people to shoot off their own fireworks.  With Fourth of July right around the corner, our evenings are now punctuated with unexpected explosions as people try out their fireworks.

We love Fourth of July in our neighborhood.  It’s such fun to walk around and see everyone out in their front yards enjoying the festivities and fireworks.  But, as many dog owners and parents of sensitive kids know, the noise and suddenness of fireworks can be terrifying.

Why are Some Kids so Sensitive?

Why is it that something that can be so much fun can be so frightening for some people?  Believe it or not, the same underlying processing skills that support efficient learning are also the skills that allow us to adapt to change and perceive and understand what’s happening in our environment.

Survival is basic to human nature.  When we accurately perceive and understand information that we hear, see, and feel with our bodies, we are able to quickly determine if we are safe, even when the input is sudden and unexpected.  We may briefly go into a Fight or Flight state, but quickly adjust as we locate and understand the input.

Kids (or adults) who are not easily and accurately perceiving and understanding the information coming in through their sensory systems may operate in Fight or Flight mode much of the time.  The unexpected noise and light of fireworks can escalate their anxiety and send them into a tailspin.

Preparing for Fourth of July

On of the best ways to reduce or prevent overload and meltdowns on Fourth of July is to be prepared.

  • Talk about this special, exciting day several days in a row leading up to it
  • Draw pictures of fireworks and talk about the bright lights and colors
  • Talk about the exciting sound fireworks make and together mimic the sound with claps and loud noises
  • Look at videos of fireworks on You-Tube
  • Make it seem special and fun, not ominous

Stop the Meltdown Madness

Many children with learning challenges are more sensitive to change, confusion, and overload.  By identifying and developing the underlying processing/learning skills that are weak or inefficient, children and adults can become more settled, flexible, and “comfortable in their own skin.” They can become more efficient and successful learners.

For more information:

JOIN US for a FREE Parent Information Night .  Go to www.learningdisability.com for details and RSVP.

At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities by Jill Stowell

Available at Amazon.com

(Image sources: http://www.friendshipcircle.org; http://www.wildinsights.com.au/Calm-Scared-Pets)

5 Kinds Of Students That Get The Most From A Summer Learning Skills Intensive Program

Next year, struggling students will have more schoolwork than this year, and it will be more difficult. What can be done to prepare struggling students for the new challenges this fall?

“What kinds of students make the greatest gains?” Is it for everyone? Do some get greater gains than others?

Every summer we get students from all over the country (sometimes even from outside the U.S.)  that attend our learning centers for summer intensive programs.  We do have limited space in each center so contact us immediately if you are interested. 

Doing anything for 40 or 60 or 90 intense hours will make some kind of difference. But certain kinds of students make more progress than other students. For the right student, the results are dramatic.

Parents often believe it is miraculous.

In reality it’s just matching the right student to the right protocol using the right resources to strengthen the right skills, which make learning easier.

Based on results of over 25 years of clinicians across the country working with students, here is a brief description of the kinds of students who will make the most progress:

  • Students who are on the verge of a breakthrough
    They have worked hard and are right on the edge of making a big time breakthrough. You can already tell that they are developing the skills that will make school easier next year.But how do you make sure they don’t regress over the summer? And what would it be like if they actually improved their skills over the summer?A summer program can really push them over the hump. It gets them through the transition and starts next year really ready to take on the greater workload.
  • Students who are completely “lost”
    Do you know students who can’t follow directions, are often clumsy, disorganized – in the wrong place at the wrong time without the materials they might need. “Homework? Yes, I think I did it. No, I don’t know where it might be.”What an intensive will give them is grounding. It gives them an organizational starting point…a sense of themselves and others, and a sense focus.Starting school with new and solid foundational skills will make a huge difference for these students.
  • Students who are working too hard
    They may even be getting good grades, but it is simply taking too long and is terribly inefficient…and eventually fatiguing.And one day the work will become too much for their inefficient skills to keep up with.Summer can help them dramatically speed up their processing as well as starting to make new skills automatic.
  • Students who should be doing well but can’t seem to “get it together”
    These are students that have all the “puzzle pieces” but can’t seem to put them together. They look as if it will all come together, but instead it falls apart and they feel as if they are starting all over again.They may look scattered at times but then turn around and have moments of great organization and focus. Then all of a sudden, it’s back to chaos again.Summer sessions can stop the “roller coaster” and bring order to the every day school life in the fall.
  • Students (or parents) who are frustrated with how much EXTRA time school and homework take and how studying longer or harder don’t seem to make a difference
    These are parents who are just staring to question why their child spends more time on homework than other students.At the very beginning of this process, it’s difficult for parents to see that a severe learning problem might be the issue. (“He’s not doing THAT badly. He’ll probably just grow out of it.”)But as students move up, schoolwork and homework struggles just get worse.Summer is the perfect time to begin working on those underlying skills so that the frustration doesn’t continue to build. It stops big trouble before it starts.

For the right student, a summer intensive can be THE single turning point.

Yes, next year CAN be significantly better!

***NOTE: At Stowell Learning Center, we have openings for only 10 summer intensive students at each center.

Want to know more? Join us for a parent information meeting.   Click Here Now 

OR if you are out of the area, Call Us For More Details (909) 598-2482.

Awesome Even on Your Worst Day!

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As a competitive ice skater our daughter, Christy, could be quite hard on herself.  We would say to her, “On your worst day, you skate circles around everyone else.”  I don’t know if it made her feel any better, but it was true.  She was (and still is) a stunning skater, even when she’s having a bad day.

But what if, on your best day, you still fell far below your peers and your potential?

Many parents share with me that their kids are so smart and try so hard, but in spite of all that effort, they fail tests or get low grades anyway.  They and their children are incredibly discouraged.2

If trying harder gets you results, then it’s worth the effort, but for many students with learning and attention challenges, trying harder just ends in disappointment.  All the motivation and effort in the world won’t get you the results you want if you don’t have the skills to do the job.

Getting your double axel is a big deal for an ice skater. It’s one of those really huge, really difficult milestones. At twelve years old, Christy really wanted two things: to get her double axel and to have a pair of Doc Martins (shoes). I certainly wasn’t inclined to buy a hundred-dollar pair of shoes for a girl whose feet were still growing.

But Christy was almost there with her double axel, so close her coach could taste it! One day, he told her he would give her a hundred dollar bill if she would land the double axel right now. Was she motivated? Absolutely! Did she land it? No.

Her coach would never offer her that deal now, since she can practically do a double axel in her sleep, but at the time, she just didn’t quite have the skills. If you don’t have the skills to do the job, it really doesn’t matter how motivated you are.

Just as there are many subskills that are needed to be able to execute a double axel, there is a whole continuum of underlying skills that support easy, efficient learning.  These are skills such as memory, attention, and auditory and visual processing that are not really taught anywhere, but just assumed when kids go to school.  If any of the critical underlying skills, or mental tools, are weak or not supporting the learner well enough, he will likely have to work harder and longer than he should, and often with lesser results.

It’s not fair and it’s frustrating, but thankfully, these underlying skills can be improved – often dramatically or completely.  It’s not a quick and easy fix but then, neither is a double axel.  A double axel is a turning point in a skater’s career.  Strengthening weak underlying processing/learning skills for a student with learning or attention challenges is a turning point in their life.

Resources  (Details at www.learningdisability.com)

Parent Information Night – Understand why your smart child is struggling in school and what can be done to dramatically improve or permanently correct the problem. 

P.E.A.C.E. – monthly Parent Support Group – Be heard, learn, network with other parents.

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Available at Amazon.com

Cyber Monday

Beyond Black Friday…Refreshing Gifts for the Whole Family

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Today is Cyber-Monday.  Apparently, the internet is loaded with amazing deals for the consumer that are available today only!  I can just imagine all those cyber signals pushing and shoving through space to be the very first in line to make their purchase.

I don’t like crowds well enough to participate in Black Friday, but I’m always amazed by the intensity and stress involved, at least for those who get highlighted on the news!

Since we are in the gift-giving season, I thought I’d take the next few weeks to share some gifts for the whole family that won’t break the bank or break your neck in crazed crowds!  In fact, these gifts enhance family life and learning!

Gift #1:  De-Stress

The world has become a pressure cooker with the burden of stress growing daily.  Your mind and emotions are bombarded daily with information that reinforces a perception of just how stressed you should feel.  Science has shown that our health can pay a serious price for our stress.  So can your child’s learning! So, what should you do?

Recent scientific research has proven that you can learn not only to manage your stress, but even to prevent much of it before it happens.

Here is a simple technique to Freeze Frame and change our stress patterns:

  1. Take a time out so that you can temporarily disengage from your thoughts and feelings – especially stressful ones.
  1. Shift your focus to the area around your heart.  Breathe in slowly through your nose and imagine the breath around your heart.  Breathe out through your mouth and imagine the exhale flowing out through your solar plexus (the “pit of your stomach”).  Breath this way several times.
  1. Make a sincere effort to activate a positive feeling.  This can be a genuine feeling of appreciation or care for someone or something in your life.
  1. Ask yourself what would be an efficient, effective attitude or action that would balance and de-stress your system.
  1. Quietly sense any change in perception or feeling and sustain it as long as you can.

 

This technique, developed by the Heartmath organization (www.heartmath.com) is used widely by children and adults and has been a simple and tremendous tool for our students.

Having a learning or attention challenge can be very stressful as students try so hard, yet continually fail to meet the expectations of themselves and others.  The heart-breathing technique can help them shift their feelings of frustration, discouragement, and overwhelm, opening up the mental resources they need to move forward with calm, positive focus.

Do you, your child, or someone you know experience learning or attention challenges?  If so, here is a gift for you.  Come by one of our centers in the month of December and we will give you a copy of Jill Stowell’s book: At Wit’s End, A Parents Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities

 

Go to www.learningdisability.com for other parent/teacher resources.