Stowell Learning Center

Why isn’t EVERYBODY Talking about Auditory Processing?

kghI am continually astounded when I hear from many speech/language therapists and reading specialists that they know little to nothing about auditory processing.  How can that be when auditory processing is the very foundation of language and reading?

Skills like speaking, reading, and other academic skills are like the branches and leaves of a tree.  They are the most obvious, noticeable part.  But a tree will not survive without a good root system and trunk to carry the nutrients.

Learning of any kind also needs a “root system” and truck.  The information coming in through the senses has to be perceived, processed, and organized correctly in order to use it for learning.  In the case of both language and reading, the root system or foundation is auditory processing.

It’s Hard to Get the Message When

You Have A Bad Connection

Perhaps the best way to understand the ramifications of an auditory processing problem is to think about what it is like to be in an important conversation with a bad cell phone connection. You find yourself having to listen extremely hard, and any extra noise around you becomes irritating and hard to block out.

Because the signal is not clear, you miss part of what the speaker is saying and you find yourself saying, “What did you say?” and struggling to fill-in the gaps.

You’re not exactly sure what the speaker said, but you don’t want to sound stupid or uninterested, so you make what you think is an appropriate response. Oops! That backfired. Now you have to explain about the bad connection and why you misinterpreted what they said and made an “off-the-wall” response.

You don’t quite understand the speaker, yet when you have a clear connection, you have no problem with comprehension.

It’s taking so much energy to keep up with this conversation, that you find your attention drifting. You’re feeling distracted and frustrated, and important or not, you just want to get off the phone!

Luckily for cell phone users, the way to a better connection is to hang-up and try again.

But for students with auditory processing challenges, this is life.  Poor or inconsistent auditory input can affect, among other things:

  • Listening
  • Following directions
  • Comprehension
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Articulation and pronunciation
  • Vocabulary
  • Conversation and social skills
  • Intonation and verbal expression
  • Sense of well-being.

Children and adults with auditory processing challenges may find listening exhausting and simply cannot keep it up for long.  As a result they may look unmotivated or like they have attention deficit. They may feel lost and anxious.

Reading and spelling have a direct correlation to phonological awareness – the auditory processing skill that allows the person to think about the number, order, and identity of sounds inside of words and the sound groupings that make up common patterns in the language.

When students are struggling to speak clearly and accurately, use appropriate intonation, express themselves verbally, read, spell, or comprehend, the first place to explore is the auditory processing.

Remediation of specific speech, language, and reading skills is important, but if the underlying processing/learning skills that are causing the problem are not being addressed as well, the student will most likely never become as efficient and comfortable a learner as he could be.

Brain and clinical research and our experience with thousands of children and adults with learning challenges over the last 30 years proves that auditory processing can be developed.  Students do not have to continue to struggle with speech, language, reading, and learning problems.

The key is addressing the underlying learning/processing skills so that the brain gets the information that it needs to think with.  Then, remediation of reading, spelling, speech, language or other academic areas will be effective and lasting.

Does your child struggle with reading, attention, or learning?  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 targeted brain training and academic remediation.  For more information:

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

Go to www.learningdisability.com for details and RSVP.

 

 

“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

ADHD or APD?

girCould Your Child’s “ADHD” actually be an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Does this describe your child?

  • Struggles to focus in a noisy environment
  • Trouble paying attention in class
  • Zones out in conversations
  • Has difficulty following directions
  • Fidgety and easily distracted
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Social, emotional, or behavioral problems
  • Lower academic performance

Sounds like ADHD, right?  But what if it’s not? 

Auditory processing is one of the many underlying learning/processing skills that are critical to learning and functioning efficiently at one’s potential.  When any of these underlying skills are weak, it can stress the attention system, mimicking ADHD.

This is particularly true with auditory processing problems.  Unfortunately, this causes many students to be misdiagnosed and not get the kind of help they really need.

An auditory processing problem is not a hearing problem.  There is nothing wrong with the ears.  But something is lost in translation.  Remember the Peanuts cartoon character who heard “Whaa Whaa Whaa” whenever the teacher spoke?  I had a student actually tell me that was what it was like for him when he tried to listen.

Auditory processing is how the brain perceives and thinks about the information coming in through the ears.  When the brain is not processing the information clearly and completely, it may be like having a bad cell phone connection.  The person is getting some of the information, but not all, so he is constantly trying to connect the dots.  He has to put an excessive amount of energy into listening and often the information does not quite make sense.

Result:  exhaustion, loss of attention, irritability or anxiousness, and confusion.

These students may spend a great deal of time feeling lost, insecure, and disconnected.  In spite of being bright and capable, they may show comprehension problems and trouble retaining information.  (Don’t we all, when we’re confused)!

Auditory Processing Challenges Can Be Corrected

Sara was pegged as having ADHD because she was constantly fiddling with things on her desk and staring straight through the teacher.  When it was time to start working, she always had to ask, “What were we supposed to do?”

Sara actually had an auditory processing problem. She started out everyday sitting tall and trying very hard to listen, but what she was hearing was spotty and inconsistent, She tried to fill-in the gaps, but pretty soon, it just didn’t make sense and she couldn’t keep her attention on it anymore.

Sara went through a program of Auditory Stimulation and Training to increase her auditory processing skills. Now, she is able to listen to her teacher and her friends without getting exhausted and missing information. She no longer feels lost and anxious and is able to be the good student she always tried to be.

Most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected.  The first step is identifying the real cause of the problem.  This almost always lies in the underlying learning/processing skills.  When any of these foundational skills (such as auditory processing) are weak, it can cause students to have to work harder, longer, and less successfully than they should.  These underlying skills can be developed.

If your child is struggling with attention or learning and you are ready for a real change…here is your next step:

JOIN US for a FREE Parent Information Night.

Learn what’s going on when bright kids struggle in school and what can be done to change that.

Click here for details and RSVP: Parent Info Night

 

“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

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

What Happens When the Wrong Thing Works?

hckeyJuly is the month of summer camps and growing up, our kids were no exception.  One summer, we went to Penticton, British Columbia so that our son, Kevin, could attend a one-week ice hockey camp.

We were really fortunate that an NHL professional player, Ray Ferraro, had brought his son to the camp the same week.  Even better was the fact that Ray’s son and our son were both goalies.  That meant my husband and Ray got to spend every afternoon in the stands together as hockey dads.

Later that week, Ray went on the ice and took some shots on Kevin. Overall he was pretty impressed with our kid (it sure made us feel good).

But then he said this, “Kevin used some moves that aren’t good, and the worst thing about it is when he used them, they worked.  But when I see a goalie do what he did, I’ll beat him every time.”

Because the moves worked in that moment, he was bound to repeat them, thinking these were the right ways to play the position.  But experienced players could tell it was just a matter of time before his game would collapse.

Fortunately, he made the right changes and had a very good “career” as a goalie.

This very same pattern occurs with students with learning challenges.  They have to find a way to survive in school and often develop coping strategies that help them get by, but don’t actually further their ability to be independent and successful learners.

I remember one very bright high school student, Alan, who had quite a serious auditory processing problems and read at a 6th grade level.  Now, 6th grade level is enough to slide by with a lot of extra effort, but it simply wasn’t going to be enough to get him through his honors classes, or into college as the pre-med student he wanted to be.

Alan’s weak auditory processing skills caused him to become extremely sleepy in class (a symptom of system overload) and he missed a tremendous amount of information from lectures.

Alan’s survival solution to these problems was to let girls who were good at Language Arts and History copy his math homework in exchange for them writing his essays.  And it worked!  For most of his high school career, no one knew that he was really struggling.

Unfortunately, the closer he got to college entrance exams and applications, the more evident it became that his skills were not going to cut it.

Thankfully, Alan’s parents recognized the problem in time to get him the help he needed to correct the auditory processing challenges that were affecting his listening and reading.  Alan did go on to Columbia University as a pre-med major.  He has since changed his focus to physical therapy by his own choice and not because his skills couldn’t support his goals.

It is a very common belief that if you have a learning or attention challenge, you just have to try harder, be more motivated, and find ways to work around your challenges.  The creative ways of coping with their challenges may work for a while, but are simply not a long term recipe for success.

The brain research over the last 25 years and our experience with thousands of children and adults with learning challenges proves that the underlying skills (such as auditory processing) that support efficient learning can be developed, paving the way for true and permanent remediation of reading disabilities and other academic struggles.

Do you or your child struggle with speaking, reading, 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

Is Schoolwork an Endless Struggle?

When school is not going well, parents look to tutoring as a solution. But tutoring isn’t a solution. It’s a temporary band-aid that covers up a deeper problem. And very often, it doesn’t even do that.

While uninformed teachers and tutors continue to spread the myth that you just have to learn to live with learning challenges, the last 25 years of brain research say something very different.

And what science tell us is this:

With the help of specific and intensive cognitive training, most learning challenges can be dramatically improved and even permanently corrected.

That’s why at Stowell Learning Center, we don’t just tutor. We get to the root of the problem.

We work to ELIMINATE learning challenges.

girl dislike hw Thanks to recent scientific breakthroughs in brain research,  we have developed clinical, evidence-based programs that fix  underdeveloped and weak processing skills by re-training the  brain to form new neuro-pathways.

 Our programs have helped more than 4,000 children and  parents dramatically improve and even permanently correct  learning challenges, including:

-ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia
-Auditory Processing Disorders
-Poor reading, comprehension, and spelling
-Math and dyscalculia
-Weak critical thinking and organization skills
-Autism spectrum disorders and Asperger’s Syndrome

“Braden must be one of your greatest success stories!
Last year his teachers said he’d never get an A. This year he has all As and Bs.”
~Parent of a 6th Grader 

Is this program the right fit for your child? Enter your email below for a FREE assessment checklist

The truth about learning challenges:

Learning is all about processing incoming information – whether it’s a toddler picking up a cracker and finding out that it breaks in his hand or a 12th grader doing calculus.

handwriting

Comfortable, easy learning requires strong underlying learning skills like body awareness and control, attention, memory, auditory and visual processing, language comprehension, and logic and reasoning.

Learning problems are very broad. They appear different in different kids, but the one thing they all have in common is this:

Something is breaking down in the student’s ability to process information. 

Children who struggle in school typically have real strengths and weaknesses within their underlying learning skills. Since different types of tasks or activities are supported by different sets of learning skills, these students often show perplexing inconsistencies in their performance.

Here are some students we’ve met:

Sam knows all the baseball stats but can’t memorize his math facts. Keely is a smart and savvy soccer player but gets poor grades on tests. Casey is witty and clever, but can’t follow 3 directions.Michael excels in math but reads slowly and laboriously.

Sometimes, students with learning challenges appear lazy and unmotivated, when really they’re smart, hardworking, and struggling!

“Corey is a different kid. He’s out of special education and getting all As and Bs on his own. He’s in the top core group and on two sports teams at school. He always goes right in and does his homework right away. He reads all the time. We know he could never have done it without help from you. I get goosebumps just talking about it.”
 ~Parent of a 9th Grader 

Is this program the right fit for your child? Enter your email below to receive a FREE assessment checklist

How does the Stowell approach differ from tutoring?

Most schools and tutoring focus on what a student learns, including academic skills and school subjects. We focus on how a student learns. In other words, we work on repairing and building the skills every student needs to learn efficiently and independently.

The bottom three rungs of the “learning ladder” are categories of skills upon which school and tutoring depend.

chart

 Developmental Learning Skills: These are basic  visual and motor skills that help children develop a  sense of self, internal organization, and body and  attention awareness and control. Challenges in this  area might show up as follows:

 -Poor posture, awkward or uncoordinated
-Fatigue, low stamina
-Confusion with directions, spatial orientation, letter reversals

Processing Skills: These are skills such as attention, memory, auditory and visual processing (how we think about and understand things that we see or hear), processing speed, language comprehension, and phonemic awareness (the thinking process critical to reading that supports learning and using phonics). Problems in this area will show up as:
Drawing (2)

-Trouble sounding out words
-Difficulty memorizing spelling words or math facts
-Can’t remember or understand what was read
-Tired when listening, misses information
-Trouble with visual organization in charts, etc.
-Can do the work but can’t “get it together” to get the work done and turned in

Executive Function: This is our personal manager that guides and directs our attention and behavior. It helps us reason, problem solve, organize, and make decisions. Problems in this area may appear as follows:

-Poor time management or organization
-Difficulty reasoning
-Lack of tact
-Trouble getting started, poor follow through

“Coming to Stowell has helped me in math, reading, and all the rest. It has also made me a better person. I am now a more thoughtful person. Before I came to Stowell I got bad grades. Now I have improved in all subjects. My grades before were Ds. Now they are As and Bs. It makes me feel special to be known as a smart kid to other people.” 
~Brett, 5th Grade

If a 10 year old fourth grader is laboriously reading at a second grade level, something is wrong. More practice reading or someone sitting at his side helping him say the words is not going to fix this problem.

It is only by developing these areas and then remediating the basic academic skills that students can become the truly independent and comfortable learners they can and should be. Don’t let learning challenges hold your child back when there are ways to FIX them.

Is this program the right fit for your child? Enter your email below to receive a FREE assessment checklist

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

Did I Waste Time and Money on Therapy?

DSeveral years ago, we had a student whose challenges with speech articulation were so significant that his mom explained on our first meeting, that there were certain sounds that he could not physically say.

Grayson was 11 and had had private speech therapy as well as speech services at school for most of his life.  After 3 weeks of sessions at Stowell Learning Center, Grayson was able to say every sound both in isolation and in connected speech.  His speech therapist at school, who did not know he was attending the learning center, said at his IEP meeting, “Have you noticed how much clearer Grayson’s speech has gotten in the last 3 weeks?”

Last Saturday, as I walked through the waiting room in our center, a mom shared with me that after 5 years of speech therapy at school, her son no longer qualified for services.  She was thrilled.  Speech, she said, had not been making a difference for some time, but after 3 months at the Learning Center, he had made so much progress that he no longer needed the extra help with speech at school.

It made my day to see this mom so happy and to hear how life at home was changing for all of them as a result of our work at the Learning Center.  Do we get to take all the credit?  No, not really.  It takes the patience and persistence of parents, and I have no doubt that all of the previous support provided to our students at school and through other therapies play a part.

But here’s why we can see changes that don’t seem to occur

with other interventions:

Learning, including speaking, paying attention, organization, reading, spelling, math, and writing is built upon a foundation of underlying processing skills.  These are skills such as auditory and visual processing, attention, body awareness and control, memory, and reasoning.  These are not typically taught, but rather are assumed to be in place when children go to school.   When any of these underlying skills are weak, it can cause students to struggle more than would be expected.

In the case of our students with speech challenges, the weak area was auditory processing.  This is not a person’s hearing, but rather the way that the brain perceives and thinks about the information that comes in through the ears.  Auditory processing has a dramatic impact on speech, communication, reading, comprehension, social skills, and learning in general.

Weak auditory processing may cause a person to get an incomplete, inaccurate, confusing, or delayed information when listening – kind of like a bad cell phone connection.  Dr. Alfred Tomatis, a pioneer in sound therapy research, said that we cannot reproduce what we cannot hear.  For our students with trouble clearly enunciating sounds and pronouncing words, improving auditory processing allows them to “hear” or process the sounds and words more accurately, which then makes it possible for them to say them more accurately and clearly as well.

Were previous therapies a waste?

No, most likely not.  But if those therapies did not work as well as hoped or expected, there were almost certainly underlying skills that were not providing the needed foundation for what was being taught.  Developing the needed processing/learning skills allows the previously taught skills as well as any current remediation to make more sense and stick.

Does your child struggle with speaking, reading, 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

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)

Is the Reading Doctor in the House?

bookIt brought tears to my eyes when the parent of an 8-year-old girl shared what her daughter said to her as they left for school:

“Can you find me a doctor who can tell me why I can’t read?”

Like so many other dyslexic students, this young girl is bright, creative, and suffering.  She is smart enough to recognize that she is not on par with her classmates.  She is confronted with assignments all day long that she doesn’t have the tools to tackle.

Because they generally are bright and creative, children and adults with dyslexia can find ingenious ways to compensate:

  • They may become the class clown or the social butterfly because it plays to their strengths, and if you’re funny and popular, maybe no one will notice that you can’t read.
  • They may rely heavily on their memory, making it look like they are much more proficient readers than they are.
  • They may pretend that they are working in class, but not actually do anything until they can get home and where they can sit with a parent one-to-one to do the work.
  • They may be deducing what they’re reading based on looking at pictures and combining the scattered words they can recognize with their good general knowledge and comprehension to fill in the gaps.
  • One dyslexic high school student negotiated doing math homework for girls who would then do his English homework for him.

Coping with and hiding dyslexia or any learning challenge takes a tremendous amount of mental energy.  It is uncomfortable and exhausting.  But to most people  – teachers and parents included – it may look like the student is lazy or unmotivated.  After all, the student is bright and capable in other areas, so doesn’t it follow that he could do better if he chose to?

There are a number of underlying processing/learning skills that are critical to the process of reading and spelling.  Challenges with any of these underlying skills may make reading and spelling more difficult – inefficient for some, impossible for others.

Here are the critical skills:

Auditory Decoding:  The ability to perceive and discriminate a full range of sound frequencies; to get a clear, complete, and accurate message when listening.

Phonological Awareness:  The brain’s ability to think about the individual sounds in words as well as the sound combinations.

Segmenting and Blending Sounds:  The ability to break words apart into sounds and put sounds together to make words.

Visual Discrimination:  The ability to notice and tell the difference between visually similar letters, words, and word parts.

Visual Orientation:  The ability to automatically notice every letter in the word and every word in the sentence, in the correct order.

Visual Memory:  The ability to hold a mental image of words in memory in order to spell and recognize them.

These skills need to be automatic in order for students to quickly and easily recognize and sound out words, read fluently, and focus their mental attention on the meaning of what they are reading or writing.  If effort and energy is going into trying to make sense of what they see on the page, trial and error decoding, sorting out confusion with sounds or letter formation, reading and spelling becomes laborious and sometimes impossible.

I don’t know of a Reading Doctor or a Magic Reading Pill, but here’s what I do know:  ALL of these underlying skills can be developed.  Dyslexic learners CAN become good readers and spellers.  More reading will not do the trick, but identifying and correcting the weak underlying skills and then intentionally and sequentially remediating the reading and spelling skills will.

Over the past 30 years, we have had the opportunity to see severely dyslexic students – true non-readers at 9 or 10 years old – become proficient readers, honor students, college grads, and successful adults. 

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

DYSLEXIA or ADHD?

Image from www.health.com

Image from www.health.com

Inattention is often the first and most obvious symptom seen by teachers when children struggle in school.

This drives parents to their healthcare providers with the question, “Does my child have ADHD?”

The challenge behind this question is that inattention, squirming in the chair, staring into space, slow to get started on tasks, poor listening, and taking forever to complete homework can be the result of ADD/ADHD, but can even more often be symptoms of dyslexia or other learning problems.

Dyslexic students are often misunderstood at school.  Some are so verbal and charming, that only their parents know how much they are struggling and how much effort and time it takes for them to read and write.  At school, they may be perceived as bright verbal students who don’t always put in their best effort on schoolwork.

Sometimes, a student’s skills are just strong enough that no one realizes that there’s a reading problem. The letters and words may be hard to look at and the sounds don’t really make sense, but he uses his powers of deduction from pictures, his own knowledge, and what he’s memorized from group reading to basically figure out what the page might say and answer the questions.  But often, his mind drifts away from this taxing process and so he’s been pegged as ADD.  And, after all, what he can create in his mind is far more entertaining than a jumble of words and letters that don’t really make sense.

Weak underlying learning/processing skills can cause smart students to struggle in school.  In the case of dyslexia, the underlying skills specifically relate to being able to process the sounds in words and neuro-timing differences, which can trigger typical dyslexic symptoms and disorientation on the page.

It is hard to pay attention when confused or when information doesn’t make sense, as is so often the case for dyslexic students. However, the attention challenges experienced by dyslexic learners, which are so evident in relation to schoolwork and homework, are not generally pervasive, as in the case with true ADD/ADHD.

While every dyslexic student is different, common characteristics include:

  • Good intelligence
  • Good comprehension
  • Strong ability to visualize pictures / real things (versus letters and words)
  • Creative thinker
  • Weak ability to retain an accurate image of words (sight words for reading and spelling)
  • Weak phonemic awareness (ability to think about the sounds in words)
  • Extremely poor decoding skills (sounding out words)
  • Visual disorientation when looking at the page (i.e. letters look 3D, wiggle, pulsate, or move around on the page)
  • Family history of dyslexia
  • Strong talents in other areas such as math, arts, mechanical, or athletic abilities

It is commonly believed that dyslexia cannot be corrected – that you just have to cope with it.  This is simply not true.  ADD meds will not solve dyslexic challenges, but retraining the auditory and visual systems to process the sounds and letters on the page accurately get the brain ready to learn, retain, and comfortably use reading and spelling skills.  Dyslexia and learning challenges can be changed – permanently!

Do you have a child, teen, or adult in your life who is struggling with 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

 

The Auditory Processing – Emotional/Social Connection

12Last month at Stowell Learning Center Chino, 25 students participated in our SLC Science Lab – AKA Big Fun Mess and Parents’ Night Out. 

Only one of four experiments worked exactly as planned, but the night was a big success.

The students had a good time working together to make a liquid kaleidoscope, and homemade Silly Putty, Play Doh, and lip balm.  While some of our students are social butterflies, others are not so skilled.  Parents and staff loved seeing all the students getting a chance to laugh and be social.

People are social creatures.  Listening skills have a huge impact on our success or failure socially.  Listening is different than hearing.  Hearing is what our ears do, but listening is intentional.  It involves intentional attention.

Our brain looks for patterns.  The emotional part of the brain helps us pick out the important patterns in the sound around us and send it to several places in the brain so it can be processed.  In order to do this quickly, our brains must filter out the unimportant information.

Students who struggle socially, may actually be experiencing a failure of the brain’s inhibitory response – or filtering of unimportant sound.  As a result, they “hear” everything and cannot quickly focus on what’s important in order to give the expected response.  They may become overloaded and shutdown.   They may learn not to participate because they can’t keep up in conversations or discussions, causing them to say the wrong thing or get laughed at.  With extreme overload, they may respond by running away, screaming, making loud noises, or covering their ears.  These survival responses don’t endear them to their peers and make friendships difficult.

We know, through the brain research and our experience with thousands of students that auditory processing and listening skills can be developed.  The brain can be retrained to process sound more effectively so that students can learn and function in both the social and academic environments more comfortably, appropriately, and independently.

One of the key ways that we develop these critical auditory processing skills is through sound therapy, or auditory training programs (The Listening Program, inTime, iLs, or Samonas Sound Therapy).  We use a combination of passive and active auditory stimulation that involves daily home listening and specific lessons in the clinic that stimulate the auditory system to get a clear, accurate, and complete message when listening, while targeting the specific reading, spelling, comprehension, or language skills that the student also needs.

These are real and permanent solutions to struggles with listening, learning, or social skills.

If you or your child are experiencing auditory or other learning challenges and you’re ready for real and permanent changes…

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

For details 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

Auditory Processing, Attention, and Survival

surMy mom is a huge fan of the TV reality series Survivor. She (and millions of others) never misses an episode.  If you watch the show, you’ll know that people will go to almost any lengths to survive.  And in fact, our brains are wired for survival at the most basic level and will work very hard to protect us.

I was so fortunate to hear Dr. Seth Horowitz speak at The Listening Program International Conference last Friday.  He said,

“Our entire survival depends upon listening.”

He went on to share that listening is a combination of hearing and attention.  Hearing tells us what’s happening in the world and attention tells us what to listen to.

The brain uses a tremendous amount of power to block out non-important sound.  It’s not about focusing on what’s important, but blocking out what’s not.

When a student has poor listening skills, the problem may actually be that he is listening to too much.  Not being able to filter out what’s not important can cause the person to miss or confuse information.  It can affect comprehension, memory, and attention.  Students who appear to be “spacey” may be so overloaded by all of the extraneous auditory information coming at them that they just shut down.

What looks like lack of motivation, laziness, or inattention in the classroom may actually be poor listening or auditory skills.

What’s confusing to parents and teachers is that these same “zoned out,” seemingly inattentive students can pay attention and get the information when they are really interested.  This goes right back to survival.  We heighten our awareness and attention when something is of interest.  If we already know something about it, we’re able to connect-the-dots more easily, even if it takes a lot of effort.

When information is new, which happens all of the time in a classroom, or moves quickly, as in conversation, keeping up and processing the information becomes exponentially more difficult.  A person with weak auditory skills, who is already putting out an excessive amount of mental energy trying to tune-in, hears what’s being said, but can’t understand it without the support of heightened interest and prior knowledge to give them a frame of reference.

The exciting work of Advanced Brain Technologies www.advancedbrain.com and others in the field of auditory training, has provided us with tools to literally develop the auditory skills needed for efficient functioning and learning.  Auditory training, or sound therapy programs such as The Listening Program, iLs (integrated Listening systems), and Samonas Sound Therapy are beautifully recorded classical music and nature sounds that have been acoustically engineered to help the brain pay attention to all of the frequencies and information in sound.  These very powerful and simple therapies help students of all ages to improve their auditory function and become better listeners and learners.

At Stowell Learning Center, we use a combination of passive and active auditory stimulation that involves daily home listening to prescribed sound therapy selections and specific lessons in the clinic that stimulate the auditory system to get a clear, accurate, and complete message when listening, while targeting the specific reading, spelling, comprehension, or language skills that the student also needs.

There are real and permanent solutions to struggles with listening, learning, attention, or social skills.

If you or your child are experiencing auditory or other learning challenges and you’re ready for real and permanent changes…

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

For details 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

 

 

The Listening – Learning Connection

llIf you’re not listening, you’re not learning.  I think this is a pretty profound statement.  I realize there are many ways to learn, but our experience with thousands of children and adults with learning challenges has shown that the vast majority of individuals who struggle with learning, including dyslexia and attention challenges, have difficulties with auditory processing, or listening.

Living with an auditory processing delay or a weakness with listening skills can be fatiguing and frustrating.  The ear has neurological connections to nearly every organ and function in the body as well as the attention, emotional, language, and learning centers in the brain.  As a result, poor listening skills can cause a person to experience difficulties with speaking, reading, spelling, comprehension, attention, communication, energy, and sense of well-being.

Good listening/auditory skills depend upon being able to take-in and process a very broad range of sound frequencies.  When the brain is not processing the full range of frequencies, the listener may get incomplete and inaccurate information – much like having a bad cell phone connection.

Individuals with weak auditory processing may

  • Miss details or parts of what was said
  • Mishear and therefore misunderstand or misinterpret information
  • Confuse similar sounding words
  • Have trouble sounding out or pronouncing words
  • Feel lost and confused
  • Feel anxious
  • Look like they are not paying attention
  • Have poor attention when listening
  • Give responses that don’t match the question or conversation
  • Withdraw or talk incessantly so that they don’t have to listen

Symptoms of Auditory Processing Delay

Does your child…

  • Say, “Huh?” “What?” frequently?  Often asks for things to be repeated?
  • Have normal hearing acuity but inconsistent response to auditory stimuli?
  • Difficulty following oral directions?
  • Short attention span?
  • Fatigue easily during auditory (listening) tasks?
  • Have poor long and short term memory?
  • Look at you when you’re speaking, but doesn’t appear to be listening?
  • Have trouble listening when there is background noise?
  • Have difficulty knowing where the sound is coming from?
  • Have difficulty with phonics, reading, or spelling?
  • Have mild speech or articulation problems?
  • Have disruptive behaviors (distracted, impulsive, frustrated)?
  • Often feel anxious or lost?
  • Have a history of ear infections?

These are symptoms of weak auditory processing skills and Auditory Processing Disorder.

Auditory Processing Challenges Misdiagnosed

Auditory processing has a profound impact on learning and behavior, but so often, it is not recognized as being the source of the problem.

My daughter and son both travel extensively for their jobs.  When they are overseas and we speak to them via Skpye, the connection is often very poor – cutting in and out.  As a result, listening and conversation becomes extremely taxing.  We try hard to piece together what each other are saying, but we find that we lose both attention and comprehension.  Conversations can become frustrating and even irritating.

It is obvious when a Skype or cell phone signal is bad, but very difficult to discern when the signal or message that the brain is getting in normal listening is compromised or confusing.  Attention drifts are often associated with an attention deficit.  Poor comprehension and direction following are seen as attention or motivation problems. Frustration, anxiety, and social challenges caused by poor listening skills are often viewed as psychological or emotional issues.

Reading problems almost always have auditory processing challenges at the root – at least in part.  Research tells us that the key factor in success or failure in reading is a set of auditory skills called phonological awareness.  This is the brain’s ability to think abut the sounds and syllables in words.  Without this ability, our phonetic language does not make sense.

Learning difficulties and struggles in school and/or social situations are most often the result of weak or inconsistent learning skills.  These underlying skills cause interference to learning.  Auditory processing skills are some of these underlying skills.

Unfortunately, these skills do not typically improve with time or traditional tutoring.  However, through the use of specifically targeted sound therapy and auditory stimulation and training exercises, the brain can be retrained to perceive and use auditory information more completely, easily, and accurately.

If you or your child are experiencing auditory or other learning challenges and you’re ready for real and permanent changes…

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

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

“Mom, I Need Adderall”

adA parent recently shared with me that her high school son came home from school one day saying, “Mom, I need Adderall.”  Adderall is a medication commonly used to manage Attention Deficit Disorder / ADHD.

It’s easy to blame attention for students’ struggles in school because that’s often what it looks like in class and certainly with homework where there are so many ways for kids to distract themselves.

But is attention the real culprit, or is the attention loss a symptom?

Have you ever had to carry on a conversation in a very noisy restaurant?  Or had a bad cell phone connection?  Have you tried to understand instructions given by someone with an accent very different from yours, making it hard for you to decipher?

Any of those situations make it harder to listen and understand.  This means you have to work very hard to get the information and are probably putting a lot of energy into connecting the dots.  At some point, the information becomes a bit hazy, and pretty soon, you’ve lost the thread of the conversation or lecture and your attention begins to drift.  Do you have ADHD?

What you’re experiencing in these situations is a lot like what a person with an auditory processing problem experiences all day long.  One of the symptoms is loss of attention.  When we can’t understand, we begin to tune out.

Weak or inefficient underlying processing skills will affect attention, stamina, and performance.

We had a student once who saw the white spaces between the words much more prominently than the words when looking at the page.

An adult student once shared that punctuation marks and little words like the, of, and if floated around the page like gnats, making it extremely taxing to read.

Keeping up with the expectations and pace of the classroom requires a strong and automatic set of underlying processing/learning skills.  Attention and energy should not need to be funneled off in order to sit still, look at the teacher, listen, make sense of what you’re seeing on the page, read, write, remember, or comprehend.

When underlying processing/learning skills such as memory, focus, auditory and visual processing, language comprehension, phonemic awareness, and sensorimotor integration are not automatic, attention will be stressed and academics will be affected.

Brain research in neuroplasticity and our 30 years of experience with thousands of children and adults with learning and attention challenges shows that these underlying skills can be developed to an automatic level.  Learning and attention challenges can change – permanently.

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

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

Life with an Auditory Processing Disorder Sounds Different

This is a big week for my family.  My son is getting married on Saturday and we couldn’t be more delighted!0

As I was thinking about the upcoming reception, I remembered the mom of one of our students trying to describe to me what she thought it must be like for her son.  She said, “Have you ever been to a wedding and you’re staring right at someone, but hearing all the conversations around you and not hearing what the person you’re talking to is saying?  I think that’s what my son experiences all the time.”

A friend once told me that her adult son with auditory processing problems said that  listening was so taking for him, that after a one-hour meeting at work, he was “done” for the day.  He was so exhausted that he would literally have to lie down on the floor of his office and take a nap.

09Last week, a mom walked into the Learning Center looking for help for her 5 year old son who had very limited language and couldn’t understand much of what was said to him unless it was paired with visual signs and gestures.  Her little boy was smart, engaging, and did not have hearing loss.  He had been assessed twice for autism and found not to have it.  She described how he sometimes sang songs that he heard on his videos but he would leave sounds out of words every time he sang them.  I strongly suspect that this child has an auditory processing disorder and we referred him to an audiologist who tests for auditory processing disorder.  (reference below)

Karen Foli, author and mother of a child with a severe auditory processing disorder, described it as “listening to sound through water.”

I think the best way for those of us with intact auditory systems to get our minds around what it might be like to have an auditory processing problem is to think about a bad cell phone connection.  There’s nothing wrong with your ears, but the signal or the input you’re getting is not clear and complete.  You get some of the information, but there are gaps so your mind is racing to try to connect the dots.

You press the phone hard to your ear, trying so hard to listen, but pretty soon, you’ve lost the thread of the conversation, your attention is drifting, and you’re feeling irritable and frustrated.  And you say, “You’re cutting out.  Let me call you back.”

But what if this was your life all day everyday, and there’s no “hanging up and calling back?”  Children and adults with auditory processing disorder or even auditory processing inefficiencies often end up being labeled as having Attention Deficit Disorder/ADHD.  They experience a great deal of overwhelm and anxiety.   It may affect their comprehension, learning, and social skills.  They feel lost, all because their auditory system is not providing them with clear, complete, and accurate information to think with.

But here’s the GOOD NEWS!  The auditory system is dynamic.  It can be retrained to process a full range of sound frequencies, to tune-in to important information, and tune-out the background noise.  It can be stimulated to organize and decode the information coming in through the ears.  It can get a more accurate and complete message.  And with a better message comes better responses and learning.

Need to know more?  JOIN US for a FREE Parent/Adult Information Night at Stowell Learning Center in Chino or Irvine, CA.

Go to www.LearningDisability.com for details and RSVP.

 

Helpful Resources:

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

Like Sound Through Water by Karen Foli 

When the Brain Can’t Hear by Teri Bellis

 

Excellent Audiologist who specializes in Auditory Processing Disorder (C)APD:

Balance & Hearing Specialty Group
Dr. Pam Best
844-APD-TEAM
161 Thunder Drive, Suite 104
Vista, CA  92083

Life with an Auditory Processing Disorder Sounds Different thumbnail

DYSLEXIA or ADHD?

1

Image Source: www.health.com

We tested two boys last week with very similar learning strengths and challenges.  In testing, they both had good attention, but one became squirmy in his chair whenever he had to read.

The squirmy little guy had been diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity).  He was never a problem in class, but was reported to spend time staring off into space when he was supposed to be reading or doing seatwork.

Medication had been prescribed, but his parents opted not to use it, as they weren’t convinced that ADD was the real problem.

Most likely, these parents were right on target.  Both of the boys we assessed last week showed strong dyslexic symptoms and had a family history of dyslexia and reading challenges.  Their symptoms included:

  • Good intelligence
  • Good comprehension
  • Strong ability to visualize pictures / real things (versus letters and words)
  • Creative thinker
  • Weak ability to retain an accurate image of words (sight words for reading and spelling)
  • Weak phonemic awareness (ability to think about the sounds in words)
  • Extremely poor decoding skills (sounding out words)
  • Visual disorientation when looking at the page (One boy said the letters looked 3D.  One said the letters got “bigger and smaller.”)

Like many dyslexic students, these boys are misunderstood at school.  One is so verbal and charming, that only his parents know how much he is struggling and how much effort and time it takes for him to read and write.  At school, he is perceived as a bright verbal child who doesn’t always put in his best effort on schoolwork.

The second boy is just young enough and his skills are just strong enough that no one (except his parents) believes that there’s a reading problem.  When he looks at the page, the letters and words are hard to look at and the sounds don’t really make sense.  He uses his powers of deduction from pictures, his own knowledge, and what he’s memorized from group reading to basically figure out what the page might say and answer the questions.  But often, his mind drifts away from this taxing process and so he’s been pegged as ADD.  And, after all, what he can create in his mind is far more entertaining than a jumble of words and letters that don’t really make sense.

Weak underlying learning/processing skills can cause smart students to struggle in school.  In the case of our two boys, the underlying skills specifically relate to being able to process the sounds in words and neuro-timing (which can trigger typical dyslexic symptoms and disorientation on the page when off).    The encouraging thing is that these underlying skills can be developed.  The brain is amazing and really can develop new, more efficient neuro-pathways through training.

Having a family history of dyslexia, the parents of the two boys have always heard that dyslexia cannot be corrected – that you just have to cope with it.  This is simply not true.  ADD meds will not solve dyslexic challenges, but retraining the auditory and visual systems to process the sounds and letters on the page accurately get the brain ready to learn, retain, and comfortably use reading and spelling skills.

For more information…

JOIN US for a FREE 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.

Augh!!! My Teacher Talks Too Fast!

hWhat does horse racing have to do with people talking too fast?  Nothing really, but I wonder if that’s what it feels like to students with slow processing speed.  Race horses fly by in a blur. What would school be like if words flew by you in a blur?

Students with learning challenges sometimes feel like their teacher is talking at breakneck speed.  They’re trying hard to listen; they’re looking at the teacher, but somehow, the teacher is already onto the next question when the student has just barely come up with a response to the last one.

When a question is asked, most people automatically understand the question and begin thinking about and formulating their response.  Students with language-based learning disabilities often have to process the question as well as the answer.  While they are deciphering the sequence of words, grammar, vocabulary, and intention behind the question, someone else has already answered it.  When they are ready to respond, their teacher has gone on to the next question and they’ve missed it.

So what does that look like in the classroom? 

It looks like a student who isn’t paying attention or isn’t listening.

We once worked with a bright and talkative 12-year old who constantly repeated what someone else had just said in discussions, or asked questions that the teacher had just answered.  After the first few weeks in 6th grade, he learned not to participate, because he was always saying the wrong thing – and everyone but him seemed to know it.  He just knew the other kids laughed and he was always being told to pay attention.

But attention wasn’t the problem.  The problem was, by the time he had processed the question and come up with an answer, the question had been answered and the class had gone on to the next one…and he’d missed it.

I remember testing a high school student who either said “I don’t know” or gave really off-the-wall responses to virtually every test question.  Then I realized that he had such slow auditory processing speed that any responses he gave were actually correct answers to previous questions.  And that was in a one-to-one setting.  I can’t imagine how lost he must have felt in the classroom.  His parents and teachers thought he just didn’t try and didn’t care.  But of course he had a bad attitude!  He had no idea what was going on in real time!

Most learning and attention challenges can be corrected.  It takes looking at the underlying root of the issue – like auditory delays and slow processing speed – and developing those critical learning skills through targeted cognitive training.  Then the learner is mentally ready and available for academic remediation and more independent, efficient performance at school.

If you or your child is struggling with listening or learning, change is possible!

JOIN US at a Parent Information Night to find out how to break the cycle of learning challenges and struggles in school.  Go to www.learningdisability.com for details and information.

 

Auditory Processing Problems Like Listening Underwater?

12It’s Pool Time!

From the time I was 12, I spent virtually everyday of the summer hanging out, or lifeguarding once I was old enough, at the high school pool.  Even now, the smell of chlorine at a pool brings back fond memories.

If you’re an underwater swimmer, you know that sounds are very muffled under the surface of the water.

One mom that I spoke with recently shared that she always believed that the way her son heard was like listening underwater.  Can you imagine the effect that this would have on someone’s speech and learning?

This boy’s hearing has been tested every year and is always normal, but his speech is extremely unclear and his reading and comprehension are extremely delayed.  He had continuous ear infections through the age of 3, causing him to literally be listening through fluid.

In spite of the fact that his ears are working and he can hear, his ability to process what he hears (auditory processing) is extremely weak.  As a result, his brain is not “hearing” or processing the sounds in words clearly and accurately, causing his speech to be unintelligible and leaving him with a reading problem that won’t be resolved with more reading practice.

If someone is trying to speak to you underwater, the best solution to the problem of not understanding is for both of you to come out of the water. The best solution to “hearing through water” because of an auditory processing problem is stimulating and developing the brain’s auditory processing system.

The auditory system is a dynamic system that can be stimulated and retrained.  It’s amazing to see what happens for students when the brain is getting clear, complete, and accurate information to think with.  With auditory stimulation and specific instruction in listening, speaking, reading, and/or comprehension, children and adults with these challenges can become articulate speakers and readers.

As you look forward to pool time this summer, think about what it would be like to listen through water.  If you think that an auditory processing problem is affecting you or your child, there is hope.

Learn more about auditory processing and permanently correcting learning problems:

JOIN US for a FREE parent information night or PEACE parent support group.  Go to www.learningdisability.com for details and RSVP.

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.

It’s an Intervention Class! Intervene!

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Attention challenges are really hard to understand – even for students who have them.  They have good intentions, and then find themselves daydreaming or doing something else when they should be working.

A parent recently shared with me that her son, who has auditory processing, reading, math, and attention challenges, is in an intervention class at school.  This boy clearly has real deficits in his learning and attention but didn’t qualify as having a learning disability at school.  So he isn’t getting any special education services, but he was placed in an “Intervention” math class.

On a regular basis, the mom gets notes home from the Intervention teacher saying the boy, “did nothing in class.”

When I heard this, my thought was, “It’s an Intervention Class!  Intervene!”

When students have trouble paying attention and do nothing in class, there is almost always a reason.  And it’s NOT laziness or not caring. 

Nobody wants to fail.

My experience with thousands of students with attention and learning challenges has shown me that biological ADD/ADHD is real and extremely challenging.  But much, much more prevalent are attention problems that are actually symptoms of weak underlying learning or processing skills.

The vast majority of students who come to our learning center have some challenges with attention, but the vast MINORITY are truly ADHDSuccessful, easy learning depends upon a solid foundation of underlying learning skills.  These include skills such as:

  • Auditory and visual processing
  • Memory
  • Body awareness and control
  • Processing speed
  • Language processing and comprehension

Weak or inefficient underlying skills will stress attention.  IF…

  • Listening to your teacher is like having a bad cell phone connection all day long
  • The words and letters on the page sometimes swim before your eyes
  • You simply cannot make sense out of the individual sounds in words
  • The visual organization of the math page makes no sense to you…

It will be very difficult to maintain your attention on it.  Even with supreme effort, attention wanes when the brain cannot make enough sense out of the information coming in.

Attention problems in the classroom are understandably challenging for teachers, but understanding that lack of attention is often involuntary, may help them to search for ways to work with the student – to intervene – rather than assuming that the student is making a bad choice.

True ADD/ADHD is usually most successfully dealt with through a combination of biochemical intervention (supplements, diet, medication) and attention training.

Attention symptoms that are the result of weak underlying learning skills will usually disappear once those underlying skills are developed and the academic challenges are remediated.

Do you or someone you know struggle with learning or attention problems?  These things can change.

3Come by our Chino or Irvine office and mention this blog and we would love to give you a copy of At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities (also available at www.amazon.com).

Join us for a FREE Parent Information Night.  Go to www.learningdisability.com or details and RSVP.

Do Not Pass Go – Go Straight to ADHD

Pay attention!  Pay attention!  Pay attention! mon

How many times can you tell a kid to pay attention before they finally get the message?  For some parents and teachers, it feels endless.

Having worked with thousands of struggling learners over the years, I recognize that ADHD is a real and sometimes a devastating challenge for families.

 I also know that when a child or teen is struggling in school,
attention is more often than not, a symptom of that challenge.

When the underlying skills that support efficient learning are weak, particularly those skills at the Core Learning and Processing skills levels of the Learning Skills Continuum, it will stress the person’s attention.  A wiggly, distracted, or zoned-out student in the classroom or at the homework table is going to look like a child with an attention problem.
But not all attention problems point to ADHD.  Often times they are simply a symptom of something else – a logical outcome of not being able to do the job.

Here are some examples of attention problems that are NOT rooted in ADHD:

Jeremy wiggles constantly in his chair.  It keeps him from getting his work done and is very distracting to the students sitting near him.  He seems to live his life in “fight or flight” so he looks around constantly and flies off the handle easily.

ADHD – NO.
Retained Primitive Reflexes – YES.

A retained Spinal Galant reflex can cause a child to look like he has “ant’s in his pants” and greatly interferes with memory and attention.  A retained Moro reflex can cause anxiety and fight or flight response, creating a high alert state not conducive to attention in the classroom.

Manny talks to his neighbors all the time instead of doing his work. He puts his energy into “entertaining the class” instead of doing his work.

ADHD – NO.
Dyslexic – YES.

Manny is smart, creative, and really funny.  He’s confused about sounds and letters, and figuring out words is laborious for him.   Sometimes when he looks at the page, the letters look like they’re bumping into each other.  Why bother with something so hard, when he can do something he’s really good at – making everyone laugh!

Sara tries really hard to be “good.”  She sits up tall and looks right at the teacher.  But pretty soon, she’s fiddling with things on her desk or staring straight through the teacher.  When it’s time to start working, Sara always has to ask, “What were we supposed to do?”  Sara is exhausting to her friends because she talks non-stop when she’s not in class.

ADHD?  NO.
Auditory Processing problems – YES.

Listening is absolutely exhausting for Sara and after awhile, she’s missed so many little pieces of information that she can’t connect the dots – hence the “Huh? What?” Talking constantly when not in class keeps her from having to listen.

When a student’s attention problems seem most noticeable in relation to the classroom or homework, you may be looking at a symptom of an underlying processing/learning skills weakness.  These underlying skills can be developed so that students can become the confident, attentive, and independent learners they have the potential to be.

 

DON’T MISS
this FREE Special Event April 28, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
at Stowell Learning Center Chino:

Tips, Insights and Hindsights to Surviving the I.E.P. Meeting
A Workshop for Parents

 Go to www.learningdisability.com for info and RSVP

Do Not Pass Go – Go Straight to ADHD thumbnail

High IQ and Academic Success

blog

I once worked with a young man who was so dyslexic that he couldn’t recognize his middle name in print.  But he was also so smart, that he dated a reading specialist for several months and she never knew he couldn’t read!

Smart children and adults who struggle academically are often pegged as lazy or unmotivated.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Not only do they have to put out MUCH more effort, time, and energy to complete tasks than their equally or less intelligent peers, but they often funnel considerable time, energy, and creativity into hiding their learning challenges.

While dating the reading teacher, Tony would go to whatever restaurant he wanted to take her to, get a menu and take it home.  His mom would read it to him so he could be prepared with what he wanted to order.  Then he would pretend to read through the menu on his date and order his pre-selected item.

Pretty smart, huh?  So why couldn’t he read?

Innate intelligence is certainly a factor in academic success, but having a high IQ doesn’t automatically ensure it.  Equally important are the underlying learning/ processing skills that support efficient learning.

These are skills such as:

  • Auditory and visual processing that allow the student to get accurate and complete information to think with
  • Memory, attention, and processing speed that allow them to get, hold onto, think about, and respond to information quickly
  • Spatial orientation and organization that allow students to discriminate between letters and words that look similar, understand how math is laid out on the page, and see the organization in textbooks and planners
  • Language processing and comprehension
  • Reasoning, problem-solving, and higher level organization

Students who have weaknesses in one or more of these areas often have to work harder and longer than their peers in school.  If there are several areas of weakness or one or two areas that are very weak, the student may end up with real challenges with reading, spelling, writing, and/or math.

This doesn’t mean they’re not
smart.  It means that key underlying
learning skills are not supporting them well enough.

Important research starting as far back as the 1950s and 1970s showed us that underlying skills can be developed so that the smart but struggling students can stop struggling.  Brain plasticity research in the last 20+ years has begun to reveal the amazing capacity of the brain to rewire itself for more efficient learning through specific and targeted training.

If you have a smart but struggling learner in your family (child or adult), chances are that the challenges can be dramatically improved or completely and permanently corrected.

To understand more:

JOIN US for an Information Night or FREE Parent Support Group

Go to www.learningdisability.com for details and RSVP.

CNN Analysis

CNN Analysis: 

Some college athletes play like adults, read like 5th-graders

seattle-seahawks-super-bowl-prop-betsOK.  So now that the Super Bowl Hype and parties are over…Oh, wait, discussions of the game, the coaches the players, the ads ought to be worth another week, right?

We love our sports and our athletes in this country, and having a son who stepped very briefly into the world of professional sports, I have huge respect for the talent and tenacity that it takes to become a college or professional athlete.

On Jan. 8, 2014, CNN Schools of Thought ran an analysis that showed that 7 – 18% of basketball and football players in many public universities read poorly.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/07/us/ncaa-athletes-reading-scores/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

It’s hard to understand how bright, talented students, whether their talent is in sports, the arts or some other area, can have reading problems.  If they’re so good in other arenas, doesn’t it follow that they would be able to do something as basic as reading?

In her research, Patricia Lindamood discovered that about 30 percent of the population across the board has some degree of difficulty with the auditory processing skill that supports being able to use phonics for reading and spelling.  This means that 3 in every 10 kids in school today, are struggling to some degree with reading and spelling.

At Stowell Learning Center, we see a lot of those children and adults, many of whom are talented artists, athletes, “inventors”, actors, dancers, etc.  The list goes on and on.  These are bright, talented people struggling with reading.1

Reading is so enmeshed in our lives and our world that challenges with reading make life harder.  No matter how good you are on the field or the court; when you take off your cleats and sit down to do your homework, reading problems can deal an agonizing blow to your confidence and self-esteem.

Here’s the great news that came out of Pat Lindamood’s research and subsequent brain research:  the underlying skills that are critical to efficient reading and learning can be developed through specific and targeted brain training.

Children and adults do not need to continue to be hampered by reading or learning challenges.  The gap can be closed between the performance on the field and performance in the classroom.  Is it a quick fix or a magic pill?  No.  Is it possible without taking forever?  Absolutely.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a reading or learning challenge and you would like to better understand the root and the solution to the problem,

JOIN US for a Parent Information Night at our Chino or Irvine Center.  For information and RSVP:  www.learningdisability.com   

Resource available at amazon.com or by visiting one of our centers:

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The IEP Team Got It Wrong

Last week, one of my staff members attended an IEP meeting as a school psychology intern. In other words, she gets to follow a school psychologist around and observe, but her job is to be a silent “fly on the wall.”

Anyway, I wanted to share her experience with you so that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation, feeling as helpless as the parent did in this circumstance.

The test results were presented and it was determined that the child had an auditory processing problem.  The child did not actually qualify to get any special services at school because she scored too high on her tests, but both the teacher and the parent knew that she was really struggling.

The mom asked the team (regular and special education teachers, psychologist, and principal), if anything could be done about the auditory processing problem.  This was apparently a very supportive, caring, and knowledgeable team, but the response is what breaks my heart.

The mom was told, “No.  Your daughter will just have to find ways to get around the auditory processing problem.  It cannot be corrected.”

Now, having an auditory processing problem is like having a bad cell phone connection ALL THE TIME!  Or like listening to “sound through water” as author Karen Foley put it.  Can you imagine how anxious and irritated that would cause you to feel?  Not to mention the fact that not getting a clear accurate message can affect your comprehension, memory, attention, social skills, confidence, reading, and learning!

The GREAT NEWS is, that functions, such as auditory processing, that support efficient learning can be dramatically improved or completely and permanently corrected.  The brain is amazing, and with targeted and intensive training, new, more efficient neuro connections or pathways can be built.  Smart children and adults do not have to just cope with or find ways around their learning challenges.

The BAD NEWS is that in spite of nearly 30 years of brain and clinical research to the contrary, most people, including teachers and the professors who teach them, believe that learning disabilities, dyslexia, auditory processing problems, and struggles in school are permanent conditions that require trying harder and just “sucking it up and learning to live with it.”

My clinician, who sees the changes that can happen everyday at the learning center, but who was not allowed to say anything at the IEP meeting, was about to jump out of her skin as the psychologist she was shadowing told the parent that there was nothing that could be done for her daughter.  Translation:  No Hope!

I don’t want you to think I am anti-schools or IEP teams.  I’m not.  I was both a regular and special education teacher myself.  The job of the schools is to work at the top of the Learning Skills Continuum, teaching a huge variety of academic subject matter.  Thank goodness they do, because no one else does.

But at the same time, I want parents to know that learning problems are not a hopeless situation and most can be corrected.  Auditory processing problems can be corrected.  No, it’s not the school’s job to do that, but parents, don’t give up when you’re told your child just has to cope!  This is a widespread MYTH.

Four former students at Stowell Learning Center are typical examples of what can happen when auditory processing skills (and their related reading or comprehension problems) are corrected:

Al:  Attended Stowell Learning Center as a senior in HS – now in pre-med at Columbia University.

Mike:  Attended SLC in middle school – Now a senior at Brown University headed for medical school.

Rob:  Attended SLC in 10th grade – Now a senior in high school, getting good grades, a leader in school, applying for college, and working towards a track scholarship.

Anna:  Attended SLC in 2nd grade – Now in 4th grade, reading above grade level, doing her work independently, and hasn’t had a meltdown over homework in 2 years!

For more information about correctly learning challenges:

  • At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities  available at www.amazon.com.