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


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


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


So what were those meltdowns all about?

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


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


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


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


Challenges in this area might show up as follows:

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


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


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


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


Do you have a child, teen, or adult in your life who is struggling with dyslexia, reading, learning, or attention?  Are you ready for a change? Call us today.


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



“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.

Recent Posts



Ready to take the next step?

Speak to a Learning Specialist to learn more about the results from students and parents at Stowell Learning Centers.