My husband David and I spent the first day of the new year taking an 18 mile bike ride at the beach with old friends. What a great day!
The bike path is fairly flat (always a plus!), has an unobstructed ocean view, and has a great sound track! There are just a couple of spots where we have to leave the beach and veer up onto the street, carrying our bikes up a set of stairs to get there.
Those few spots are like little glitches in the pathway – a part that’s incomplete. Which got me thinking about the pathways for learning in the brain. (I know, that’s a really big leap – but that’s where my brain tends to go, since I spend so much of my time thinking about learning and learning challenges).
The brain is all about taking sensory input and reacting to it in some way. As we learn, neural pathways, or connections in the brain, are created so that we can process and respond automatically. The brain likes to fit new learning into pathways it already has, reinventing parts of the pathway as needed.
But what if the pathway is incomplete or inefficient? Kind of like our beach pathway that quit suddenly, causing us to have to carry our bikes up to the road. Now the learning, the response, or in our case, the bike ride, is disrupted.
For students, unintegrated reflexes or weak processing skills can cause disruptions in learning, leading to problems with reading, writing, spelling, math, organization, memory, or attention.
Reflexes are part of the most basic workings of the nervous system. When integrated, they are automatic and fire only when needed. When unintegrated, they create a glitch in the pathway. Students with unintegrated reflexes may be able to compensate for them, but now they have to divert attention and energy from the learning. For example, a retained Spinal Galant reflex may cause a student to be sensitive to any stimulus or touch to their back. These students tend to fidget and squirm in their seats due to stimulus to the back from their chair or clothing. If they have to consciously think about sitting still, it takes attention and mental focus away from the task they are supposed to be doing.
The same is true with weak processing skills. If a student has put conscious attention into listening, seeing the words or organization on the page, thinking about the sounds in words, understanding language, or remembering, there is less mental energy available for learning. Students will have to work harder and longer than they should.
Learning Disabilities and Struggling Students
Whether a student has a diagnosed learning disability or minor struggles in school, the culprit is most often related to a weakness or inefficiency in one or more of the underlying learning skills (including unintegrated reflexes and processing skills). This causes students to have to work harder and longer than expected and often with a lesser result.
Correcting Learning Challenges
Dyslexia, learning disabilities, and struggles with attention or academics can chip away at a student’s self esteem and impact nearly every aspect of a child’s and their family’s life. Smart, talented kids can decide that they are dumb. Older students and adults may find ways to cope with their challenges, but compensations are not comfortable or efficient, and often keep them from becoming as independent as they should be.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
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??
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“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
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Speak to a Learning Specialist to learn more about the results from students and parents at Stowell Learning Centers.