Raquel was a third grader reading at a first grade level when she was diagnosed with ADHD. Her parents were not sold on the diagnosis or the suggested “solution” of medication so they kept searching for answers.
When we tested Raquel, we found that she actually had dyslexia. Her weak ability to process the sounds in words made it very difficult for her to learn and use phonics for reading and spelling. She tended to add, omit, and substitute sounds in words, making it look like she wasn’t really paying attention.
Raquel also experienced visual disorientation when looking at the page. Words and letters seemed to be moving around – “squishing together”, disappearing, and pulsating. This not only made it hard to see the words, but made it extremely uncomfortable to look at them. Raquel’s reaction to this was to avoid reading at all costs, making homework a battle that took hours.
When you don’t have the skills to do the job, and particularly if your processing skills challenges make it uncomfortable or even painful to look at the page, it becomes almost impossible to maintain attention on the offending task. Students who push through it anyway often experience anxiety because of the continuous, excessive energy and focus required.
Weak underlying processing skills – in Raquel’s case, auditory and visual processing – can affect a student’s attention and can cause students to struggle, even if they’re smart and even if they’re motivated.
Lack of attention is often the first thing that shows up in the classroom when a student is struggling, but in our experience, the attention challenge is more often a symptom of weak underlying skills than a true biological ADHD.
“Underlying skills” are not taught in school, in fact, they are typically not taught, period, they are assumed. They are things like body awareness and control, memory, auditory and visual processing, and executive function. These skills provide the foundation for academic and higher learning and functioning.
If we want to correct a learning or attention challenge, we have to identify the weak underlying skills at the root of the problem and develop those skills through intensive and targeted brain training.
Raquel worked intensively in a summer program at Stowell Learning Center to improve her auditory and visual processing skills, reading, and spelling, and eliminate her disorientation on the page.
At the end of her summer program, Raquel was no longer reading at a 1st grade level or even her own 3rd grade level; she was reading at a 5th grade level! She went on to be an honors student at the top of her class in high school and to graduate from University of Nevada, Reno with a 3.95 GPA and a degree in Geological Engineering.
ADHD is not the root of many attention symptoms that you see and medication will not solve a learning challenge or dyslexia.
Most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected by identifying and developing the weak underlying skills and remediating the affected basic academic skills. We have see this thousands of times over the last 30 years and the brain research in the last 3 decades has proven that the brain can be retrained. Our bright but struggling students do not have to hate school or resort to coping strategies to survive it. If you have a child who is struggling in school, we can help.
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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.
#1 Best-Selling 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.