Several years ago, my wonderful friend and mentor, Dr. Joan Smith and I were standing around “solving the world’s problems” with learning challenges.  As we talked about what could be done and what techniques to use, I said, “But what about kids with Autism?”

Joan said, “Jill, we’re teaching kids.”    Her message was, it’s not about the label, it’s about the brain.  What does every brain need in order to learn?

And there it is – the real crux of what we do.  When children or adults struggle with learning or attention – at school, at work, or in social situations – there are almost always some underlying processing skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.  If we don’t get clear, accurate input from movement, touch, sight, or sound; or if we can’t mentally organize or think about that information, it will impact our functioning and efficiency as a learner.

At our learning centers, we work with many students on the autism spectrum – generally those with high functioning autism.  These students often struggle with some aspects of language, attention, and comprehension.

While every student on the autism spectrum is unique, we find that when we test, it is often the case that these students have retained primitive reflexes, weak auditory processing, and poor or inconsistent language comprehension.

Primitive Reflexes

Babies are born with reflexes that help them in the birthing process and get them moving in the first months of life.  These reflexes are very important both in the baby’s survival and in jump-starting the process of learning and attention through movement and visual skills development.  As the brain and muscles mature, the early reflexes disappear and make way for higher-level reflexes and mental control.

If primitive reflexes continue to fire when they are not needed, they can cause interference to learning and attention – like little neurological glitches or roadblocks that make everything a little harder or more stressful.

Auditory Processing

This is not a person’s hearing, but how the brain perceives and thinks about information that comes in through the ears.  Poor auditory processing skills are like a bad cell phone connection – some parts of the message are not completely clear.  This makes listening and paying attention when listening taxing and confusing.  When we get poor input, it’s hard to understand, pay attention, and respond appropriately.

Language Comprehension

Language comprehension depends upon good auditory processing, but also involves the ability to sequence, retain, and organize language; understand vocabulary; make connections between known and new information; and see how all of the pieces of information fit together.

What Can Be Done For Autistic Students?

As with any other learning or attention challenge, the stronger the underlying skills are, the stronger higher-level learning and functioning can become.  Our goal for students is that they become the most comfortable and independent learners they can be.   This means that we have to identify and develop weak underlying skills, as well as remediating affected basic academic skills.

We Are Teaching Brains

What we know from the last 3 decades of brain research and our 30 years of experience working with children and adults with learning and attention challenges is that the brain is amazing!  With intensive and targeted brain training, it can change.  Most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or corrected.

If you have a child who is struggling in school, we can help.

JOIN US for a FREE Parent Information Night to learn how things can change.

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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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