LD Expert Podcast

Episode 25: Parent’s Perspective: A Long Journey to Success in Correcting Learning and Attention Challenges – Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly


    In this Episode

    Have you spent years looking for a solution to learning and attention challenges?

    This week's podcast guest is Andrea, one of Stowell Learning Center's moms. She shares her journey to getting results in hopes that your journey will be shorter, and with less trial and error.

    In this week's episode, you'll learn:

    • Her long journey of trial and error with different therapies and treatments for her son
    • Favorite trainings and strategies that she incorporated into her son’s daily routine at home
    • The benefit of getting teachers on board and helping to advocate for your child

    Episode Highlight

    We were able to give him two steps, you know, go grab your pajamas and then brush your teeth.” - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly



    Episode Transcript


    [00:00:01.090] - Jill Stowell

    Welcome to the LD Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for dyslexia learning and attention challenges. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and author of a brand new book, Take the Stone Out of the Show: A Must Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning and Attention Challenges. This book will help you understand why some bright children and teens have more difficulty than expected in school. It provides simple, practical tools for supporting struggling students at home and in the classroom. Most importantly, it presents real solutions and the science behind them. Today, I am delighted to have one of our wonderful Stowell Center moms, Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly join us to give us a parent's perspective on learning challenges and the road to understanding and eliminating the struggles. Welcome,


    [00:01:10.070] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    Thank you, Jill. It's a pleasure to be here.


    [00:01:12.420] - Jill Stowell

    Well, thank you so much for being my guest today. I really enjoyed chatting with you in the waiting room the other day and you were kind of talking about the journey that led you to Stowell Learning Center, and I would love for you to share that.


    [00:01:31.190] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    It was a long journey for sure. We started in the first grade, actually starting before that in kindergarten, where I noticed some differences with our son. We would be right in front of him and he would say what? Over and over as though he couldn't hear us. But yet his hearing tests were completely normal and so it was hard to explore because a lot of specialists don't test or help you until they're the age of seven or eight, right? So in the first grade we were finally able to have an assessment done by the school district. We attend a private school, so there's a little bit more challenges getting those kinds of services or getting assessments done. But the school district came out, they came to the school and they did an assessment in the first grade, but they revealed he was not eligible for services. He didn't meet the criteria, but the report didn't really fit with the challenges we saw at school and at home. He was getting by, but there was a lot of frustration and memorization, memorizing how to read. He was memorizing spelling, and I'm not even sure how he was doing that at the age of six, but he was.


    [00:03:04.230] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    So we continued on and we sought out some independent evaluations and there is when we began to find some answers. We tried several different therapies in Southern California individually for about two years, and while we made some progress, the results just weren't connecting. And so it was very frustrating. We were spending hours running around to different therapies, several during the week, plus doing schoolwork and homework, and the challenges just kept creeping. So during the journey we did have some successes with therapies and programs, but we also had some failures with therapists where they just weren't a good fit. So I just had this nagging feeling something was missing. And we didn't have all the puzzle pieces. About a year later, we just kept going. And we had a psycho educational assessment done, and it revealed some of the existing challenges that our son already had and then also some new ones. And so I started searching on the Internet, looking for a place that could handle everything. I kept saying, there has to be a place in this world where they can help a child who has more than one challenge. And in my inbox popped up Stowell and data mining is an interesting thing, right? It takes your searches and then it kind of feeds you information. And I thought, what's Stowell? I've never heard of Stowell. So we started doing some research. I called the office several times. I spoke to several people on the phone. I went to I can't find the words.


    [00:05:04.310] - Jill Stowell

    Did you come to an event like a webinar? We have a webinar.


    [00:05:11.930] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    No, it was an in-person presentation.


    [00:05:15.330] - Jill Stowell



    [00:05:16.070] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    Yeah, I went to an in person presentation and I still wasn't sure. So I started listening to the LD Expert Live sessions, and that's where I started to realize that the Stowell Center did get it. There were all these professionals out there who understood children with different challenges. And I happened to connect with Lauren Ma, and I had several conversations with her because I was so hesitant. And I think having disappointments in the past of not seeing my son get the help he needed or things just not progressing, I was becoming very hesitant about what's the right place for him.


    [00:06:06.910] - Jill Stowell

    It is hard for parents you don't know. And you try something and you get some success, but it's not everything.


    [00:06:16.750] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    It's not everything. And so you only know that perspective of that specialist, right? Whether it's an audiologist or a visual specialist, you only know those perspectives and what that challenge is, but you don't know everything else that could be there. And as I started reading books, as I started listening to the LD Expert Live Sessions, I started to find out that it's not just one issue, there's usually several. And if you don't connect them all, then you're not focusing on the child as a whole, right? And so it was many of my conversations with Lauren and listening to all the LD Expert Lives that led us to Stowell. And we took a leap of faith. And here we are almost a year later.


    [00:07:09.430] - Jill Stowell

    And it's interesting listening to you, and I'm sure so many parents are connecting to this because this is a journey that parents really go on, you know, finding who can I talk to and then where to go, and running all over town. And we really have learned over all these years that every child comes with a different combination of strengths and weaknesses. And there are so many underlying skills that contribute to success in school and so we just have to really look and see what that child's particular combination of challenges is so we can address them. Go ahead.


    [00:08:03.950] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    I was going to say that Stowell has a lot of programs that I didn't even know existed for children. So that is what's super unique about the center and what you've created.


    [00:08:18.510] - Jill Stowell

    So from your perspective, and mine too, to be quite honest, it's just much more comprehensive.


    [00:08:30.570] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    yeah, absolutely.


    [00:08:33.790] - Jill Stowell

    And for me, it really has been a journey of studying with all different experts who are doing the research in the field and realizing, yeah, it isn't just one thing, we've got to pull it all together. So once you started working with us at the Learning Center, when did you really get a sense of what the root of the challenge was or what that looked like for your son?


    [00:09:11.250] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    After the evaluation that was done with Stowell, we have the Psycho Educational assessment done and we brought that with us and they use that and then they did a little bit more testing and nobody had ever tested our son for the integrated reflexes or even mentioned that as an issue. Stowell evaluates the whole child, right? And you create steps in a program that are unique to them as opposed to the one size fits all approach. But I think I had my AHA moment when I was listening to the LD Expert Live Webinars. I kept feeling that the sessions were specifically talking about our son. And I kept thinking, OK, I'm not alone on this island, but yet I felt alone on the island. And some of the sessions that I listened to resonated more than others. And so I found so much information provided, books to read, websites to look at, other practitioners for help, and then a bunch of other parents who were struggling in the same manners across states, not just in Southern California, finding out that in other states there wasn't anything offered. So when I read your first book At Wit's End, I knew that you at Stowell had to be the secret sauce, right?


    [00:10:43.290] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    You had to be what we were missing. And so we had to try and we had to trust. Our son was diagnosed with several challenges, so he had auditory, visual, sensory, social attention reading. It was overwhelming and so the road looked very daunting. And we were advised that the milestones would be very small steps, but that we would see progress. But we had to be patient and give it time. And eventually, we did see a new child emerge as the months went by. And while he didn't understand the challenges that he had challenges, he would wonder, why am I going to Stowell? Why am I here? What am I doing? I don't think there's anything wrong with me. And it wasn't until we showed him some standard test scores that he had taken at the beginning of the school year and then several months later that he saw this great difference and that some tasks were becoming easier for him.


    [00:12:03.230] - Jill Stowell

    And I always loved that when kids are able to say, well, now reading is easier or now I can get my homework done faster, or whatever it is that is important to them and they start to see that I love that.


    [00:12:23.690] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    Yes. And I think children don't see the differences in themselves. I'm just like my friend next to me and so when they have an AHA moment it's like that light bulb goes off for them and they think, oh, now I know why I'm here. Mom's not just driving me three times a week, an hour and a half a day because she enjoys it. 


    [00:12:52.280] - Jill Stowell

    Come on.


    [00:12:54.770] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    Right. I'm here because there's something that I'm doing that's helping. And once he realized that, then getting to the root of the challenges, if he's on board, then the therapy is going to go even better. And that I think is important too, is that the child has to understand why are we here? And when they are convinced that they're here for a reason and that they see some changes, then they're going to be excited to go to the sessions. And he is excited. He's excited to be there. He enjoys his clinicians. He loves joking with them and seeing them and telling them about his day or something wonderful that happened. And I think that relationship is also extremely important as well. Finding the right fit.


    [00:13:50.340] - Jill Stowell

    Absolutely. The relationship is really important and it kind of helps kids until they start to see the changes themselves and get really motivated because they're seeing the progress. But that relationship is so key to making it all work. Is there a specific therapy or strategy that he's doing that you feel like has been particularly helpful or fun or had a significant impact for him?


    [00:14:28.310] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    There's a few things actually. There were two strategies we used the entire school year that helped when studying for test. We used thinking maps and the Infinity Walk and we used a lot of rewire phrases and lazy eights around the eyes to prepare for the day. Every morning we would have a rewire like I am my best self, I can do this. Something super positive that would help him get through either a test that he was nervous about or having to present a presentation. So those different kinds of strategies simple. They don't take a whole lot of time. Although I invested a lot of time in thinking maps for his tests and he would bring them to school and he would use them to review before a test and they were very helpful for him. Instead of long phrases on a PowerPoint presentation for him, seeing a map where it a flow map that took the science or the social studies or whatever the subject was and broke it down into tiny words and chunks really helped him. Because if you can hold on to that, you can write a sentence around it. So those are two strategies that we really used a lot.


    [00:15:56.090] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    We created a routine around The Listening Program and we noticed a significant change in our son's auditory listening and even physical coordination. I know there were many other therapies that helped with that, but he used to fall out of his chair, used to drop things that he had a good grip on, and they would just fall right out of his hands. And we saw a lot of that improve over time. We saw loud noises not be so painful. We saw him able to be able to give him two steps, you know, go grab your pajamas and then brush your teeth. So that program was a part of that journey as well.


    [00:16:45.300] - Jill Stowell

    Absolutely. That sound therapy component and he's using The Listening Program many of our students do is to me, I just think it is such a foundation for everything else we do because it stimulates the auditory system so that you get better information when you're listening and then of course, you can give better responses. But it also is regulating and centering, so it's really working with the body and attention control as well. So that paired with other things, is just an incredible tool. And I always love it when families build a routine around it and are really consistent with it because that's what makes it work.


    [00:17:38.930] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    Very true. The Core Learning Skills is another training, another great way to get members of your family involved. All your children, your spouse, whoever you have, everyone can benefit from the simple exercises to make those connections in the brain. And so that training is the one that honed in on those integrated reflexes that were missing. And he had several, I believe he had twelve. And so it explained a lot. And the movements that were in the training, I knew they would do them in the center and then we would have to continue them on at home and everybody would just get involved in it. And so that is something we will probably just continue working towards. And I know that his favorite program in particular was the Quantum Reflex Integration. So he looked forward to that every session and it was very calming for him. And he always wanted at the end of the session, he felt that it really grounded him. A couple of times, I think he even fell asleep. That's how calming it is that happens.


    [00:18:55.690] - Jill Stowell

    And just for our listeners, Quantum Reflex Integration is actually a low level laser therapy that helps make connections and integrate reflexes so that just everything works so that kids are not operating in fight or flight, but we're just in that good learning zone with really good neurological connections.


    [00:19:29.130] - Jill Stowell

    So I know. Andrea, you shared what you were doing with your son's teacher. And how was that sharing with the teacher? What impact did that have?


    [00:19:47.610] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    That was an important part of this journey. One of the things I love about school and love still about Stowell, is the role that you play in meeting with the teachers. So it's not just the parents going to the teacher and having a conversation. And here's some challenges my son has, and can you work with me? It's also the clinician at Stowell who reaches out to the teacher on a constant basis and gets that feedback and then helps to restructure a little bit of the program. What's working? What's not working? What do we need more of? What's going? Well, we were very fortunate to have his teacher be very on board as well as the principal. I would meet with them quarterly, sometimes more. If I saw a challenge that he might have been having with the subject or something that was happening in the classroom, I would ask for a meeting and we would sit and meet. And they were always very open about helping him. And the requests that Stowell had her, that we had to help him were simple. And I remember her saying all of these things you're asking me to do benefit all my students.


    [00:21:16.050] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    And it wasn't anything that would take her hours or weeks to prepare. There was no preparation for any of it. And so having the teacher, having the principal be on board and advocate for your child makes a huge difference. I guess being involved makes a difference. And then educating and informing teachers and administration about these challenges that children have. I know in your book, your new book, actually, you call it an invisible disability. And that's truly what it is. It is invisible. My son, you look at him, you would have no idea he has these challenges. And so a lot of times, these children with these invisible disabilities, they're labeled as being bad or disruptive. There's a whole bunch of words that you could pull out that the teachers label them as, but they're not. Every student just wants to be seen. And with the right tools, teachers can redirect, they can motivate, and they can support these students. And I think that is exactly what Stowell did. That's what we did with the teacher. And then just being an advocate for your child.


    [00:22:50.470] - Jill Stowell

    Absolutely. That is actually one of the things that I was really trying to provide for both parents and teachers in my book, Take the Stone Out of the Shoe was just a different way to look at kids and understand they really do want to do well. If they're not, what is the reason for that? And then also for parents and teachers to have some tools of what they can do.


    [00:23:25.370] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    I wanted to say my wish really for teachers is that they would actually receive some sort of annual training and tools to inform them about challenges that students are born with. And they're born with these challenges. It's not something that magically corrects over time. You have to get them the proper help. And if the teachers the more information that teachers have to help the students in the classroom, the better equipped they will be to understand their students and bring out the best in them. Because that's all children want. They just want to be seen, they want to be recognized. They beam when they get an award, when you tell them how proud you are of them working so hard, it's simple words can make all the difference.


    [00:24:20.190] - Jill Stowell

    Absolutely. Well, Andrea, thank you so much for sharing your story today. I love it when parents get excited about this work and start educating their kids' teachers and definitely sharing with other parents because this can be a lonely road trying to figure out what's going on, what to do. And so I appreciate you so much.


    [00:24:50.910] - Andrea Cangialosi-Monaly

    Thank you. And I appreciate that Stowell exists for our children.


    [00:24:56.370] - Jill Stowell

    Well, we love working with them and we get really excited about the changes that they make. Even those little changes are really significant. Well, this message is one that everyone needs to know. Kids want to do well. They aren't lazy or unmotivated or being disruptive on purpose. These are just symptoms of weak underlying learning or processing skills. And we know that by identifying and developing these lagging skills, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected. So thank you, Andrea, for helping us spread the word.



    Absolutely. Anytime.


    [00:25:46.310] - Jill Stowell

    Really powerful. At Stowell Learning Centers, we work with children and adults doing targeted brain training to permanently eliminate struggles associated with dyslexia, auditory processing and other learning differences so that students can become independent learners and thrive in school. We work with students both on site and virtually. If you would like to speak with someone about your child, visit Stowellcenter.com to schedule a free consultation. We would love to speak with you. Thanks for listening.