In this Episode
Angela Stephens interviews Jill Stowell on the Re-Focus Podcast.
In this episode, Jill discusses how parents can help their kids manage anxiety, what auditory processing means and how it can look like ADHD, why accommodations aren't the answer, and how Stowell Learning Center actually provides permanent and lasting solutions to learning and attention challenges for children and adults.
In this replay of The Refocus Podcast with Angela Stephens, Angela and Jill explore:
- ADHD and Auditory Processing Disorder
- Anxiety, especially in children
- Why Stowell Learning Center is the last stop for parents who are looking for permanent solutions for their kids with learning or attention challenges
“More and more, parents are coming with a concern about anxiety - especially in our teens, but even in our really young children.
That seems to be almost an equal concern with reading and academics - the self-identity, self-esteem, and anxiety. And that has gotten even more challenging since the pandemic - that kind of changed everything.”
- The Re-Focus Podcast with Angela Stephens
- Auditory Processing Disorder Infomation and Free Resources Page
- At Wit's End by Jill Stowell - Chapter 10: Auditory Processing
- Take the Stone Out of the Shoe by Jill Stowell - Chapter 5: What Do Challenges With Processing Skills Look Like?
LD Expert Podcast with Jill Stowell
Auditory Processing and Managing Anxiety - Jill Stowell on the Re-Focus Podcast with Angela Stephens
Jill Stowell: Welcome to the LD Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for dyslexia and learning differences.
I’m your host, Jill Stowell, founder and executive director of Stowell Learning Centers and author of Take the Stone Out of the Shoe, A Must-Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting, and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning, and Attention Challenges.
Today’s episode of the LD Expert Podcast is a replay of my interview on the Re-Focus Podcast with Angela Stephens.
Angela hosts the Re-Focus Podcast and she interviews CEOs, Senior Executives, ADHD Coaches, Business Coaches, Presidents, Surgeons, and more on how they focus and re-focus when they face adversity.
Go to www.ReFocusWithAngela.com to find all of her podcast episodes.
In our conversation, Angela and I dive into some really important topics that parents are facing today. We’ll talk about the prevalence of anxiety in kids and teens, and we’ll give you some strategies to help open up effective lines of communication with your anxious kids. Really important.
We’ll also discuss auditory processing disorder, ADHD, and why Stowell Learning Center is the last stop for parents who are looking for permanent solutions for their kids with learning and attention challenges.
I hope you enjoy my discussion with Angela Stephens on the Re-Focus Podcast.
Angela Stephens: Hey everyone. It’s Angela Stephens and I am the podcast host to RE-Focus with Angela. I am so excited today to introduce you to such a lovely person that I have had a great time getting to know but her name is Jill Stowell. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Stowell Learning Center that we’re going to learn more about and she’s also an author and she has a podcast. So we’re going to learn more about her. So first of all, thank you so much Jill for being a part of this podcast today. We graciously appreciate it.
Jill Stowell: Well, I’m very excited to be a part of it. So thank you Angela.
Angela Stephens: You’re so welcome. You’re so welcome. So I have a child who has ADHD. He’s now in college but I relate to so much of what you do because of being a single mom and raising him through those years.
So what is it first of all that in your center, that you find that you have kids coming in or parents coming in? In today’s world after the pandemic and everything that has happened, what are they coming in for? Is it for anxiety? Is it for focusing or can you give us a general idea of what students are struggling with today?
Jill Stowell: That is a really great question. I have been in business for a very long time and we at our learning centers, we focus on helping children and adults with dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, other learning disabilities, attention challenges to really eliminate the struggles associated with those issues.
So traditionally, parents have come because their kids were struggling in school namely with reading. That usually was the key thing and of course other academic things or attention. They’re not getting their work done.
But really kind of focused around school and now more and more, we’re hearing parents coming with a concern of anxiety, just tremendous anxiety in our children even – I mean especially in our teens but even in our really young children.
So that seems to be almost an equal concern with reading and academics is the self-identity, self-esteem, anxiety that they’re experiencing and I think that has gotten even more challenging since the pandemic. That just kind of changed everything.
Angela Stephens: It did. It did. Even college students. I know that there was a research done that even college students were doing video and the students were studying the faces, their faces and it gave them such anxiety that they would not attend and we actually had that issue with my son.
So I completely understand that and anxiety, when you say that, I think that’s a word that we use very lightly because it can be very debilitating, very debilitating and almost frozen. Is that a good word to use for that?
But when they come in, it’s interesting. I’m interested to hear this and I will tell you why. When children come in from that perspective, from your perspective, if someone can afford counseling or taking their children somewhere, but they have a child at home, what is something that parents can do to help their child with anxiety?
Jill Stowell: Well, there are a number of things. I think one is just downtime and outside time. If you kind of – going outside and walking, just that neurologically reduces stress on your nervous system. It tells your nervous system to just settle a little bit.
So if you just built a habit with your family or with your child of, you know, taking a walk after dinner or after school, just getting outside and moving and separating from devices a little bit, that is so healthy for all of us.
Angela Stephens: The Mayo Clinic, they did a research and they said that exercise is the number one thing you can do. That’s the number one thing you can do to help with anxiety and ADHD as well. So I found that to be very interesting.
The reason I say that is because when I was younger, I had a couple of surgeries and this was years ago. But they were still the worst and they would like take me from my mother and I was screaming and I remember this and as a child, I remember this. Then when I went to school, I was frightened and the reason I ask you this because I was so frightened of the nurse because back then, they were white and I never told my parents this I think until I was in college.
It took me a while to warm up to go into school but my mother took me to a psychiatrist and they said, “She’s fine. You got to give her some confidence,” and they got me into gymnastics and that was the thing that did it for me. But I think that’s a lesson that children don’t talk. They won’t come out and say why. It takes a while and it takes patience and I always say smaller conversations. Don’t drill them, right? More yeses than nos but don’t drill them because sometimes we want – as parents we want to know because we want to help them. But it doesn’t work like that, right?
Jill Stowell: Right and nobody, especially a teenager, but nobody wants to be interrogated and I think sometimes as parents, we want to know. So we start asking all these questions but they feel they can pull up a child’s defenses. One of the things that we really look at is all behavior, there is a reason for it.
Behavior tells us something and we can’t ask the child, “Why did you do that?” or “Why are you acting that way?” I don’t know. They don’t know.
Angela Stephens: Right.
Jill Stowell: But if we were to say, “Hey, I noticed that you have a lot of missing assignments this month. What’s going on with that?” or “Tell me about that.” If we just are very neutral and then open the door for them to respond and it might take a little bit. But if we come into whatever situation it is and we’re asking in a neutral way, “Hey, I noticed. What’s going on there?” and then be quiet and listen and observe. We’re going to start to understand what’s underneath that.
I mean who would ever have thought that you had developed sort of a fearfulness around the color white that the nurses were wearing? You wouldn’t have actually really known to say, “Oh, well, it’s because they’re wearing white.” But through a very neutral conversation, that might have come out and then we can address it.
Angela Stephens: I had amazing parents that would have done anything in the world to help me. I was so fearful to say anything at that time. But exercise and gymnastics gave me the confidence to kind of get through that.
So everyone is different and it’s very interesting to me about the psychology of children and one of the best things that someone told me one time was regarding teenagers and I learned this with my own son is that when they want to talk is when you want to go to bed and you might be so tired and they come in at 12 o’clock or whatever and you’re like, “Can we talk about this tomorrow?” So I have really worked at that and I would just get up and have a snack with them or something and it’s the best conversations I’ve ever had with my son.
Jill Stowell: Yes, and boy, as a parent, you are exhausted. Nobody has any idea. No child really understands until they become a parent themselves. But boy, those are precious times when you’re in the car with one child or late at night when they want to hang out for a few minutes. Man, you just want to grab those because that’s when they’re going to start to talk to you.
Angela Stephens: Absolutely. I want to ask you another specific question. So you go four to adult. Have you seen this challenge of students that are in high school graduate… Are they ready – if they have ADHD, dyslexia, whatever, are they ready for college? Because looking back with my son, I’m not so sure he was that first year. But I had heard that and I thought, “No, no, no. I think he’s fine.” But they do. They do struggle. Don’t you feel it the first year sometimes?
Jill Stowell: Absolutely. I think that’s the case for kids whether they have ADHD or not. A lot of times, this is a whole new ballgame especially if they go away to college.
Now they have to really organize their time and there’s so much freedom to try to figure out how I really manage all of this. So yes, I think it’s challenging and then especially with ADHD, a lot of times, we look at ADHD and executive function as going hand in hand. So you have a student who kind of lives in the now and their parent and their teachers but especially parents and coaches kind of keep them more structured and organized.
But then you go off to college and you’re living right now. So anything that happens right now can be distracting. It’s hard to look ahead and see what’s coming. It’s hard to look backwards and learn from your mistakes. So it’s a great time but it’s a really challenging time.
Angela Stephens: Right, and the maturity level sometimes is not quite there. So we get that. So a lot of our listeners are students, business owners, parents. When you talk about auditory processing, I want to talk with you about that because there are several different kinds of processing.
So usually – and you can correct me if I’m wrong on this. But usually with ADHD, there’s usually another area that goes along with it. For my son, it’s ADHD and anxiety. For some it’s dyslexia. For some it is depression. They’re usually things that go hand in hand and you find that along the way.
But the auditory processing, when a student is evaluated, we found that out early in life. We didn’t have auditory processing, the learning processing. Can you explain the difference for anyone just listening to this that might not be aware of that?
Jill Stowell: So auditory processing is not your hearing but it’s how the brain perceives the information that comes in auditorily or through your ears and there’s this whole range of sound frequencies that our brain and our ear can take in and process.
But if you’re not processing all of those sound frequencies, if there are some delays in that area, then you are not going to get a clear message when you’re listening. So it’s kind of like having a bad cellphone connection. There’s nothing wrong with your ears. But the connection is bad or the signal is bad.
So what happens is you’re getting part of the information and boy, when you have an auditory processing problem, you have to listen so hard and it takes so much mental energy and so much attention and pretty soon, you’re in a lecturing class and you’re listening so hard and you’re trying to take notes.
Pretty soon your notes don’t make any sense. You’re drifting off. People think that you have ADHD. You might. You might not because you just simply cannot keep your attention there or you’re trying to connect the dots and you connect it wrong and so you miss assignments.
It’s a huge, huge factor in learning but it is – it looks in a classroom more like an attention problem.
Angela Stephens: Right.
Jill Stowell: So it’s just hard to see that someone is struggling to listen.
Angela Stephens: Truly, yes, yes. A lot of times, as I’ve explained it, if I were going to tell my son to do something, if I ran it under two or three sentences, I need you to do this and this and this, it was too much, right? And he didn’t understand it and at times we would say, “But we told you this.” Then it reminded us that wait, did he really understand that those assignments were due? So are there different types of processing?
Jill Stowell: There are, absolutely. My mission in life is to help people understand that you look at academics and social skills, the kinds of things that we learn every day. But what we don’t really think about much is that underneath that, there are whole sets of underlying processing skills starting with really processing the information that we’re getting from our body so that we know where we are in space. We know how much force we’re using. We feel secure sitting in a chair or navigating our environment.
But then also kind of moving up in the brain from those basic motor kinds of skills. There’s visual processing. We have students that are brilliant. But you tell them to use a planner and they look at it and they’re like, “I have no idea what I’m looking at on this page.” They don’t understand or see the organization of it or possibly things seem to be kind of moving around on the page. So there’s visual processing, auditory processing, memory of course, working memory, holding something so that you can manipulate it and store it and use it.
So there’s all kinds of skills that support learning and so if someone is struggling socially or academically, we really have to look underneath that. Which of those underlying skills are not supporting them? Because as soon as there’s an issue down there in the underlying processing skills, it’s just going to make you have to work harder, longer and it’s going to stress your attention system.
Angela Stephens: Right, absolutely. And talk to the teachers, talk to the teachers. We had an issue and I will never forget this. It was geometry. My son struggled in high school, struggled so much and we went to the teacher and he really worked with us. But what had happened, they had just started using computers at that time. So here you got the teacher talking. We’ve got note taking and now you’ve got this computer and so it’s almost like the diamond or triangle and you couldn’t focus on all of them.
So we went to the teacher and we said, “Look, he’s really having a hard time,” and he said, “Shut the computer. The notes are on the computer. Listen to me. Take the notes.”
I found that so helpful and his grades shot up after that and that was a perfect example of if I had been a parent that just said, you know, “Go talk to your teacher. Get it taken care of,” but that’s when parents really need to help our children and the system and if they need a counselor. Like going to your academy and learning. It’s so important. Find out how you can help your children because we’re their advocates. Why do people choose your learning center? I’m curious so that everyone else knows. What do you provide at your learning center?
Jill Stowell: Our focus is really to help children and adults who are struggling with these learning or attention challenges to truly eliminate those struggles. So most of the time, if you’re getting help at school or through tutoring, what’s happening is someone is helping you get through the work or structuring things for you, giving you accommodations, modifying things and our goal is to get underneath the problem. Get to the root of the problem. Develop those underlying skills and then remediate the academic or executive function pieces so that the student can go on and learn and have their best life.
I mean not have to be dependent on accommodations and coping strategies and it’s interesting because the research, the brain research has been out there for oh, at least 40 years, but really a lot of the research on what we do goes back now 70, 80 years and yet it is still a really common belief that if you have a learning challenge, you have dyslexia, you’re pretty much – you’re stuck with it. Just figure out a way to live with it.
And that is really not true.
So parents find us usually when they are at their wit’s end. They’re just like, “I don’t know what else to do. We’ve provided help. We give them all kinds of structure at home. This isn’t working and we don’t think this is fair for our child to have to live with this forever.”
Angela Stephens: Right. And the interesting thing is, is these are some of the most brilliant kids and students out there.
Jill Stowell: Absolutely.
Angela Stephens: You look at Dr. Hallowell. He has dyslexia. He’s a top ADHD psychiatrist in the country, which he has been on our podcast but you look at the founder of Jet Blue Airlines. He was on our podcast. He has ADHD. I have ADHD. So I mean there are people that again they are so smart but we are their advocate and I want to say a couple of things in this, that if a parent is going to a counselor or to a facility and it’s not working, it may not be a match. So look at other places.
Find out. Listen to podcasts like this. Find great people like yourself. I just met you and to all the listeners, she’s lovely. You feel like you can talk to her forever. So Jill is amazing and I would highly recommend her. You are based in Southern California but you do remote work. Where can people find you?
Jill Stowell: On our website, it is stowellcenter.com. There are lots and lots of free resources for parents and teachers there and certainly information about what we do, the podcast, the books and how you can talk to someone about your child. So that’s really the best place, stowellcenter.com.
Angela Stephens: OK, perfect. All right. So I want to talk about you for just a second. So we talked about focus on here and we’re all human. So on those days that maybe you’re running late or you just didn’t get enough sleep and you’re not yourself, how do you Jill, how do you focus on those days?
Jill Stowell: So many of the things that we do for our students are really amazing techniques for humans. So I take deep breaths. We teach our kids to take nice, deep breaths, get themselves focused and just sort of sit with that a little bit. Being late is – oh, it’s the thing that does rattle me the most and then I start to think about oh my gosh, all the things and so taking a nice, deep breath and just centering.
Angela Stephens: When you just take a deep breath, it just kind of made me like more – you know, like even more relaxed and so not that I’m not, but it kind of gives you that calm. As I told you before, our mission is that once a person is focused, they’re organized and they find their calm, they can be brilliant. Anyone can be brilliant. It’s just refocusing on you.
I could talk to you forever. I think you’re fantastic. But I do have one last question. So we ask this to all of our guests that we have here on the podcast. When you’re having those off days and you get in your car and you’re going to that really important place or you have that really important meeting, what is the music or the artist or the genre or silence or what do you listen to in the car?
Jill Stowell: If I’m heading into a meeting or a presentation, either I’m actually just settling myself and being quiet, kind of thinking about what the person or the audience needs to get the focus off of myself and onto them or recently about a year ago, I discovered that Huberman Lab Podcast and Andrew Huberman is a neuroscientist. He talks about the brain and I love the brain and listening to his work, it just validates everything that we do, all the science. So that kind of gets my brain into that learning, focused mode. So I like that.
When I’m going home and separating from a really busy day at work, I usually listen to audiobooks, novels because I love stories and so that takes me away. It sort of helps me separate before I get home.
Angela Stephens: Wow, OK. Awesome and it was lovely because she said that she had been listening to our podcast. So I was glad to hear that. I love that.
Jill Stowell: Yes, and I’ve been loving it.
Angela Stephens: Oh, that’s so great. First of all, like I said, I think you are fantastic. I think you have so much to offer. If I had a young child or even a teen, I would definitely be looking you up because I feel like you’re somebody that I would take my own son to. So I hope that’s a compliment because believe me, I interviewed a ton of people when I would find individuals for him because I love him dearly and I think many parents do. We want the very best for our children.
Jill Stowell: Absolutely.
Angela Stephens: So first of all, thank you so much for this. We graciously appreciate your time. So check her out, Jill Stowell at the stowellcenter.com.
Jill Stowell: Yes. Thank you so much and thanks for what you do. It’s amazing.
Angela Stephens: You’re so welcome.
[Today’s podcast is sponsored by Re-Focus Careers. If you are not sure what you want to do in life or maybe you’re not happy in your job, check us out at refocuscareers.com. You can get career coaching there but also check us out at our podcast which is refocuscareers.com/podcast and what you’re going to find is you’re going to find different interviews with executives from all different types of careers and it may just give you a new idea, a new start and a new career in your new life.]
- Episode 71: Ronnie Gardiner Method® for Building Social Connection, Executive Function & Attention – Jill Stowell
- Episode 70: The IEP – What Parents Need to Know – Dina Kaplan
- Episode 69: Embracing Differences and Building Social Emotional Health – Suzanne McClure
- Episode 68: Executive Function Tips for Parents, Teachers, and Students + T.E.F.O.S. – Part 2 – Seth Perler
- Episode 67: The Executive Function Online Summit PLUS a Special Message for Kids – Part 1 – Seth Perler
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