Tutoring vs. Learning Enhancement Centers Services

Recently, there was an article in the local newspaper talking about the increase in tutoring services in our area. This subject is obviously something that is very near and dear to my heart. How do parents determine which service will meet their child’s needs? How do they know if all their child needs is tutoring, or if there is something more going on that is causing the difficulty in the first place?

At the Learning Enhancement Centers, we often use the analogy of a tree to help parents understand how we are different than a typical tutoring place. Starting from the bottom of the tree, we think of the roots. If you saw a tree dying, you would assume it isn’t getting enough nutrients from its roots. The same is true academically; if a student is struggling, it is usually due to weak underlying skills. These skills are the mental tools necessary to succeed. They are things like memory, attention, visual and auditory processing, and processing speed. If a student hasn’t acquired these foundational skills, school will always be a struggle.The Tree Analogy

The second part of the tree is the trunk or the stem. Its job is to take the nutrients from the roots up to the leaves and the branches. Academically, we correlate this to executive function skills. Executive function skills are the mental management skills, which impact things like time management, organization, and study skills.

The third part of the tree is the leaves and branches. We associate this part of the tree to the academic subjects such as reading, writing, math, and spelling. This is where most tutoring centers and schools focus. However, if there is anything wrong with the roots (processing skills) or trunk (executive function skills), tutoring might help for a while, but it won’t correct the problem for the long term. School will continue to be a struggle. You can try to support the leaves and branches, but the tree is still going to die.

Here is the bad news.  Weaknesses in processing skills (the roots) or executive functioning skills (the trunk) don’t correct themselves. They often get worse as the academic subjects become progressively more complex. Schools and regular tutoring centers don’t address problems in these fundamental areas. They assume that the underlying skills are in place. Many of the evaluations done by a typical tutoring center will report that a student doesn’t know his blends or certain vowel sounds, or his math facts. But that is still the academics (the leaves and branches). Rather, my question is why hasn’t the student gotten it yet? Where is it breaking down in the brain, and how do we fix it?

The good news is that building those underlying learning skills takes some very specific attention, but it can be done. The current research on the brain’s plasticity – the ability to change throughout life – is the basis of our clinically proven programs.

Trying to decide if we are the right place for your child? Want to know more about how we help? Come out to our next Parent Information Night on Thursday, June 25. We will explain what is keeping your child from learning as easily as he should, how we are different than traditional tutoring, and options for getting your child started. Meanwhile, if you want to read more about our services and programs, review our Services page.

By the way, if we feel that we aren’t the right place for you, we will tell you. We will even help you decide what other services may benefit your child.

 

 

Share

Dyslexia and Reading Difficulties

Dyslexia and Reading Difficulties

What comes to mind when you think of the word DYSLEXIA? 

I recently asked a group of people this question and here are some of their responses:

“Difficulty with reading… letters appear out of order or backwards….issues with spelling and numerical order…transposing letters and numbers…more than 2 years behind in reading.” 

Current Definition of Dyslexia

When I was in college, I was taught that dyslexia was a result of visual processing issues, and those issues caused the reversals and the difficulty with reading.  The meaning and causes of dyslexia have changed in recent years.  So while some people with dyslexia do have these problems, they are not the most common characteristics of dyslexia.

Experts now believe that dyslexia has little to do with recognizing the visual form of words.  They have found that the brains of people with dyslexia are wired differently; they have difficulty with phonological awareness, or the ability to blend, segment, and analyze the sounds in words.

Causes of Reading Difficulties

Although the definition of dyslexia may be good to understand, the thing I think is most important to know is this – difficulty with reading can be caused by different issues.  Personally, I don’t usually care about the label as much as I do about what is causing the reading difficulty.  In our practice, we use our evaluation to uncover the cause of the problem.  Then, we use the information to determine what strategies will work best to help that student improve their reading.

In the last 20 years of evaluating students with reading difficulties, I have identified 3 causes of reading challenges, each requiring a different type of solution.

Inability to Process Sounds — The first cause is the inability to process the sounds in the words. (This would be considered dyslexia based on the current definition.) If you have difficulties in this area, it is almost impossible to understand and use phonics.  In these cases, we need to train the brain to process the sounds, and then we teach phonics.  The results are quite amazing when you treat what was causing the problem in the first place.

Visual Issues — Visual issues, also, can cause reading challenges.  These students often have issues with visual-spatial skills and visual efficiency, such as tracking.  They are the ones who have reversals issues, who mix up letters, and who can’t remember the word from one line to the next.  They often can decode words, but struggle with reading fluency.  While we still teach phonics to these students, we do many other activities to increase their visual skills first.

Double Whammy — Finally, the third cause is the one that Sally Shaywitz, author of Overcoming Dyslexia, calls a “double deficit.”  (I call it a “double whammy.”)  These students have both issues.  Unfortunately, it takes much longer to address their issues.  They don’t connect the sounds to the symbols.  We can teach them phonics until they are “blue in the face,” and yet they won’t naturally apply the rules.  These students will need a combination of strategies to learn to read.Student with Reading Difficulties

Finding the Best Solution

We see students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia all the time.  The recommendation by the diagnosing medical professional is almost always for a reading program that teaches systematic, explicit phonics.  While I think this is the best way to teach reading, some students need more to overcome their reading challenges.  I don’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Frankly, the continuous recommendation of this approach makes me sad and mad!  Our students deserve more.

All this to say, if your child is struggling with reading, you need to know what is causing the problem in the first place.  If someone tells you, for example, that your child doesn’t know her consonant blends – that is good information, but you want to ask, “What is causing that to happen? Where is the breakdown occurring in her brain?”  After all, once you know the problem, the solution is easy to determine.

If your child is struggling with reading, we would love to help you find the causes AND the solution.  Contact us to schedule an evaluation.

 

Related Articles:

Share

Exercise Your Body, Energize Your Brain

Small Changes, Big Results Series

Part IV:  Exercise Your Body, Energize Your Brain

The upcoming generation is known as Generation XXL due to the growing childhood obesity epidemic. Adding only a half hour of exercise to a child’s daily routine has not only benefits for weight management but brain function as well.

 

How Exercise Affects the Brain

Have you ever sat in a long meeting or seminar and found yourself getting sleepy, antsy, and dying for a break so you could get up and move around?
Exercise for Your Brain

Research shows that physical movement can enhance clarity, attention, and readiness for learning. Physical movement increases oxygen flow to the brain, improving alertness, concentration, and receptivity. Adding movement or physical action to a learning activity increases recall.

At the Learning Enhancement Centers, we find that integrative movements that cross the midline of the body are extremely helpful in bringing students to a calm, alert, and mentally and emotionally ready state for learning. We use the Brain Gym activities with our students. The movements can be easily integrated into the classroom or home. Here are two books that are great references:

  • Brain Gym Teacher’s Edition by Paul E. Dennison and Gail E. Dennison (www.braingym.com)
  • Hands On: How to use Brain Gym in the Classroom by Isabel Cohen and Marcelle Goldsmith (www.braingym.com)

Periodic brain breaks that involve movement throughout the school day and homework time will also improve learning, productivity, and attitude. Breaking up learning with Brain breaks help to keep the pupils in the most receptive state for learning. These short exercises increase oxygen supply, release stress, and allow learners to refocus.

Finally, deep breathing and water are also great brain energizers. Deep breathing immediately brings more oxygen to the brain and encourages relaxation, improving thinking and focus. Water improves the electrical transmissions in the brain and nervous system, providing energy for learning and attention.

 

How to Add Exercise to Your Child’s Life

Here are some links for fun, quick movement exercises that can be easily integrated into the classroom, clinic, or home:

This week, try adding some movement into your and your child’s day. My personal strategy is to work for 25 minutes and then move for 2-5 minutes. Do you notice a difference? Are you better able to focus? Do you notice that you have more energy for the task at hand?

 

Other Articles in the Small Changes, Big Results Series:

Share

Choosing the Right Carbohydrates

Choosing the Right Carbohydrates

Small Changes, Big Results Series

Part III:  Good Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the main source energy for the body, but, as with fats, there are good and bad choices. In his book, The Ultramind Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman says that “carbohydrates are the single most important food for long term health.  Carbohydrates found in their natural form contain many essential nutrients and specialized chemicals that keep you healthy.” Since carbs are so important to our health, it is important to understand which carbohydrate choices are healthiest for us and our children.

Best Carbohydrates — Complex Carbs

Carbohydrates are important to our health by providing energy for our bodies and helping protein (in the form of tryptophan) enter the brain cells. The best carbohydrates for us and our children are called complex carbohydrates. These carbs digest slowly, enter the bloodstream gradually, and create a gentler rise in blood sugar. Whole grains, legumes, and vegetables are examples of complex carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates provide a stable supply of energy for our bodies. They slowly break down and release sources of sugar and prevent surges of blood sugar and insulin. The slowly released carbohydrates from whole, unprocessed plant-based foods also keep our serotonin levels balanced. Serotonin improves feelings of well-being, hopefulness, organization, and concentration. Low amounts of complex carbohydrates affect brain function, making you feel foggy- or light-headed. You also may have a hard time concentrating  and feel sad or depressed. Complex carbs contain all the vitamins and minerals, with the exception of Vitamin B, that are needed for our bodies to operate normally and optimally.

Bad Carbohydrates — Refined Sugars

Sugar and white flour are two of the worst carbohydrates. They are a type of simple carbohydrates called refined carbohydrates or refined sugars.  Refined carbohydrates are highly processed sugars which are easily digested and therefore are absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly.  They rapidly raise blood sugar levels (which is associated with memory problems). Refined sugar robs our bodies of B vitamins and nutrients needed to support a stable nervous system and blood sugar balance, thereby affecting our health, moods, attention, memory, and behavior.  Examples of refined carbohydrates are soda, white bread,  white rice, and candy.

Not all simple carbohydrates are considered bad.  Some simple sugars occur naturally in healthier food options, such as fruits and dairy.  In these more nutritious simple carbs, the natural sugars are digested along with the natural fiber and nutrients of the food, which slows the absorption of the sugar into the bloodstream. In contrast, refined sugars have little to no nutrients or fiber to slow sugar absorption.

Why Making Good Carb Choices is Important

Maintaining consistent blood sugar levels allows the brain to get the steady flow of sugar (glucose) needed to keep it fit and functioning. Spikes and fluctuations in blood sugar cause sugar overload, which can cause an individual to have very high, sometimes excessive energy, followed by low energy, sleepiness, or moodiness.  William Duffy (REFINED SUGAR: The Sweetest Poison of All) writes, “Excessive sugar has a strong mal-effect on the functioning of the brain. Too much sugar makes one sleepy; our ability to calculate and remember is lost.” This is definitely not a good prescription for learning!

What To Do About Kids Who Crave CarbohydratesHealthy Carbohydrates

Instead of getting rid of carbs, simply choose more of the right ones. Replace refined carbs with complex carbs, like whole grain cereals or bread, potatoes, corn, and beans. Substitute unhealthy simple carbs (refined sugars like soda and candy) with more nutritious ones, like fruits (apples, oranges, cherries, and grapefruits) and dairy (milk and low-fat yogurt).

Remember, it is about balance. The brain needs good fats, healthy carbs, and protein to function optimally. Teach your kids how to make wise choices. This will leave them feeling healthy, energetic, and empowered.

How is your year going so far? Have you been making any of these small changes in your diet? Next time, we are going to talk about the impact of movement on attention and learning.

 

Other Articles in the Small Changes, Big Results Series:

Share

Protein for Improved Focus and Attention

Small Changes, Big Results Series

Part II: Protein

“Is your child eating protein as a regular part of their diet?”  This is a question I often ask parents, because few people understand how important protein is to our brain function and learning.  High-quality protein foods allow optimal brain function so that a child feels motivated, energized, and focused, not hyperactive or inattentive.  Here is how it works.

How Protein is Processed in the Body

Foods with high-quality protein have amino acids, which provide the building blocks for neurotransmitters.  Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that allow the brain cells to communicate with each other.  Two of these neurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine.  Serotonin improves feelings of well-being, hopefulness, organization, and concentration.  Dopamine is responsible for attention and focusing.  It allows you to maintain an action plan, regardless of other things trying to divert your attention. It also motivates and stimulates you to engage in life.

When protein enters the stomach, it is digested and exits the stomach as tryptophan.  Tryptophan aids in the production of dopamine and serotonin.  Tryptophan cannot cross the blood/brain barrier independently – it requires the assistance of carbohydrates/insulin – like a limo service to open the door and allow entrance.  Once in the brain, tryptophan converts to serotonin and helps us in organization, feelings of well-being, and satiation.   In fact, a study published in the September 2011 issue of Behavioral and Brain Functions showed that children with ADHD appear to have 50 percent lower levels of tryptophan.

(Although our brain needs carbohydrates to complete this process, they must be the right types of carbs.  We will discuss this topic in the next Small Changes, Big Results article, Choosing the Right Carbohydrates.)

The Small Change

As much as possible, increase protein at all meals.   Protein increases dopamine and serotonin and can stabilize blood sugar, whereas a high-carb meal increases insulin and can make your child feel foggy and have less energy.  Many children go to school after having a sugary carbohydrate breakfast, and many teens choose to go to school with no breakfast at all.  A low sugar breakfast and lunch with 12-20 grams of protein can make a vast difference in a learner’s performance.

Breakfast High in ProteinSome great sources of protein are:

  • Greek yogurt (be careful as dairy can often be an allergen)
  • Lean meats – chicken, turkey, and other lean meats
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Fish
  • Plant-based protein sources – beans, barley, brown rice, broccoli, potatoes, spinach, etc.
  • Protein shakes

Often times, asking students to reduce carbs/sugar can be difficult, so a great baby step is to add a high protein food item to their meal.  For instance, if they are having a waffle for breakfast (carb), they could add a hard-boiled egg.  They could also have an apple or celery with peanut butter.  It is a great compromise, and one that can help your child feel more focused.

Remember the goal is to balance your food consumption to provide optimum brain function.

Do you find it hard to get your child to eat protein? Have suggestions of things that you found that your child likes and have been easy to implement? As always, we would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Other Articles in the Small Changes, Big Results Series:

Share

Healthy Fats For Healthy Brains

Small Changes, Big Results Series

Part I: Healthy Fats

Every January, many adults make resolutions to get healthy by eating better, exercising more, and getting more sleep.

We seem to know that these things are important to our own health. And yet, the impact that diet, movement, and sleep have on attention and learning is frequently overlooked. As a parent or teacher, it isn’t too late to think about adding these things to your student’s daily routine (or even yours). Small changes today could bring about major changes in your child’s life.

In this series of blog posts, Small Changes Big Results, we will discuss some small changes you can make that can positively impact your child’s learning and behavior.  We will begin by looking at the importance of healthy fats to your child’s brain.

Feeding Your Brain

Studies have shown that what we eat affects how we feel, how we think, and how much energy we have. Memory, thinking, and attention are strongly influenced by food. Optimal nutrition is the most important factor in keeping your brain healthy.  Because of this fact, small changes to our children’s diet and nutrition is a great place to start making big impacts.

Let’s Look at Healthy Fats First

Healthy Fats positively impact the brain

Believe it or not, the most important nutrient for the brain is fat because the brain is actually made up of fat. Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, are essential for brain function. In fact 60 percent of the brain is made up of DHA. DHA is essential for the brain cells’ ability to transmit signals to one another. This is what makes learning and memory possible.

Studies have shown that dopamine activity, which is critical for brain function, is improved with essential fatty acid consumption. A study from UCLA published in the May 15, 2012 edition of the Journal of Physiology showed that fatty acids can counteract the disruption in memory and learning causing by diets high in fructose. Another study published in Plos One in June 2013, showed that lower levels of DHA were linked to poorer reading and working memory performance as well as behavioral problems in healthy school aged children. Research has also shown that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to have low omega-3 fat levels.

In the last 150 years, our fat intake has greatly changed. We need to make sure that we are consuming the best fats for brain health. For instance, if the majority of our fat intake is from trans fats and beef fat, our cell membranes become stiff and hard like lard. This makes it difficult for information to pass from one cell to the next. However, if they are made from omega-3 fats, our cell membranes will become fluid and flexible, allowing easy communication between cells.

Where Do We Get Healthy Fats?

Omega-3 fats come from wild things, which can be hard to find in today’s society. Our bodies can’t produce enough DHA, so we must supplement through diet. The best sources of DHA are cold water fish (salmon, sardines, herring, halibut), walnuts, omega-3 eggs, and flaxseed. Dr. Daniel Amen, author of many books, including Healing ADD Revised Edition: The Breakthrough Program that Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD, recommends supplementing dietary intake of omega-3s.

It is important to realize that not all supplements are created equal; it is important to choose quality products. Third-party testing for independent verification of active ingredients and contaminants is crucial. Also, consider from where the products are sourced.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you already take essential fatty acids? Are you considering adding them to your diet?

Fats are just one piece of the “nutrition puzzle.”  For Part II of the Small Changes Big Results series, we will look at the importance of protein to brain health — Protein for Improved Focus and Attention .

 

Other Articles in the Small Changes, Big Results Series:

Share

Sensory Processing Disorder vs ADD

In our last two blogs, we talked about how weaknesses in auditory processing and reflex integration can look like attention deficit.  In this article, we talk about the impact of sensory processing on attention.

Sensory processing refers to how our brain receives information from the senses of the body and processes it.  The brain then has to decide how to respond and then commands the body to respond appropriately.  For most individuals, this is done without issue.  However, someone who has difficulty processing this information and responding appropriately is said to have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Most of us are aware of the five senses:  sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.  However, there are two other very important senses:  Vestibular and Proprioceptive.

The Vestibular sense is housed in the inner ear.  It helps us to make sense of where our body is positioned in space.  It allows us to make changes in our posture and balance.  It detects head acceleration, head position, and the pull of gravity.  (Most older people have a poor vestibular system.)

The Proprioceptive system allows our body to judge the space around us, know where we are in relation to that space, and know where our body parts are and what they are doing.   It is housed in the receptors in the joints, muscles, and ligaments.  It tells us how much pressure and force is needed to do something, and is stimulated by heavy work, pulling, pushing, carrying, jumping, hugging, etc.   Without movement affecting the muscles and joints, the receptors go to sleep.

Sensory processing can be so difficult to explain.  Some students can be overstimulated by the sensory information, while others can be understimulated.  Students can vary in how they respond.  Some will act in accordance and others will try to counteract their response.

For example, a student who is overstimulated becomes overloaded by the sensory input, and if they are acting in accordance, they will become distractible, hyperactive, or silly.  But if they try to counteract the stimulation, they might become avoidant, or rigid or ritualistic, or resistant to change.

If understimulated, the student may respond in accordance and appear bored, tired, or apathetic.  Whereas, the student who is trying to counteract this understimulation might try to get more sensory input by seeking the sensations, and seem active, fidgety, and excitable.

As my friend, Denise, says, “If you have met one kid with Sensory Processing Disorder, you have met one kid with Sensory Processing Disorder.”

Here is a very short checklist of sensory symptoms.  (A long one can be found at http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html)

  • Responds negatively to loud or unexpected noises
  • Holds head upright even when bending over or  leaning (i.e. Maintains a rigid position/posture during activity)
  • Seeks to make noise for “noise’s sake”
  •  Rocks/twirls/bounces frequently
  • Seeks hugs or other deep pressure
  • Avoids getting messy
  • Has difficulty standing close to other people
  • Appears sensitive to changes in lighting
  • Reacts emotionally or aggressively to touch
  • Exerts too much or not enough pressure when handling objects
  • Gags easily with certain food textures
  • Touches people or objects to the point of irritating others

 

  • Dislikes playground equipment or moving toys
  • Seeks all kinds of movement
  • Takes movement or climbing risks that compromise personal safety
  • Appears lethargic (no energy, sluggish)
  • Is sensitive to certain fabrics or clothing
  • Limits self to particular foods or food temperatures
  • Prefers long sleeved clothing when it’s warm or short sleeves when it is cold
  • Displays unusual need for touching certain toys,  surfaces or textures
  • Insists on removing shoes as soon as possible, or insists on leaving shoes on
  • Decreased awareness or response to pain or temperature
  • Chews, licks, or mouths non-food objects

 

Sensory Processing Disorder is something we screen for during our evaluation.  Learning Enhancement Centers has many strategies that can be used to help a student with SPD.  However, there are times when we feel that the student should work with an Occupational Therapist (OT) first.  Once again, this is why an evaluation is so important to make sure that the cause of the problem is being addressed, not just the symptom.

 

Share

Primitive Reflexes Impact Attention and Learning

Last time we talked about how weak auditory processing can affect attention.  In this newsletter, we discuss primitive reflexes.  Primitive reflexes are involuntary movements that develop in-utero and are essential to the survival of the newborn.  Typically, these reflexes will be integrated by age one.  If they don’t “disappear,” they continue to fire and cause neurological interference that inhibits efficient development and easy learning.

Okay, so what does this mean in layman’s terms?  Basically, if a reflex is present, the brain has to divert energy to prevent the reflex from occurring.  This means there is less “brain” to pay attention to the task at hand.  This is why we evaluate for the presence of reflexes.

Below, we talk about 5 primitive reflexes that are known to affect educational progress.

The Moro Reflex is also known as the “Startle Reflex.”  When an infant becomes startled by a loud noise, sudden movement, or bright light, he responds by extending their arms outward and inhaling sharply.  The reflex is normally integrated by 2-4 months of age, and is replaced by the adult startle reflex.  If it isn’t integrated, the individual will often over-react to auditory stimulation.  The retention of this reflex causes the person to remain in a “fight or flight” mode.  Staying in this fight or flight mode causes the nervous system to be over activated.  This can cause the child to become fatigued and the child may have a weakened immune system.

moro

Symptoms of a retained Moro Reflex include:

  • Excessive blinking
  • Fixation/Staring
  • Difficulty maintaining eye contact
  • Vestibular problems (Imbalance, dizziness, motion sickness, vertigo)
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Anxiety
  • Frequent ear and throat infections
  • Depleted energy, fatigue, mood swings
  • Easily overloaded by sensory input, hypersensitivity to sound
  • Difficulty catching a ball or processing visual stimuli
  • Dislike of change

 

The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) helps prepare the infant for rolling over, creeping, crawling, standing, and walking.  This reflex is linked to balance and muscle tone.  If it is retained, it will disrupt balance and gross motor skills.

To see if the reflex is present, have the child do a “superman” movement.  Lying flat on his stomach, have the child raise his chin off the floor, bring his extended arms overhead close to his ears, and lift his straightened legs off the floor.  His body should be taut, only touching the floor at the midriff.  A school-aged child should be able to hold this for 20 seconds (see picture below).  If the child bends his legs or his body is shaking, it indicates the reflex is still present.

superman

Symptoms of a retained Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex include:

  • Poor posture
  • Toe walker
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Poor eye movement control
  • Information processing problems
  • Visual-perceptual difficulties
  • Afraid of heights
  • Weak or rigid muscle tone

 

spinal galant

The Spinal Galant Reflex is present at birth and usually disappears by 9 months of age.  It is activated when the child is touched on the side of the spine.  The child will usually flex toward the side that is stroked (see picture).

A student who has this reflex usually can’t sit still because every time his back is up against the chair, the reflex is activated, so he wiggles in his chair.  The student will want to pay attention, so he focuses on sitting still, but then he isn’t able to focus on what the teacher is saying or his assignments.

Symptoms of a retained Spinal Galant Reflex include:

  • Can’t sit still; fidgety
  • Short term memory problems
  • Bedwetting beyond age 5
  • Sensitive to tight clothing around waist
  • Constant noise making

 

The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) is fully developed at the time of birth.  It helps with movement down the birth canal.  If there is intervention during birth, such as use of forceps or caesarean birth, it can disturb the integration of the reflex.  The ATNR should go away between 4-6 months of age.

This reflex is caused by the rotation of the neck.  When a baby turns its head to one side, the limbs on that side straighten, and the limbs on the other side bend.

ATNR

Now clearly, when an older child turns its head, the arm doesn’t pop out, but what happens is that the brain has to divert energy to prevent the reflex from occurring and it takes away from the attention to the task on which the child was supposed to be focusing.

The retention of this reflex causes the most interference with the learning process.

Symptoms of a retained Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex include:

  • poor handwriting
  • heavy pencil grip and tension in the body when writing
  • All the energy that goes to the physical part of writing distracts the student from the writing content.  There is often a big discrepancy between the child’s ability to express themselves orally and in writing
  • Difficulty reading and tracking
  • Left-right confusion (Mixed laterality)
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • Difficulty learning to ride a bike
  • ADD and ADHD characteristics

ATNR handwriting

Sample of a student with retained ATNR

 

The Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) allows the baby to straighten its arms and bend its legs when in looks up.  It should be gone by 9-11 months of age.  This reflex allows the child to be able to crawl.  Crawling allows the baby to learn eye-hand coordination.

Symptoms of a retained Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex include:

  • Poor posture (– when head bends, the arms will bend causing a tendency to slump when sitting – often will end up almost lying on the desk to write)
  • Clumsy
  • Problems with copying from the board
  • Inability to crawl on hands and knees
  • Difficulty sitting with legs crossed ( “W” position when sitting on the floor)
  • Poor upper and lower body integration, affecting gross motor skills
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Messy eater
  • Difficulty learning to swim

STNR handwriting

Sample of how a person with a retained STNR might sit when writing.

 

Part of our evaluation at Learning Enhancement Centers includes testing of reflexes.  If we find that an individual has retained reflexes, we will assign exercises to help integrate them.  It takes time, but we have found that these exercises can increase a student’s attention abilities and have a great impact in all areas of their lives.

Share

Auditory Processing or ADHD?

In our last newsletter, we talked about the symptoms that can manifest in someone with attention challenges.  While we are not opposed to medicine, we don’t feel that it should be the first line of action.  To make sure that we are actually treating what is causing the attention difficulties, we generally evaluate five other areas that can cause attention difficulties separate from, or in addition to a biochemical reason.

One area we evaluate is Auditory Processing.  Auditory processing is different from hearing.  Basically, it is how you think about what you hear.

A central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) occurs when the auditory signal is received accurately by the ear, but becomes distorted, confused, or compromised in some way before it is received by the language area of the brain.

It’s Hard to Get the Message When You Have a Bad Connection

Perhaps the best way to understand a central auditory processing disorder in our “modern age” is to think about what it is like to be in an important conversation with a bad cell phone connection. You have to listen extremely hard, and any extra noise around (i.e. kids, traffic, etc.) becomes extremely irritating and hard to block out.

Because the signal is not clear, you miss part of what the speaker is saying and you find yourself saying, “What did you say?” and struggling to fill-in the gaps.

You’re not exactly sure what the speaker said, but you don’t want to sound stupid or uninterested, so you make what you think is an appropriate response.   Oops! That backfired. Now you have to explain about the bad connection and why you misinterpreted what they said and made an “off-the-wall” response.

You don’t quite understand the speaker, yet when you have a clear connection you really don’t have a comprehension problem.

It takes so much energy to keep up with this conversation, that you find your attention drifting. You feel distracted and frustrated, and doggone it, important or not, you just want to get off the phone.

Luckily for cell phone users, the way to a better connection is to hang-up and dial again. But for students with CAPD, this is life.

Common Symptoms of Central Auditory Processing Deficit

In more clinical terms, here are some symptoms that most literature on CAPD include:

• About 75% are male

• Normal hearing acuity

• Difficulty following oral directions

• Inconsistent response to auditory stimuli (the signal isn’t always confused, just sometimes.)

• Short attention span; fatigues easily during auditory tasks.

• Poor long and short term memory

• Difficulty with phonics, reading, or spelling; mild speech-language problems

• Says “Huh?” or “What?” or often asks for things to be repeated

• History of ear infections

 

There is a strong relationship between language, language development, auditory skills, and attention.  This can make it hard to identify individuals with auditory processing disorders because similar behaviors are exhibited among students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

It is widely accepted that both ADHD and CAPD may co-exist or occur independently.  It can be like the chicken-egg scenario.  Does someone have poor auditory skills because of ADHD, or does the auditory processing cause the ADHD?  If the attention difficulties are due to an auditory processing, medicine might mask the symptoms, but it is not going to treat the root cause of the problem.  This is why an evaluation is so important.

Only an audiologist can confirm the presence of a Central Auditory Processing Disorder.  However, there is pattern that occurs in LEC’s evaluation that can indicate if there is an auditory processing deficit.

At LEC, if we determine that an individual has an auditory processing deficit, we will often recommend sessions and a home based sound therapy program.  We call this Auditory Stimulation Training.

Auditory stimulation training has been effective in treating a variety of disorders, including auditory processing disorders, speech and language disorders, learning disabilities, autism and spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorders, and reading and spelling disorders.

Some of the changes that we see as a result of Auditory Stimulation Training are

• Improved sleep

• Better ability to follow directions

• Improved auditory comprehension

• Improved vocal quality

• Better organization

• Improved social interaction

• Increased balance and coordination

• Improved language

• Increased attention

• Improved communication

• Reduced sound sensitivity

• Increased frustration tolerance

 

We have found Auditory Stimulation Training and sound therapy to be a tremendous tool in aiding in the development of attention, communication, and learning with individuals of all ages with a variety of learning challenges. We are seeing dramatic changes occur in the lives of children, teens, and adults.

 

 

Share

Does my child have ADHD or is there something more going on?

Many people think of Attention Deficit as the proverbial hyperactive child in the classroom, running and jumping around with lots of energy and enthusiasm, but ADHD is much more complex. The core symptoms that define ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Learning Enhancement Centers knows that not all kids (or adults) with ADHD will have these symptoms in the same way or to the same degree, and you will certainly see differences in the way the symptoms present themselves.

Hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention are really just the tip of the iceberg for kids who have ADHD. There can be additional impairments that may not be as obvious. With the hyperactive example, it may be that the individual has trouble slowing down enough to process information accurately. It might also be that he processes information so slowly that he has already acted before thinking through the consequences.

For others, it may be that the individual is having difficulty processing what he hears. It can be like having a bad cell phone connection – getting “a piece here” and “a piece there.” If someone is having a hard time hearing the other person, they can ask to call them back when they are in a better location and getting a clearer signal. Unfortunately, individuals can’t say that when they are listening to a lecture or speaking with someone else. So, they might tune out or have difficulty staying focused on the conversation.

What if you went to the doctor because your foot hurt? He prescribes morphine and sends you on your way. The pain does subside with the medicine but, had he looked at your foot, he would have seen there was a nail in it. Wouldn’t it have been better to remove the nail – the cause of the pain in the first place?

The same is true with attention problems. It is important to recognize that there are many possible causes of attention challenges. The outside symptoms might be that the child is energetic and active or that the individual is always daydreaming. The individual might truly have ADHD or there might be another cause of the attention challenges. This is why an evaluation that looks at all of the possible causes of the attention challenges is so important. In addition to the typical checklist that parents and teachers fill out, students can also do a computerized continuous performance test. At Learning Enhancement Centers, we evaluate five possible causes of attention challenges. While we are not opposed to medicine, we feel that it shouldn’t be the first thing that is tried. If the cause of the attention problems is due to auditory processing, for example, medicine isn’t going to help.

In our next few posts, we will discuss other possible causes of attention challenges and how to address them.

Share