Education needs practice and good coaches too.

I TRY and TRY, but I just DON’T get it…

Sweat was dripping down his face, as he worked on getting the rickety little boat out of the dock. But, it wasn’t moving. The man who let us take the fishing boat out began to laugh with the realization that the anchor was still in place. We weren’t going anywhere until it was released.

We had never taken a rowboat out on water and the motion was very different from a kayak. Getting the paddles to move at the same fluid pace was far more difficult than it looked. Others made it look so easy, why was it so hard?

Then we realized that it was something that we had to practice and to learn. It was a new motion, a new challenge, and it would take time to develop. As parents and educators we often expect our kids or students to get it and get on with their education without realizing the steps involved to get to that place of understanding or skill. The brain needs to be trained. It is an amazing organ that continues to grow as you build more connections and try new things.  As you practice, observe and try new things, your brain is expanding and being challenged.

When a child struggles in school, they often wonder why it is so hard for them and not for others? The brain develops at different rates and needs to be trained. Here at the Therapeutic Literacy Center we work on retraining the brain and creating new pathways that will allow your child to develop auditory, visual, and even attention skills that they may not have.

The amazing thing about our brain is that it changes and can be retrained.  Albert Einstein’s quote “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think” reveals the importance of understanding that we have a brilliant mind that can be trained. In schools, the focus is on content and academic learning, and basic academic skills and not on developing skills in executive function, processing, or core learning. We work to figure out what is going on behind the scenes and how we can make it better.

If your child feels like they are struggling in school and can’t keep up with the other kids, it is something that we can work on and improve. Building confidence toward their education and training the brain to process quicker is something that we do here. Our programs are specifically tailored to meet your child where he/she is at and allow them to grow.

Call or contact us today to talk about your child’s needs and how we can help them overcome the challenges they are facing!

No matter how hard you work, you still need good coaching

What is Dyslexia?

So What Is Dyslexia Anyway?  – Two “Classic” Symptoms Explored

We often wonder: Is my child dyslexic? or, Am I? and, What is Dyslexia exactly? However, in our experience, and in that of most people working in the field, not everyone who has difficulty with language or reading has “dyslexia.”

When you hear the word “cheese,” what comes to mind?
Some people picture a slice of yellow American cheese in its own individual wrapper. Others see a “wedge” of white cheese just cut from a “wheel.” Still others picture Swiss or blue cheese.
What about products with cheese – cheeseburgers, cheese danish, cheese pizza, cheese puffs. How about cheese concepts – “How Cheesy” or smile and say ‘Cheese!’”
They all contain cheese, but what exactly is cheese?

The same can be said of “dyslexia.”
Everyone has different ideas about what dyslexia means. The word “dyslexia” is actually a medical term meaning “difficulty with words.” That’s a pretty broad concept.
Let’s narrow this down just a bit.

There is current brain research indicating that people with dyslexia probably have physiological differences in the brain structure and how it processes, or thinks about, information.
At the Learning Center, we look at dyslexia from an educational standpoint. In other words, what can we do to overcome any limitations dyslexia might place on students’ ability to learn. We have worked with students with reading disabilities for over 13 years, and in that time we have come to recognize a couple of major symptoms that we would call “classic dyslexic symptoms.” These are: A significant phonemic awareness deficit, and a strong visual spatial thinking style.

What Is Phonemic Awareness and How Does It Affect Reading?
Phonemic awareness is a person’s ability to think about the number, order, and identity of individual sounds within words. It is the underlying thinking process that allows a person to make sense out of phonics, the sound system of our language.

The basic reading process is made up of three parts: Auditory (phonics), Visual (sight word recognition), and Language (the ability to use context clues and learn and apply new vocabulary).
In order to be an automatic, comfortable reader, all three of these processes need to be working efficiently together. If they are not, reading can be a frustrating struggle.
Current research and our clinical experience strongly indicate that weaknesses in the auditory part of the basic reading process, or inability to easily understand and use the phonetic code of the language, is a key factor in reading and spelling disorders.

A phonemic awareness deficit almost always keeps a person from being an efficient reader and speller. It usually causes individuals to be “disabled readers” in spite of the best efforts of parents and teachers.

For the second grader, it can mean being diagnosed as “developmentally delayed.” For the bright and creative seventh grader, it can mean spending countless frustrating hours doing homework and still failing. For the adult professional, it can mean making a “career” out of hiding the inability to read and write on the job.
Individuals with a phonemic awareness deficit find it terribly difficult to use phonics for reading and spelling. It has been said that these people simply cannot ever learn phonics. However, ongoing research in the field of auditory processing has shown us that this is not true. These individuals can be trained to develop their phonemic awareness and become effective readers.People with phonemic awareness deficit may experience the following:

  • Not accurate beyond their memorized vocabulary
  • Low level of sight vocabulary
  • Virtually no ability to sound out and/or blend words
  • Many times bright and motivated
  • Having to work “too hard” to read, spell, etc.
  • Poor grades
  • Written work is inaccurate
  • Confuse words in reading that look similar (such as quietly and quality)
  • Confuse words that sound similar (such as consonant and continent)

The Visual Spatial Thinking Style
The second “classic dyslexic symptom” is a strong visual spatial thinking style. People who have an auditory conceptualization deficit may or may not have the visual spatial thinking style.
Generally, these people tend to be bright, creative, “right-brained” thinkers, who think in concepts and pictures. They have the unique ability to see “in dimension,” or mentally “see” objects from all sideswithout actually moving their eyes or the objects . This talent lends itself to drawing, building, putting things together, and recalling concrete or visual information.

Many times, when “right-brained” children try to learn with the traditional “left-brain modes,” they are labeled as “attention deficit” because they mentally “leave” the classroom and create highly entertaining “movies” in their heads that are far more fulfilling and less disorienting than the symbolic ABCs and 123s.  Many times these individuals suffer from episodes that have come to be labeled simply “disorientation.” It is the uncontrolled loss of focus triggered by confusion, and it almost always occurs when working with symbols or when listening.

When the person experiences confusion about symbols (such as numbers and letters) his or her brain tries to understand. However, these individuals will usually go to their most comfortable thinking style, which is “seeing” in dimension. This can cause them to perceive the letter or word from different angles, recording different images of the word or letter in their mind. This makes it very hard to retrieve the symbols and often results in number and letter reversals or words “moving” on the page.

Small pieces of the language such as punctuation marks and small non-conceptual sight words such as the, of , and if may also be difficult for the visual-spatial thinker to pay attention to because it is hard to attach a concept or mental image to them. Disorientation may occur when the individual is overwhelmed with too much information, particularly with language.  When disoriented, the person often loses track of what’s going on around him as well as losing track of time.

We don’t ever want to take away a person’s thinking style. It is a wonderful creative style that was and is shared by important individuals in our society such as Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Bruce Jenner, Greg Louganis and many more.

Our goal is to help students develop other learning styles in addition to their own so they don’t have to suffer from confusion with language. “Dyslexic” symptoms, triggered by confusion about flat, linear symbols and small pieces of the language do not have to become a way of life.

There is help!
At the Therapeutic Literacy Center we help clients to develop control over their thinking processes to make sense out of reading, spelling, written language and math.  Through carefully researched and consistently effective methods, both of these most common and classic dyslexic symptoms can be overcome so that children and adults with average or above intellectual ability can become efficient learners.  Dyslexia and other learning disabilities are not diseases. They are simply differences in thinking or processing information that can be changed permanently . For some learners, the traditional methods of reading have not been successful. These individuals must be taught in a different way.

*Note: There are many other centers. Lindamood Bell and Banyan Tree are some of them in our area. Yet, once you enter our office, you will FEEL the difference. Our clinicians are all college graduates with degrees in psychology. They aren’t part time people working a “job” while they look for something else. They are all full-time clinicians dedicated to all of our clients. Working full-time allows us to go deeper in training and expertise in your child. We promise that there will never be “only two eyes” on your child. The level of collaboration and team work in studying your child along their growth accelerates their progress. That is our commitment to you.

Breakthroughs in Auditory Processing: Retraining the Auditory System through Music and Sound

The learning environment for the average student today is bursting with distracting, everyday noise. Overhead lights emit low buzzing sounds. Air conditioners, computers, traffic and construction noise, and voices in the cafeteria or gym classes bombard students’ brains and compete for their attention.  Many of us take for granted that we can filter out or otherwise ignore these distractions but many are simply unable to accomplish this sort of noise filtering.  Imagine what the world would be like if all that you perceived as ‘background’ noise was actually just as loud and just as commanding of your attention?The learning environment for the average student today is bursting with distracting, everyday noise.

Sound has a profound effect on living systems. Because sound goes directly into the body, it has the ability to nourish or depress the system. The vagus nerve, which connects the ear to the brain, also connects the ear to nearly every organ in the body . Have you ever gone into a teenager’s room, and felt like the music rattled you from head to toe? It did! Literally, inside and out.

The environment today is brimming with noise. This seemingly continuous barrage of environmental noise is a constant source of stress in an already stress-filled society.  Many studies have been done to understand the effect of noise on people and nature. In 1975, a study done by researcher Ariline Bronzaft found that children on the train track side of a New York public school lagged a year behind in learning to read when compared to their classmates on the other side of the building. Other studies have found the same learning difficulties for children living near airports.

Yet, the brain needs sound . A diet of healthy sound can have amazing effects on our learning, communication, emotions, relationships, sleep, coordination, creativity, organization and general sense of well-being.

How Does The Auditory System Work?
In order to think about and understand language, an auditory stimulus (sound) has to be received by the outer ear and channeled through the middle and inner ear to the auditory nerve. The ear’s job at this point is hearing.

Once the signal is transferred from the inner ear to the auditory nerve, it goes on a journey through the brainstem and the brain on its way to the cortex where language is processed. The Central Auditory Nervous System (CANS), where this journey takes place, is an intricate system dedicated to dealing with auditory information.

When the signal gets to an area of the brain called Heschl’s Gyrus the transition from auditory processing to language processing begins. It is at this point that the brain begins to process the auditory signal as language.

The final leg of the journey sends the language signals to the cortex where the information is coded, organized, interpreted, and understood.

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.

Common Symptoms of Central Auditory Processing Disorder

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
  • May be looking at the speaker, but doesn’t appear to be listening
  • Trouble listening when there is background noise
  • Difficulty knowing where the sound is coming from
  • Difficulty with phonics, reading, or spelling; mild speech-language problems
  • Disruptive behaviors (distracted, impulsive, frustrated)
  • Says “Huh?” or “What?” Often asks for things to be repeated
  • History of ear infections

And even if there has been no professional diagnosis for a struggling child as yet, we both know that something doesn’t  have to be an identified “disorder” for the issue to be a genuine challenge for the student.

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 are having to listen extremely hard, and any extra noise around you (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’re not quite understanding the speaker, yet when you have a clear connection, you really don’t have a comprehension problem.

It’s taking so much energy to keep up with this conversation, that you find your attention drifting. You’re feeling 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.

Key Player on the Sensory Team
The auditory system is like the quarterback or the “captain” of the sensory team. It begins to function at 16 weeks in utero and has neuro-connections that allow the sensory team to work efficiently. When the auditory system is weak, it can affect the integration of information being fed to the brain and the nervous system by the other senses.

An inefficient auditory system can inhibit the development of strong listening skills. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is passive. Listening is active and conscious and has a huge impact on learning . Inadequately developed listening skills can cause problems with information processing, attention, memory, concentration, relationships, motor coordination, language learning and communication.

The ear is tied-in to the vestibular system (balance and movement), so coordination, posture, and sensorimotor integration can be affected by a weak auditory system. Through improved listening, we see improved spatial awareness which supports organization; better body control for sitting in a chair and posture; improved eye-hand coordination for writing and improved motor coordination and performance in sports.

A well-functioning ear is like a battery which changes sound waves into electrical waves. These electrical waves stimulate the cortex (the thinking and learning part of the brain). Healthy sounds are nutrients that can stimulate the middle ear and charge the nervous system .

Because the auditory system has strong interconnections on multiple levels across both sides of the brain and throughout the body, it can impact how energized or de-energized we feel, how well we process information for learning, and how alert and organized we are.

Just as a healthy diet contributes to physical and mental health, a healthy sound environment makes healthier, more available learners.

What if you found a program for students that would result in:

  • Better articulation
  • 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
  • Increased learning

Sounds like an Infomercial, doesn’t it? Would you buy?

Believe it or not, these are just a few of the results we are seeing from music and sound stimulation programs that we have added to our “therapy toolbox” over the last few years. Through the work of dedicated pioneers in the field, a whole new world of listening, communication, and success has been opened to our students.

Music and Sound Therapy
Over the years at the Learning Center, we have found that the use of music has been a tremendous tool for opening the door to learning and communication . For students that were shut-down to learning because of constant failure, music was an avenue to renew hope and interest. Our interest in music therapy as a gateway with emotionally-blocked students gradually led us to the use of music and sound stimulation to strengthen and re-train the auditory system for learning, communication, comprehension, and language.

The therapeutic use of music has long been scientifically supported. In the mid-1900s Dr. Alfred Tomatis began his work with the therapeutic application of sound to treat specific symptoms and behaviors.

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

The focus of auditory stimulation and training is on re-educating the ear and auditory pathways.

This is accomplished through the use of specially modified classical music and nature sounds CDs that stimulate the hearing mechanism to take in a full spectrum of sound frequencies. Because sound frequencies literally vibrate through our entire body, auditory re-training can result in positive changes physically, emotionally, and mentally.

As listening skills and the auditory system improve, many positive changes take place (take another look at the list on page one).

A Gentle, Powerful Therapy
Nourishing the auditory system with healthy sound through programs such as Samonas Sound Therapy, The Listening Program , and Advanced Brain Technologies’ Sound Health Series restores and supports the function of the auditory system.

We have found these to be tremendous tools in aiding the development of communication and learning with students of all ages with a variety of learning challenges; however, as one student pointed out, this “would be healthy for anyone, even if they didn’t have a problem.”

Our work with auditory stimulation and training has been exciting and inspiring. With these powerful tools, we are seeing dramatic changes occur in the lives of children, teens, and adults. This is by far the “gentlest” therapy we have ever prescribed, yet changes usually begin to be noticeable within two to three weeks and the impact has been unmistakable. One parent of a young teenager said, “If it wouldn’t embarrass my daughter to death, I’d call Oprah and tell her she needs to do a show on this!”


Summer Reading Programs, summer tutoring, or summer school?

When your child is struggling to read….

Teaching a child to read requires deep knowledge in cognitive processing. It requires informed observation of every error a student makes. Thanks to neuroscience, we know a lot more about the brain and learning processes involved in reading and writing than we ever have known before.  Neuroscience has given us a view into the brain during reading and  phonological tasks. This brain research is beginning to provide us information about why some students struggle more than others in learning to read and write.

Yet, education hasn’t yet partnered with neuroscience and cognitive psychology to best inform how we instruct students in learning to read. For now, it is up to the most inquisitive educator to continue to ask questions about every error their students make while they are learning to read.

Part of the problem is that most educators received their training before the new insights were available. Additionally, time and resource constraints prevent schools from applying the insights offered through recent research. Even if schools were able to find opportunity to support teachers in developing the deep knowledge necessary for this level of observation and study, class sizes don’t allow even the most informed teachers to take the time with each individual student necessary for this work.  The system of schooling just isn’t prepared to meet the needs of all students.

School curriculum indeed works for 80% of the student population. Another 3-5% qualify for additional services in special education. So what about the 15% of students who are still struggling?  Those students have difficulty getting their needs met in the traditional school model. Even the best teacher has difficulty in knowing what to do and when to help that 15% of students.

How can these students get what they need to succeed?

We can talk about the school year in the coming months. Right now, most families are looking into summer options. As you look at summer school, a summer tutor or summer reading programs for your child, consider these questions: [checklist]

  • Does your child need to maintain skills they already have?
        – If so, traditional summer programs or tutoring may be appropriate.
  • Does your child need to catch up and achieve grade level expectations?
        – If so, a more intensive and research based approach is what they need.


Stay tuned. In the next few weeks we will discuss how the brain research helps us give students what they need to be successful in the essential skills in:

  • Reading: decoding, fluency and comprehension with critical thinking

  • Writing: spelling, fluency and organization and expression of ideas.

Expanding our office

Expanding to meet the needs….

Young people are masters at hiding their struggles in school.  They mask their difficulties in so many ways that sometimes it takes adults time to realize what it really going on.

Many times these are just below the surface of other behaviors such as these:

Attention Difficulties
High Energy
Low Energy
Acting out / Getting in Trouble
Spacing out
Being too social in class
Low self esteem
Resistance to homework
Lack of desire to read or write

These are just a few of the initial outside behaviors that we might notice.  Part of what makes it difficult is that each child is individual in the behaviors they use to mask their difficulties.

We are all born with a natural inquisitiveness and desire to learn, perform and achieve.  A lack of desire to learn at school is usually a symptom of a struggle to learn.

When our children are showing struggles in school, a well-known approach to help them is to find a tutor or sometimes use the “wait and see” approach and see if they will “grow out of it.”

But when children with at least average intellectual ability struggle to learn, there is likely something in the way that they are processing information that is underdeveloped, different, or inefficient.  Tutoring isn’t the answer.

The Therapeutic Literacy Center recognizes that if we are going to effectively impact academic learning problems, we must prepare the brain for learning by strengthening or developing the underlying thinking processes that support academic skills.

We might find ourselves saying such things as “He just needs to pay attention,” “She needs to put her head in school” or “When it’s something he’s interested in, he can do it!”  Yet, they really need help now to change the way they experience learning in school.

These things can be FIXED – permanently. We are seeing lives change every day.”

The work at the Therapeutic Literacy Center is done one-to-one with students and focuses on teaching, strengthening, and developing those skills that lead to independent, academic success.

Meeting the Need

The Therapeutic Literacy Center is expanding to meet the needs of more students in North County. We are seeing changes happening every day.  Kids that have been working harder than their peers are finding confidence and success and independence.

These kids are not resisting homework anymore because they have confidence in their skills as an independent learner. They feel their success and they are interested in learning again.

TLC provides free screening and evaluations to help identify what the issue is behind struggles in school 1st grade through college.  These can be scheduled by calling (858) 481-2200.

-September 20, 2013

Why not tutoring?

How is your therapy different from tutoring?

That’s a question we get all the time. The truth is, we are very different from tutoring or test prep facilities.  Most schools and tutoring focus on WHAT a student learns. We focus on HOW a student learns. We work on the skills needed to be an efficient and independent learner.

Often parents tell us, “We even went to the big name franchise learning center and it didn’t help.” That’s because, for many students, the underlying learning skills are not in place. Here is an explanation of the details…

5 big differences between tutoring and remediation

“Spencer HATES school! He feels like the dumbest kid in the class. He gets very frustrated and angry doing homework. As a family, we can’t stand this anymore. We need to get Jason a tutor!”

Are you sure? Will getting a tutor really be enough to solve this problem?

Sometimes, tutoring is exactly what is needed. But more often, when a child has a learning problem, tutoring is like putting on a band aid. It covers up some of the symptoms, but doesn’t really solve the problem.

Here are 5 big differences between tutoring and remediation, or educational therapy, and how you know which is right for your situation.

  1. Tutoring typically focuses on academic skills or school subjects and remediation addresses the underlying processing or thinking skills that are needed in order for a someone to learn easily in school.

Here’s a way you can think about this. Think of learning like a tree. When you look at a tree, the most obvious, noticeable part is the top…the branches and leaves. But without a good root system and trunk, those branches and leaves can’t grow and thrive. Learning is like that. The top of the tree is the academic skills – reading, writing, math, history, science…

Growth and learning in these areas is dependent upon a strong root system and trunk. The roots are what we call the underlying processing skills. These are things like memory, attention, processing speed, auditory and visual processing (or how we think about and understand things that we hear or see). If there are problems at the root, or processing skills level, there will be problems at the top.

The trunk is like what we call “executive function.” This is the part of the brain that takes all the information that comes in through the roots and organizes it for learning. Again, if the student has problems with organization, planning, and reasoning (or executive function skills) it will affect school performance.

Traditional tutoring assumes that these underlying processing and executive function skills are in place and it works at the top of the tree, with the academics. In most cases learning problems are the result of weak or incompletely developed skills at the root level.

Working on the academics without a solid foundation of processing skills is just “spinning your wheels.” It may cause students to wonder what is wrong with them that they always have to have tutoring and can never seem to learn to do the job on their own.

To permanently solve a learning problem, the underlying skills must be developed.

The great thing is that we know now, through current brain research, that the brain can be retrained – these skills can be developed – so students don’t have to go through life crippled by their learning challenges.

  1. Tutoring typically looks a lot like school.

If a child is having trouble learning phonics for reading, tutors will provide more phonics practice. But more of the same is often more frustrating than helpful.

Current research tells us that the key factor in success or failure in reading is what’s called phonemic awareness, or the brain’s ability to think about the sounds inside of words. Without this underlying thinking process, you can have the best phonics program and the best phonics teacher, but you’re still going to struggle to learn and use phonics for reading and spelling.

In remediation, or educational therapy, we know that we have to teach the brain HOW to think about the sounds – to actually re-train the brain to process the sounds in a more efficient way. Then, the brain can learn to read.

  1. Tutoring is most effective as a solution to a short term problem. A long term learning problem must be dealt with by getting at the underlying issues.

An example is a 10th grade student who transferred from a very mediocre high school to a very high achieving high school. He got into an Advanced Placement Algebra 2 class that was way over his head. He found a tutor, and after 6 or 8 weeks, he began to get things sorted out.

This was a short term problem with a short term solution.

That is very different from Katy, a student with a history of difficulty with math. Katy had learned to do math by rote memory and lots of painful effort. But she didn’t really understand how numbers work. She could easily mix up math processes or steps and not realize it. Or she might recognize her error but not know how to fix it. When Katy got into algebra, she was lost. And no amount of tutoring was going to clear up the issue. Because Katy did not have the underlying concepts or thinking skills that were absolutely critical to her success.

  1. Tutoring may feel like an easier, more comfortable solution.

Tutoring provides a way to give students support and help them get their homework done. But it can also become a crutch because it doesn’t really solve the problem so that the student can do his homework on his own.

Many parents have said, “My child has had tutoring on and off over the years. He seems to do OK when we’ve got a tutor, but as soon as we quit, things go downhill again.” And that brings us to the fifth big difference between tutoring and remediation – the outcome.

  1. If tutoring is used to treat a learning problem, it is likely to end up being a “never-ending” process.

The goal of remediation, and our goal at the
Therapeutic Literacy Center, is to permanently stop
the pain, frustration, dependence, and embarrassment that
a learning problem can cause.

This is done through specialized programs and techniques that address the weak underlying processing skill areas that are causing the problem. Once students have a solid foundation or strong root system, they can become comfortable and independent learners.

There is an old saying, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

Tutoring may support students to help them get through this night’s homework or this class. Remediation eliminates the learning problem and teaches students to learn so they can learn anywhere, anytime, for a lifetime.

Here are some common symptoms, any of which may indicate that there are underlying processing skills not supporting the learner well enough:

  • Bright child, teen, or adult is underachieving
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Gets distracted easily
  • Avoids work
  • Yawns all the time when listening
  • Tries really hard for minimal outcome
  • Struggles to sound out words
  • Can’t remember months, days, math facts, spelling words
  • Can’t follow more than one or two directions at a time
  • Is inconsistent with math processes; can’t find or correct math errors; doesn’t understand how numbers work
  • Struggles to read, write, or spell
  • Is uncoordinated, awkward, or has poor posture
  • Has to work excessively hard
  • Gets fatigued quickly / has very low stamina for listening or schoolwork
  • Misunderstands what is heard or read
  • Misses or mishears information when listening

These issues can be changed! With specialized training the brain can learn to think and process information in more effective ways. Children and adults do not have to continue to suffer the effects of learning problems, but it will typically take more than a traditional tutor.

Strong Executive Functioning Independent Children

Develop Your Child’s Independence

Strengthen executive function skills for better planning, organization, and self-management

Strengthen executive function skills for better planning

Kids will be kids– But we want our kids to be kids who can focus, think, plan, organize, and make good decisions. This includes having self-control, and evaluating and learning from their mistakes!

Ultimately, we want kids to be kids with the benefit of great executive function skills … or in other words, we want them to be independent!

Executive Function skills are the frontal lobe functions of the brain that develop throughout childhood and into early adulthood. Because the frontal lobe is the last to develop in our brains, major growth in executive function occurs in the teens through the mid-twenties.

We can BUILD your students’ executive function skills at school and home with consistent and intentional instruction throughout the day.

A student with strong executive function skillsA student with strong executive function skills can:

 • Focus and sustain energy and attention

• Determine what is relevant and screen out what is not

• Use mental control to start, stop, adapt, plan & organize

• Anticipate what will be needed for a given assignment

• Manage time, materials, and space

• Evaluate & Solve problems



Are you Building or BEING their Executive Function?

Helicopter Parents

Well-meaning “helicopter” parents hover over their struggling learners and guide them every single step of the way.   They provide an amazing safety net, but they may also be keeping their kids from exactly what they want most for them – to become independent.

In their desire to help students be successful, parents and teachers may inadvertently take on the role of the student’s executive function.

“Great Teacher,” Wrong Kind of Help

Teachers who give very explicit, detailed instructions of exactly what to do on a project or assignment, or who tell students exactly how, when, and what to study for a test, are often viewed as wonderful teachers. Their students thrive with the structure, and everyone feels great, until the next teacher comes along who isn’t as detailed, and the students don’t know how to think for themselves.

What Students Need

What students really need is to build their own executive function skills so that they can think, plan, organize, and manage themselves.

Instead of telling students every step they need to take (being the executive function), shift your language to engage students in a dialogue that encourages them to think for themselves . Here’s what this might look like:

BEING the students’ executive function: “ You have a book report due in two weeks. You need to pick a book that has 80 pages, and read 10 pages every day.”

BUILDING Executive Function: “You have a book report due in two weeks. Let’s create a plan for getting the book read and the report done without stressing out at the last minute.” Then engage students’ thinking through questions such as:

  • What are the things you have to do to complete this project? (pick a book, read, write)
  • How much time do you need for each part of the project?
  • How long of a book should you choose? How many pages will you need to read everyday?

These questions are the kinds of things that we, through our executive function, ask ourselves. As students get more adept with this self-questioning process, you will be able to make your questions broader so that they are engaging more of their own executive function.

  • What questions do you need to ask yourself as you plan out this project?

Executive Function as Like a Mental Dialogue

If you think about how you make decisions, plan out your week, or tackle a problem or project, you will see that it usually involves a combination of visualizing, and talking through things in your mind. Visual and verbal inner language are two key components of working memory and executive function that can be developed in students at school and home.

Taking the time to help children and teens improve their inner dialogue and visualization skills has a big payoff in retention, comprehension and greater independence.

Developing Visualization

  • Encourage students to visualize their day to improve time concepts and management
  • Guide students in visualizing and dialoguing exactly what written instructions on assignments are asking
  • Teach students to visualize test questions and all answer choices before choosing a response
  • Before packing up for the day, have students visualize and verbalize what materials will be needed for their homework
  • Guide students in visualizing each step in a project or sequence of events
    •  Have them look up (to engage visual modality) and imagine each step on a specific spot on the wall or in the air in front of them
    • Have them point to and describe the image
    • Enhance key points in the image with such things as changing the size, adding color or humor, or connecting images in some way

Where Do We Fit In?

A primary function of the schools is to teach academic skills and content areas to students – to expand their knowledge and their ability to apply it. When students struggle, it can be very challenging for all- student, parent, and teacher, in spite of efforts to modify curriculum and accommodate learning differences.

At the Therapeutic Learning Center, we identify and develop the weak underlying learning/processing skills that provide the critical foundation for learning but are not generally taught. While there is no overnight solution, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected.

To learn more, or to schedule a free consultation with Executive Director and Education Specialist, Maria Bagby, call 858) 481-2200.

What is Memory Weakness – Why can’t my child ‘Just Remember?’

What is Memory Weakness and How Can Working Memory be strengthened?

Imagine the scene of a busy classroom nearing the end of the school day.  The teacher is heard to say, “Students, it’s almost time to go home. Please write down your homework assignments, put your books away, and line up at the door.”

What is Memory Weakness and How Can Working Memory be strengthened? - Therapeutic Literacy CenterSounds simple…straight forward –  there is no doubt what students are supposed to do.  So why is Charlie already lined up at the door when his books are all over his desk? And where are the materials he needs to take home to do his homework?

You see, all Charlie remembers is to “line up at the door.”    But how can this be?

In our work with learning disabilities, we are finding that there is a very strong connection between learning challenges and short-term memory skills. Adults and children with learning disabilities often have difficulty recalling information that they have seen, or heard, or both.

Parents and Teachers unaware of the complexities of this challenge struggles may frequently ask themselves the question: Why Can’t They Just Remember?  Fortunately, we are developing a good understanding of what is actually happening in the brain when we take in information, process and store it, and attempt to retrieve it for immediate or later use.  And we are learning that with the right, targeted therapies, we are able to remediate the disability in those affected.

While there are three primary “modalities” or “channels” through which we learn, most school learning takes place through two of them:

  • Auditory – what is heard
  • Visual – what is seen

(Understand, this involves not only how well people see or hear, but also how they process information that comes through those channels.)

In the classroom, teachers usually present information by telling and/or showing something, and the students need to respond in some way to show that they learned what is being taught.

The short term memory process involves two parts:

  1. Taking-in information quickly and accurately enough to be able to think about it and hold on to it and
  2. Being able to respond to it.

Breakdowns in the process can occur in either part: the taking-in stage or the response stage.

Because student learning has traditionally been measured based on the kinds of responses they make, the focus in learning and learning problems has been on the response part of the process.

For many students, however, it is the receptive piece, or the taking-in stage, that is not working efficiently.

The ear and the eye are critical to efficient school learning. If either the visual or auditory channel is not working efficiently, the child’s ability to take-in, or receive, information will be hindered. These individuals will have to work very hard to gain information and may not always be successful.

Typically, a person with Auditory Memory Problems has difficulty following orally given directions. They tend to get information out of sequence, or get only part of the information given.

For example, if the teachers says to “Turn to page thirty-five and do row four,” Jennie, who has weak auditory memory, may do row five on page thirty-four. Ben, who also has memory weaknesses, may turn to page thirty-five, but not know what row or problems to do.

In some classrooms, the rule is that you “listen the first time and you’ll get it; and no talking to your neighbor.” Perfectly reasonable for most students. Unfortunately, in a situation like this, Ben is stuck. He won’t have a chance of keeping up with the class.

Most people speak in phrases of about seven words (Primary teachers often speak in shorter phrases to match the developmental needs of their young students).

An individual with auditory memory weaknesses may be able to take-in and think about only three or four words at a time. As they listen, they hear three or four words, instantaneously (and subconsciously) stop listening so that they can process the information, then begin listening again.

As a result, the listener is losing a word or two from every phrase. The information no longer makes sense and becomes confusing, boring, and hard to pay attention to.

Students with Visual Memory Weaknesses may have great difficulty copying from the board.

Ted, who is in junior high school, is trying to be organized and use an assignment sheet. Unfortunately, he can’t get the assignments copied down fast enough to be finished when the bell rings and get on to his next class. What he does get written down, doesn’t make very much sense when he goes back to read it at then end of the day.

When Ted copies from the board, he has to copy one letter at a time. If it is really quiet in the room, he might be able to copy up to three symbols (letters) at a time. Other students in the class can copy the whole sentence or maybe the whole assignment at one time. It takes Ted much longer to copy than other students, and he frequently loses his place and copies the wrong letters.

And, since he is not taking-in and remembering the total sequence of letters and words, he will not be able to recognize when he has made a mistake.

Adults with visual memory weaknesses often experience the frustration of making numerous mistakes if their jobs require them to record numbers or codes of some kind. They often make mistakes in copying because they shift or leave out symbols (letters or numbers). They frequently do not recognize their errors and find that under time pressure, the symptoms usually get worse.

Current research clearly indicates that there is a strong connection between short term memory and learning.  This is an important awareness for teachers and parents to have since there are most likely some children in every classroom who have some inefficiencies in either the auditory or visual memory channels .

Solution – Part I
Ways To Make Information Easier To Take-In

As much as possible, lessons should be taught and instructions should be given in a multimodality way. When students are learning by seeing, hearing and doing, those students who are weak in one modality will have a chance of picking up the information in their stronger modality.

Students who are missing some of the information that is being presented orally because they cannot take-in and process the information fast enough, will be able to focus, comprehend, and remember better if the oral information is connected to something that they are seeing and/or doing. For example, when learning new vocabulary words, have the students act out the meaning of words. Make detailed mental pictures of the word meanings and describe the images. Read and write the words in sentences.

Be aware of those students that are struggling to copy from the board or a book. The need to be allowed more time to copy math problems or assignments and may need to have them checked for accuracy before proceeding to do the work. Be aware of the purpose for the task and provide the problems on a paper that these students can write on when appropriate. For students who simply cannot write down assignments quickly or accurately enough, provide them with an already completed list of assignments.

Work with students on organizational skills. Organization and memory seem to be strongly related.

  • Teach students how to use an assignment sheet (both for recording assignments and checking them off when they are completed).
  • Give assignments orally as well as in written form
  • Help students develop routines for collecting the materials they will need for homework, where to put completed homework, and getting assignments turned in.
  • Make sure that organizational skills are monitored until they become a habit.

Solution – Part II
“Stretching the Memory” Strategies

Visualization is a critical factor in both visual memory and comprehension. Teachers and parents can help students increase their visual memory by incorporating visualization into teaching and homework. Individuals need to learn how to visualize symbols (such as numbers for math problems) and pictures (for understanding and remembering stories, history, concepts, etc.).

To stretch the memory for copying, reading sight words, and spelling, put the “stimulus” (what they are copying from) above the students’ eye level so they have to look up at it.

  • Have the student look at the stimulus and “make a picture of it in their mind.”
  • Remove the stimulus and have the students “see” the image in the air.
  • Trace it with two fingers and say what they see.
  • Point to the letters or numbers (in the air) and say them.
  • Play with the image. Make the difficult parts bigger or brighter. Separate the image and see part of it on one wall and part of it on another. Put the image back together and say it; or reduce it in size and have the students picture it on their paper.
  • Trace the image.

If the student can only retain three digits of information (for example three letters or numbers), begin this process with just three symbols. When he can easily manipulate the visual image for three digits, try having him see, remember, and respond to the same information with distractions. Continue to increase the amount of information the student can retain.

An efficient strategy for remembering things that are heard is to use your inner language to hear it again, visualize it, and repeat, write or do it . For example, when someone gives you directions to go somewhere, you may find that you repeat the directions to yourself, picture the streets and the right and left turns, and then say the directions aloud, write them down, or follow them. These steps can be applied to almost any task supported by the auditory memory.

  • Parents can have their children repeat instructions to themselves and picture what they are going to do before they start following the directions.
  • If the child forgets what he is supposed to do, have him try to hear the instructions in his head again or look up to remember the pictures he made (remember holding the “stimulus” above eye level?).
  • “Play” with the auditory image (what the child is hearing in his mind). If he always mixes the order of the second and third direction, have him “hear” the second direction very loudly or in a sing-song voice when he repeats the directions in his mind.
  • If the child can follow two directions but forgets or gets distracted before he gets to the third, have him imagine a drum roll coming just before the third command as he repeats the instructions to himself.

Individuals with auditory or visual memory weaknesses may find it difficult to visualize or use their inner language (hear something in their mind). Development of these two critical factors in memory takes time and patience, but can be practiced as a part of almost any task.  Have fun with this!  See how many ways it can be applied and how it will enhance learning! For more information about memory assessment and development, try reading You Don’t Have to be Dyslexic by Dr. Joan Smith.

Clinical Therapy for Learning Disabilities – Is It Worth The Price?

Educational Therapy is expensive but what price do you put on the success of your child?I met a mother at the gym once that told me her son was taking karate lessons in order to bring up his self-esteem. Her third grade son was a non-reader and felt terrible about himself because of his failure at school. His mother had resigned herself to the fact that her son would never read, and so was looking for other avenues to help him feel good.

When the boy’s mother heard about educational therapy, she said, “How can anyone afford that?” What I wonder is, “How can anyone not?”

When my daughter was eight, her orthodontist said that if we did not start treatment right away, she would end up with TMJ (jaw problems). It was terribly expensive. How could we afford it?…How could we not?

It is important that we, as parents, provide opportunities for our kids that help them to feel good. Since a great deal of childhood is spent in the classroom, a child’s self-esteem is understandably going to be tied up in his success in that environment.

Educational therapy is an investment (like braces) in a child’s present and future. When a child realizes that for the first time, she can read her textbook, it is a very big deal. It will change her view of herself and increase her self-esteem in all arenas of her life.

Life is a series of choices. Choice of what we will do. What we won’t do. When parents seek educational help outside of school for their children, they have to make a tough decision – what will we give up or where will we squeeze?  How can I afford this?… How can I not?

The clinical therapeutic approach to changing learning disabilities and attention deficits is a demanding one. It generally requires a minimum of two sessions per week and because it is so individualized and specialized, often has a slightly higher price tag than other kinds of tutoring. The question is, “Is it worth the cost?” Is it worth giving up finances, playtime, work time, sports, or other extracurricular activities?

The goal of the clinical tutorial approach is that the student (child or adult) will be working comfortably and independently at their grade level or potential; that they will be in control of their attention and learning. This is accomplished through actively involving the student in developing both the underlying thinking/learning processes that are causing the inefficiencies, as well as the needed academic skills.With Educational Therapy these students can overcome their disadvantages, learn to read, and live productive lives.

Learning disabilities, Dyslexia, and attention focus problems are not diseases. They are differences in thinking or processing information that can be helped. Our work at the Therapeutic Literacy Center is based on enabling individuals to process information appropriately so they will be ready to learn. The student is taught how to learn and is introduced to strategies for learning to read, etc. These students can overcome their disadvantages, learn to read, and live productive lives.

Is it worth the price?

What is the cost of NOT fixing the problem?

Helping Children Learn To Love Reading

In a follow-up to our introductory blog which shed some light on who we are, the Therapeutic Literacy Center would now like to tell you a little bit about where we are and what we do: TLC is located in Solana Beach, California and our clients include those who have been diagnosed with autism, dyslexia, ADHD or a learning disability as well as others who may simply struggle within a traditional school system.

In a warm and comfortable setting high above the Pacific Ocean, we offer specialized programming which is short-term and individually based on an evaluation of specific areas of need. Your child may require 2 weeks or up to 12 weeks depending on progress that is monitored regularly.

When learning styles are de-mystified in a supportive setting, students gain the tools to become confident learners. This, combined with goal setting and descriptive feedback, fosters self esteem and independence in our students.

One of the areas we specialize in is dyslexia. Dyslexia can be difficult to diagnose and is frequently mislabeled as an auditory processing disorder. To further complicate the problem, reports on testing may do an excellent job of describing the reading and writing issues but then fall short in their recommendations. Children often have difficulties with decoding, spelling and fluency. Tests can show a clear deficit in phonological awareness, but what are the recommendations? “Student needs to improve reading.” Ok, so now what?

At Therapeutic Literacy Center we use a program called Fast For Word which applies the principles of brain science to help your child become a more efficient learner. Fast For Word is a proven reading and learning intervention that applies neuroscience principles of brain plasticity to help children, adolescents and adults achieve their full potential. Your child will simultaneously develop cognitive and language skills in a safe environment where they can learn to take risks.

This program, in conjunction with everything else we offer at TLC, is an effective tool to develop and improve fundamental cognitive and reading skills. We help our students by improving their memory, attention and ability to follow instructions, plus language and reading skills including phonological awareness, decoding, vocabulary, spelling and comprehension. Our program has been designed from extensive neuroscience research and is specifically designed for various ages and ability levels to maximize your child’s potential for learning.

Your child will not only be more confident in classroom participation but they will learn to enjoy reading.

Stay tuned for our weekly blog which will cover a wide range of topics ranging from autism, dyslexia and ADHD to the latest innovations in educational technology and so much more. Thank you for reading!

The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.” ~ Mary McLeod Bethune