5 Students. One common story.
Jeremy wiggles constantly in his chair. It keeps
him from getting his work done and is very distracting to the students
sitting near him.
Manny talks to his neighbors all the time instead
of doing his work. He’s always interested in what everyone
else is doing, but he can’t seem to pay attention to his own
Sara tries really hard to be “good.”
She sits up tall and looks right at the teacher. But pretty soon,
she’s fiddling with things on her desk or staring straight
through the teacher. When it’s time to start working, Sara
always has to ask, “What were we supposed to do?”
Rachel never knows what she’s supposed to
do for homework. She uses her planner, but what she’s written
is incomplete and doesn’t make a lot of sense. If she does
do her homework, she usually can’t find it when it’s
time to turn it in.
Jessica is getting Ds and Fs in high school. She
can read, write, spell, and do math but she doesn’t pay attention
in class, does poorly on tests, and doesn’t get her work done.
What do these students have in common? Each of these children has
trouble paying attention in class, yet
Not one of them has Attention Deficit Disorder.
Good attention and efficient learning depend upon
a solid foundation of underlying learning skills
The vast majority of students who come to our learning center have
some challenges with attention, but only a small minority are truly
ADHD. Successful, easy learning depends upon a solid foundation
of underlying learning skills. These skills include the following:
Developmental Learning Skills: These are basic visual and
motor skills that help children develop a sense of self, internal
organization, and body and attention awareness and control.
Processing Skills: These are skills such as attention, memory,
auditory and visual processing (how we think about and understand
things that we see or hear), processing speed, language comprehension,
and phonemic awareness (the thinking process critical to reading
that supports learning and using phonics).
Executive Function: This is our personal manager that guides
and directs our attention and behavior. It helps us reason, problem
solve, organize, and make decisions.
Poor attention in class may be a symptom, not the real
If a child has problems with any of the underlying learning skills,
his attention system will also be stressed. While attention may
become a problem in school or with homework, it may not actually
be the real problem.
5 Students ~ Five Different Learning Challenges Affecting
Jeremy, our wiggly, distracting student can’t
sit still in his chair because of a retained primitive reflex called
the Spinal Galant.
Primitive reflexes are involuntary movements that are present in
infants to help with the birth process and adaptation as a newborn.
If these reflexes don’t “disappear” within about
the first year of life, they will continue to fire and cause neurological
interference that inhibits efficient development and easy learning.
Jeremy’s retained Spinal Gallant reflex causes him to wiggle
in his chair when he doesn’t mean to. When he
tries hard to sit still, it takes all of his attention,
so he can’t really think about what the teacher is saying
or what he’s supposed to be doing on his assignments.
Manny is dyslexic. He’s very smart
and very clever. He has memorized some words, but he can’t
sound out new words and sometimes when he looks at the page, it
seems like the words and letters are moving around. At
nine-years-old, he’s already figured out that getting in trouble
for “entertaining” his neighbors is better than anyone
knowing he can’t read.
Sara has an auditory processing problem.
She tries so hard to listen, but what she’s hearing is spotty
and inconsistent, like a bad cell phone connection. She tries to
fill-in the gaps, but pretty soon, it just doesn’t
make sense and she can’t keep her attention on it anymore.
Rachel has poor visual memory skills.
When she tries to copy down assignments, she has to look back and
forth so many times between the board and her planner, that she
often loses her place and misses part of the information. It takes
her longer than the other students, so she often doesn’t finish
because its embarrassing to have to stay
after class copying the assignment.
When Rachel does her homework, she sticks it in her backpack. The
problem is, she can’t hold a picture in her mind of exactly
where it is, so when it’s time to turn it in the next day,
she can’t remember where she put it. Well-meaning teachers
and family have suggested that maybe Ritalin would help her pay
better attention. They don’t realize that Rachel is paying
attention, but her visual memory is not supporting her
well enough to remember the information.
Jessica has weak processing and executive function skills.
She’s pretty sure her parents and teacher are right when they
say she’s lazy and unmotivated because she just can’t
seem to pay attention and get her work done.
Weak underlying processing and executive function skills can keep
a capable student from being able to pull it altogether to perform
as expected. They struggle to keep up and have inconsistent
homework grades and test scores.
Addressing the root cause of the poor attention symptom
can eliminate the problem
All five of these students were able to solve their attention and
learning challenges by developing the underlying learning skills
that were not supporting them well enough.
Jeremy went through Core Learning Skills
Training to integrate his retained reflexes and improve his body
awareness and control. He no longer stands out in class.
Manny went through a specialized auditory
stimulation and reading program to develop his phonemic awareness
and ability to look at the words on the page without getting disoriented.
He can now understand how the sounds in words work and has learned
to read and spell. He’s putting his strong verbal abilities
and humor to use in the school play.
Sara went through a program of Auditory
Stimulation and Training to increase her auditory processing skills.
She is able to listen to her teacher and her friends now without
getting exhausted and missing information. She no longer feels lost
and anxious and is able to be the good student she always tried
Rachel received training in various visual
processing, visual memory, and organization skills. She can now
copy from the board and use her planner accurately most of the time.
She is more organized and can remember where her homework is in
Jessica did an intensive processing skills
program called PACE and before she finished the 12-week program,
she had brought her grades up to As and Bs.
Don’t ignore attention problems in school
Problems paying attention in class can be a sign to parents that
their child is struggling in school. This should not be ignored.
But parents and teachers should be aware that whenever an area of
underlying processing or learning skills is inefficient, extra energy
will be needed to perform. This stresses the person's attention.
It is important to look very carefully
to determine if the attention challenges seen in class are the cause
of the learning problem or the symptom.