Cognitive skills training and tutoring are very different solutions for very different problems:
- Teaching and tutoring provide information.
- Cognitive training strengthens the skills the brain uses to grasp that information.
This is why families of students with an underlying cognitive weakness can find themselves using tutors year after year. For children with weak skills, the problem is not how the information is being presented. Instead, the root cause of the problem has to do with how the brain is processing information that is being presented. Once the cognitive skills are strengthened, the need for tutors is reduced or even eliminated altogether.
How the Encinitas Learning Center provides Cognitive Therapy and Tutoring for children who struggle:
At the Encinitas Learning center, we find it is important to screen everyone that comes in even if they are only asking to do our new Tutoring Program called “Students to Scholars”. This program is designed both for individual tutoring and drop in homework cafe style support in a group setting.
Initially, however, we like to understand our students’ needs based on standardized assessments. This screening assessment looks at a deeper level of functioning – more at the neural transmitter or at cellular connections. These are what we term “foundational skills” that are actually the underpinnings for all learning. If there are disconnects at this level and we can pinpoint what they are, then we can work to correct those faulty underpinnings and be able to build learning skills on a sturdy base.
How do neural disconnects affect students cognitive abilities?
Those neural disconnects may involve memory, attention, logic and reasoning, cognitive fluency (processing information effectively), auditory or visual intake skills. It can also affect comprehension, language development, writing skills, math (especially word problems) – basically all learning. The therapy we employ helps the student take in information quickly and efficiently and it also allows them to retrieve the information they already have stored in the brain so that gives a faster response time.
We look beneath the surface of bad grades, underachievement, reading without understanding or remembering what was read, and, through in-depth analysis of past tests coupled with our own observations, determine what is really happening in the learning moment.
How Encinitas Learning Center’s Guidance and Tutoring affects our students:
We deal with all ages – children are usually connected in people’s minds with a learning center – often we find one or both parents also have similar difficulties as their child and so we end up treating everyone. This does have a genetic predisposition, but it also can stem from early ear infections, tubes, long bouts of middle ear viscosity because we now have discovered even though the medicines make us feel better right away, middle ear infections don’t actually clear for quite some time. So the way we hear during this “dense viscosity” time is a lot like how we would hear things under water. We know the brain sloughs off cells and trims down what it will use and that process is determined sometime between the ages of 2 and 4 years. If the child is suffering thick viscosity in the middle ear when the brain says “that’s how I’m going to process what I hear”, then it is like how you would hear things under water! That is called a “set point”. This “set point” does not change with age or maturation – it is a cellular phenomenon.
Our therapy is done with intensity and that is what is needed to convince the brain to change its set point and hear things with better clarity, accuracy, and efficiency. That is why when we are successful at establishing this new “set point” than the new speed of processing information is there for life. It never goes back to the old slow processing speed. It’s like riding a bike or learning to swim, the brain has stretched to the level of knowledge and can never go back.
We know the more you work at focus and attention, the better you are at being focused and attentive. It can be taught. There is hope. Research shows anxiety and slow auditory processing look a lot like ADHD/ADD (inattentive type). When we fix the processing piece, then academics are much more manageable for the student.
Likewise, any extra help in tutoring is much more likely to be useful because the student is able to process what the instructor is telling them, they retain the information, and compare it to data already in their brain! This is what we term the ‘learning event”. Once that is experienced, the student is able to retrieve that information in coming weeks and months because it has been associated with experiences, events, or known information and thus is part of what they “know” rather than information they just cram into their working memory for a test only to be forgotten as soon as the paper is handed in.
Most parents know when their child is having a problem even at a very young age, but they have no way of figuring out what’s going on. So, again, we like to screen everyone that comes to us and that gives a “hands-on” understanding of how they handle tasks involving memory, auditory/visual processing, logic and reasoning questions, and analysis of sounds. We like to look at previous testing done at school or elsewhere just because we look at those results with a little different slant of understanding and can interpret scores with the parents if they didn’t understand the outcomes initially. It is interesting to compare our findings with other test results.
We like to think of our Center as a hub that parents can turn to for advice as to which direction to take or what areas on which to concentrate in order to achieve the fastest and best outcomes for their child. If there are cognitive challenges, we will suggest specific training programs offered either at ELC or elsewhere.
What happens after we fill in the neural disconnects?
Once these foundational levels of learning, memory, focus/attention, logic & reasoning, auditory/visual processing are working smoothly – then we can assess academic achievement.
There are four areas that are tested for academic mastery based on the California Curriculum Standards by grade level;
We use the Scantron Academic Achievement measurement. This pinpoints specific concepts that should be learned by grade level and, if the student can’t demonstrate mastery, then that is where we begin tutoring to fill in gaps of learning that have come about because that young person was not processing well when it was covered in class.
The second aspect of our tutoring support their current homework and finally to prepare for upcoming tests. By attending to all three areas of tutoring, we are building skills with the student to become a strong independent learner.
The Encinitas Learning Center is in the business of graduating students out of our programs! We don’t want to keep them forever dependent on the tutoring. We want them to be confident to tackle new learning and this is encouraged as their target goal from the beginning.
Sometimes a reading comprehension problem isn’t always a reading comprehension problem. If a student is found not to be able to attend, reads too slowly so that he is just reading words rather than phrases (and he forgets what he read by the time he gets to the end of the page because it has taken too long), memory is lacking, or the words are dancing on the page . . . then the problem is not comprehension. It certainly affects comprehension, but the root cause is something different altogether.
Our approach to helping your child is a team approach!
It is a team approach, we enlist the enthusiasm of the student, their parents, their teachers, and all interested in their future to help solve this learning challenge and together we prevail. We have prevailed in more than 3,000 students’ lives so far!
We really care about each and every person that we work with and try to find their individual and unique gift of learning. This is so important to us that we ask our students to keep in touch over the years and so have heard back from doctors and lawyers to civil engineers and educators worldwide. Some were told they would never go to college, to just be content to stay at home with their parents!
If parents have a concern about their child, and we know they are expected to produce more and more at younger and younger ages. . . please get your child tested. In testing there is information and that is most powerful to be able to decide the best course for your child. The knowledge of how your child handles a task that is something similar to what they are being asked to do in class every day is what we use to understand where things are breaking down for them. Once identified, we can begin to shore up that area and help level the playing field with their peers.