Saturday, January 31, 2009

What is Enhanced Learning Skills for Kids?

Welcome to my group everyone!

First ... here's the scoop on me and why I even have my own business in cognitive training.
I have over 20 years business experience within Corporate America. While in Corporate I was in charge of the entire East Coast relative to information processing. Specifically, I was in charge of Local Area Networks dealing with the processing of information internally and externally to our company. In this role, I held teleseminars, training classes and worked one-on-one with my colleagues, most sales folks. My boss told me I found my Niche! However, i thought my niche was going to be CEO so when he said you should be a teacher! I was a bit taken back. LOL Life went on and I got married and had my daughter, Shannon. When she was 11 months old, she was diagnosed with cancer (neuroblastoma) and a rare autoimmune disorder (Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome). Statistics are like 1 in 100 million kids a year get OMS. The docs chuckled and told me it was like she won the lottery. I wasn't laughing. I was later to find out that the OMS was worse than the Cancer, no joke. The OMS caused her own antibodies to attack her brain. Her cerebellum and brain stem were impacted the most. Her immune system was basically shut down for 3 years to stop any further brain injury. I also had a son during all of this, too. His name is Sean. :-)

Years go by and I ended up leaving Corporate America. At this time, my daughter was now 8 y/o and still not learning in school. She was in a special education self-contained classroom within the public schools and classified with Traumatic Brain Injury. I decided to go back for my Master's degree. I had already started my Master's in Business Administration but given the circumstances of my life at this time, I switched and went into Special Education. I began shifting my life full-time into education and started teaching under a substitute license until I could student teach. During this time, I experienced general education and special education along with inclusive settings. I also decided my student teaching would be based in a private school for students with brain injuries. This meant behavioral issues along with cognitive challenges. I worked with students K - 12 and even those students who had extended high school so they were up to the age of 21. I graduated with top honors and received my license to teach elementary education and children with disabilities within the state of New Jersey.

I was tutoring with families along with substituting and getting frustrated because even thought I would find great research based programs to use with the children, the students weren't gaining independence on their own. They were doing this through workarounds and compensations. Which in the long run did not serve them well because they are not in control of their environments, especially when they look for employment. By chance, one of the parents on the OMS Forum that I help to moderate began talking about a learning center she took her high school son to during the summer. She kept talking about a program they were using and not really going into much detail, per se. About four months later, the same mom was bursting at the seams with all the improvements her son was displaying down to social skills and communication. I quickly requested the name of the specific programs used on her son as learning centers can use a variety of tools. After I found out the names of the programs, I then called up the creators of the programs and began researching the ins/outs of actual components, structure and of course, statistical outcomes with research to support the findings.

Next, I contacted a parent who used the program and was now using the program to help students in her community. I talked with this parent, now one of my closest colleagues, for over 6 months before I was convinced the programs can really provide results. The ultimately test, in my mind, was if my brain injured daughter could show success in any area (that was my hope at the beginning) at all, i was sold. So, off i went and invested a good chunk of change to become licensed, certified and able to "provide" these services to other students in my area.

As soon as I got home, I immediately began using these programs on both of my children. To give you an idea of what I was up against, my daughter who was 10 y/o at the time, had cognitive skills measuring at a 5 yr old level on all 6 skill sets. 5 y/o is lowest they measure so she could have been even lower. My son, on the other hand, was typical LD measuring adult (18 y/o) on several skills but low in one/two areas of skills. However, what happened next surprised all of us.

My son had more difficulty with the programs than my daughter. The programs helped uncover the underlying cause of my son's difficulties during school over the years. We always had the screaming fits for homework, the meltdowns with frustrations, the sensory processing symptoms, etc. Thanks to the programs, we identified that he was seeing double - seriously - and he did not know that no one sees double. He had no clue that letters were not supposed to jump off the page and so on. I called the creators of the program and said I could only get my son through partial pieces because of this issue. The creators stressed if we could get him close to a good portion the better. The reason: my son would have created new pathways that would allow for any intervention to make an impact in considerably less time than without the new pathways in the brain. So, we did what we could and then referred out to vision therapy. Guess what? It took my son only 6 sessions in-office to fix the double vision - no joke. So after the program portion and the vision therapy he began to pick up books and read which was fantastic!

My daughter on the other hand, kept to the programs and worked every day with me and let me tell you how choked up I was when Shannon could demonstrate memory skills. I'm sure there are moms out there that are so lost because their child cannot remember something from yesterday or last week. That was Shannon. She could not learn because on one hand, she had no foundational skills and on the other hand, what the teachers would give to her would be lost. If she learned 1+1=2 then even that afternoon she was clueless to 1+1=2. Well, you can imagine the waterworks when my daughter learned the 43 presidents (at that time 43) forwards and backwards! She still knows them today.

Shannon is my "extreme" example when I talk with parents. At the age of 8 she was unable to decode (read) let alone spell on her own. However, working with the program, she began to not only decode (read) but she started with fluency. This means she did not spend all her time sounding out each code (letter) but could sit back and read the words. I remember going to the movies with her and the screen flashed "Enjoy the Show" before the movie started. Well, Shannon sat there and said "E..N... Joy ... The ...SH... O ... W... " "Enjoy the Show!" Mommy I just read Enjoy the Show ... More tears .... of excitement. After that, when parents of children with special needs would talk with me, Shannon would interrupt and flat out tell them ... you should let my mom work with you ... because of the programs I can finally read. Nothing else helped me.

Shannon's progress is still ongoing because of her disability
. We tried moving her into the intermediate public school but the anxiety from self-contained where the teachers prompt and make everything so nice and crystal clear for ya into a full inclusive setting was way too much. The schools do not have a great transition other than "all the kids go through this and she really needs to experience it" for an answer. We, unfortunately, just pulled her from school and began homeschooling her. It amazes me how my daughter has no clue what 2+3 equals yet the schools were moving along doing division and prepping for the standardized tests. Shannon just came out of 8 years of remission from OMS too. All her docs point to the stress from the 5th grade inclusion strategy as the cause. But I digress so lets save that for another topic. We still work Shannon through both programs and she keeps progressing. For example, we first put her through to a point last year. She finished with her skill sets around a 7 y/o level which is great consdering she was at a 5 y/o level. Then, before school started we assessed again and on her own she jumped to a 9 y/o level. You see, the programs help the student to train their brain go grow and develop on their own!

After seeing the positive impact on my own children and working many more students from my area through the programs, I am convinced without a doubt that these programs work and make a life changing difference. Today, I am beginning to spread awareness of these programs to make sure parents and teacher of students with special needs understand their is hope and a solution to your problems. If your child isn't doing as well as you expect and you can't figure out why, its most likely cognitive based. If your child gets easily frustrated with homework, beyond just not wanting to do it, its most likely cognitive based. If your child still can't read or was labeled dyslexic, its most likely cognitive based. Do NOT assume your child is lazy, stupid, dumb, unmotivated, a behavior problem or depressed because they are not learning in school. 80% of all learning problems are cognitive based according to U.S. Dept. of Education.

At ELSK we help parents from around the country and world - yes I've gotten contacted from parents in Europe, Canada and more - become aware of their options and help connect you with local providers in your area. So do not wait to get your child assessed today and begin to help correct the many problems that have been, up until now, compensated or worked around.

More notes to follow to discuss the programs, learning skills , research, studies to support the findings, how you can strengthen learnings skills on your own and much more or just visit for more information today. You can sign up for my weekly ezine, too!


Recently Awarded Cambridge's Professional of the Year 2009 for Executives and Professionals.

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