Learning Disability Answers | Atlanta, GA

Neuroscientists Release Updated Brain Map

Posted by Clarke Bishop

Aug 3, 2016 11:10:29 AM

Neuroscience keeps moving forward at astonishing speed. Just this summer a new map of the brain was publish—with 100 new regions. That’s more than twice as many as were previously identified.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is used to measure changes in blood flow. More cerebral blood flow means more neurons are being activated. That’s how scientists can tell which parts of the brain are working.


Someday, students may come to school with their own fMRI thinking caps.  Then teachers can easily know which students are using inefficient parts of their brains and can easily correct the problem.

In the meantime, it’s exciting that science is getting closer to a complete understanding of learning and how our brains work.


Topics: Learning Disability, Cognitive Science

Why Jimmy Struggles to Read Out Loud

Posted by Clarke Bishop

Aug 3, 2016 10:05:13 AM

Jimmy struggles to read out loud

Jimmy is one of those charming third graders—you secretly feel he’ll grow up to be a senator or even the President.

He was looking forward to starting school again. Sure the summer had been fun. But after a while, even long days at the pool get old. How many flips can you do off the diving board?

A new year, a new teacher. This would be the best year yet. Then, Jimmy’s teacher asked him to read out loud. He stumbled, mumbled, and left out words. Jimmy’s teacher quickly moved on.

For Jimmy, his dreams of a wonderful school year were over. “Why does it have to be so hard,” he thought. Worse, he had to ride the bus home and Jack would start calling him Mumbles again.

Learn How to Fix   Learning Struggles

It’s Not the Teacher’s Fault

Betsy, Jimmy’s teacher, wants to help. Should she meet with the parents? Recommend an assessment for Dyslexia? Avoid calling on Jimmy and hope that he gets it on his own? Jimmy looked like he was going to cry the last time she had him read.

She chose to setup a conference with Jimmy’s mom, and things went wrong right from the start. The mother immediately blamed Betsy. “Jimmy never had these problems last year,” she said.

“Has Jimmy been to the eye doctor lately?” Betsy asked. Sure, said his mom—his eyes are perfect.

Betsy asked the school psychologist to evaluate Jimmy. Only, the psychologist quickly remarked that Jimmy’s grades were alright, and he would not qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Betsy was not surprised. In spite of her best efforts, she’d learned to expect seven or eight kids who struggle to read or struggle to learn. It was the same way in her classroom last year.

It’s Not Jimmy’s Fault

Stupid. Angry. Scared. That’s how Jimmy feels. The other kids seem to do OK. Why me?

If anything he learns to be more charming and endearing. That makes it harder for the teacher to call on him and possibly embarrass him again.

The real cause is that Jimmy is using his brain inefficiently. Jimmy isn’t hearing and decoding the words as he reads. He’s too busy translating the text into images and then trying to remember how each word sounds. It’s like trying to read and speak a foreign language at the same time.

He’s doing a lot of work. Too much work. That’s why it’s a struggle. But, there is a solution.

It’s Not the Schools Fault

Schools are expected to do more than ever. Parents are busy working and making their lives turn out. They want their kids to do well in school, but they’ve also got to earn a living.

Solving Jimmy’s reading struggle, though, is very possible. The answer is to reprogram his brain so that he uses it for efficient reading. That means building up new neural pathways.

Neural pathways are like the freeways of the brain. Do you ever avoid an area because the roads are clogged and it takes forever? Do you get in the habit of going a certain way and don’t even think of taking a short cut?

That’s what the brain does. If the roads (pathways) are not there, your brain avoids the area.

Certain areas of the brain are very good at certain activities. Still, our brains are very adaptable. When we get in the habit of using an inefficient part of our brain, our brains do the best they can. It’s all fine until Jimmy has to read out loud.

New Neural Pathways

Jimmy needs some new superhighways to connect up his efficient language processing centers.

He’s got some bad brain habits that have to be unlearned. The sooner this gets started, the sooner Jimmy will become a successful student. He’s not going to grow out of the problem.

It takes frequent practice—several times per week—to break bad brain habits.

Intensity and challenge are also required. The instruction must be personalized—adapted for Jimmy. He’s already frustrated and the challenge must be “just right” or he’ll feel stupid again.

And it takes time. If it’s just reading that’s limiting Jimmy, 20 weeks is enough. When there are other learning skill gaps, it may take from nine to eighteen months.

Learning Results

Jimmy quickly learns new brain habits and builds new neural pathways. After all, he is a bright kid.

He’s finally a confident, comfortable, independent learner, ready to take on the world.

Jimmy still has to do the work. It’s just that it’s not nearly as hard as it was before. He’s freed up all his brain power for efficient learning.

After all, he’s got to get ready for law school and running his first campaign for congress. Watch out world.

Learn How to Fix   Learning Struggles


Topics: Learning Disability, Learning Struggle

Slow Processing Causes Kids to Struggle with Learning and Life

Posted by Clarke A. Bishop

Apr 27, 2016 5:38:29 PM

Imagine being a bright kid who is thought of as lazy or not smart. Unfortunately, this is exactly what can happen to a child that has slow processing speed.

Processing speed refers to how quickly a person can perceive information.


There’s visual processing speed that measures the time it takes to understand what you see. Let’s say a word is flashed on a screen. How much time does it take you to recognize the word and perceive its meaning. As you might expect, kids that have slow visual processing speed often have trouble reading.

There’s also auditory processing speed that measures the time it takes to understand what you hear. When auditory processing is too slow, kids can get lost and have trouble following directions.

Learning struggles and learning disabilities can be caused or made much worse by slow processing speed. ADD and other attention issues may also be associated with slow processing speed.

But it gets worse. It’s easy to see how academic struggles come from slow processing. What’s worse? Kids with slow processing often suffer from social difficulties. All it takes is a missed social cue here or there and a child is shunned by their peers. 

Kids with slow processing start to take on all the feedback they get. They start to believe they are stupid, lazy, inconsiderate, and unlikable. This is the real tragedy. None of this is true.

What to do about Slow Processing?

Fortunately, there are answers. Every day, we help kids significantly improve their auditory and visual processing speed.

As it turns out, the brain has plasticity. This means that the brain can change throughout life. Our processing speed and other brain skills can be improved. 

There are still a lot of people, even “professionals,” who will tell you that you just have to learn to live with learning disabilities or slow processing speed. It’s just not true. There’s a lot you can do, and it’s not acceptable to have bright kids suffer just because they currently have slow processing speed.

It’s an imperfect analogy, but the brain does work a lot like a muscle. In our learning centers, we use processing skills training to give the brain an intense workout. Intensity causes fast results, and our students love seeing fast progress. There’s nothing like progress to build even more motivation.

What Happens in Processing Skills Training?

Processing skills training usually happens over ten to fifteen weeks. Students spend an hour each day on drills and games while working one-on-one with a clinician. The activities are focused on one specific processing skill.

Still, in life, we don’t use just one processing skill in isolation. Our program works to integrate multiple processing skills and make them automatic. Keys to success include:

  • Intensity - Intense, repetitive training is used to create permanent connections in the brain.
  • One-to-One - Cognitive training needs to be tailored to each individual student, and our clinicians adjust the intensity and focus for rapid progress.
  • Immediate Feedback - The last thing we want is to train the brain incorrectly, so errors must be caught when they happen.
  • Challenge - The most progress occurs when we are stretched but not overwhelmed.
  • Loading - We want the new processing skills to become completely automatic. Adding other mental activities to the training helps make the processing automatic.
  • Distractions - Adding distractions helps the child process quickly in spite of distractions and helps improve attention.
  • Variety - Different types of activities builds mental flexibility and increases motivation and interest.

If you are concerned that your child may have slow processing speed, an assessment will be needed to discover exactly what’s going on. Many learning struggles may look alike, but have different causes. It’s essential to know the causes before starting any treatment program.

The best way to learn more is to contact us for help.


Topics: Learning Disability, Learning Struggle, Processing Skills