“He’ll grow out of it,” they said. They being every friend, colleague, teacher, counselor, or stranger in the grocery store line I confided in with my worries about my son’s seeming stubbornness about doing school work.
Despite testing into our school’s gifted program and usually topping his class scores in reading and math, my younger son has struggled in school since he was in second grade. That year his teacher often made him stay in class while his gifted peers were pulled out for more interesting and creative work because he couldn’t finish his class work.
But “don’t worry, he’ll grow out of this. He just needs discipline,” his male teacher told me.
Three years later, it has become obvious this is not something my son was going to outgrow. And no amount of discipline and structure had helped. Both of us had grown to hate school; homework sessions ended with both of us in tears; and the number of parent-teacher conferences I attended in one year for him seemed to exceed the total I had attended for his brother during his entire school career. (Okay. I exaggerate. But it was a lot.)
None of his teachers had ever actually used the terms ADD or ADHD, but his last teacher had insinuated it. And while I do not judge anyone who decides her child needs to be on medication in order to thrive, as someone diagnosed with ADD as an adult, I know what the side effects of medication feel like and I am simply not ready to go there with my son. Still, I was at my wit’s end.
Enter LearningRx, a cognitive testing and brain training facility. At the suggestion of a friend whose daughter shared many similar struggles, I was set to take my sweet boy there for an evaluation. When an opportunity to try it out on behalf of the Chattanooga Moms Blog arose, I volunteered and scheduled an appointment for an evaluation. I was uncertain what to expect at first, but LearningRx Chattanooga’s director, Michelle and her staff, made the process as comfortable and easy as possible.
We began with a one-hour cognitive skills evaluation at their Hamilton Place center which my son later described as fun. While my son took his test, I completed a questionnaire to identify my concerns and observations and list my goals for him which would later be compared to his actual test results. At the end of the session, we scheduled a time to follow up and receive his test results.
LearningRx evaluates students on 12 cognitive skills: Memory, Visual Processing, Logic-Reasoning, Processing Speed, Auditory Processing, Word Attack, Reading Fluency, Understanding Directions, Math Fluency, Passage Comprehension, Quantitative Concepts, and Spelling of Sounds. The results of the testing are used in conjunction with the parent evaluation to identify strengths or weaknesses in your child’s cognitive abilities.
I found it incredibly helpful to receive my son’s evaluation and have Michelle go over each part with me, highlighting his strengths for me, as well as his challenges. As a mom, you can see all of your child’s wonderful qualities and gifts, but when you watch his teachers focus so strongly on deficits, it feels wonderful to have someone else see his strengths as well as the areas where he needs to grow.
After explaining to me that my little guy had weaknesses in Working Memory, Auditory Processing, Visual Processing, and Math Fluency, Michelle then shared with me a plan for helping him improve in each of those areas. She explained that the brain training techniques used at LearningRx seem like games and engage the kids in the fun of learning.
We also set some goals for my son that went beyond improving his attention, working memory, processing speed, and willingness to do homework, to include building traits like grit and resiliency, helping him to feel more accomplished and less angry, and to feel better about school. Then, considering all that she had learned about my son from his test results, her interview with him, and my evaluation, Michelle chose the perfect trainer, Miss Gerri, and we set a schedule to start their 6-session trial program.
From day one, my son loved his trainer. She was enthusiastic, fun, and her high energy kept him engaged and on task. When I picked him up, he delightedly recited to me the first 20 U.S. Presidents which he had learned using a visual memory technique as one of the brain-training games. Then he did it backwards. I was amazed and thrilled to see him leave an educational situation looking so happy.
When we walked outside, he said, “Mom, this is the happiest I have felt in a very long time. Miss Gerri made me feel smart again.” I cried, a mix of happy and heartbroken. I felt awful that my son had felt so broken and sad because of school and these challenges I kept waiting for him to outgrow. Yet, I was thrilled that we had found something that made him see what he was capable of and could give him the tools to strengthen the skills he needs to succeed.
Our six sessions seemed to fly by but with each one I could see the changes in my child. He became less resistant to doing homework. He seemed less angry on school days. And he became more willing to accept guidance from others when struggling with homework. After his last class at LearningRx he told me he’d like to continue and I’m planning to enroll him in the full 12-week program.
I would definitely recommend LearningRx for anyone whose child struggles in school. I’ve seen the difference even a short brain training program can make. I was also impressed by how the entire LearningRx staff seemed to genuinely care about their students and were committed to their growth. Even if his cognitive skills only improved marginally, the confidence boost and reminder that he is smart that Miss Gerri gave my son was a gift more valuable than gold to this mama.