Everyone Needs a Hula Hoop!

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability, Social Skills

Have you ever known someone who repeatedly “invaded” your personal space?  They just stand or sit too close in conversation?  There is something really uncomfortable about that, even if the person is someone you know and like.

Often I speak with parents who express concerns about their child’s social skills and ability to make and keep friends.  While there are many varied skills that go into being a good friend, one of those skills is an awareness and observance of personal social space.

Talking about social space is a good thing, but it’s not very concrete, and a child with these challenges may not really “get” it.  A hula-hoop can help make this more visual and concrete.

Step into a hula-hoop and pull it up around your waist, with the hoop touching your back and extending out in front of you, creating a space between you and the child.  Tell the child, “This is my space.  This is how far away from me you need to be when we talk.”  Put the hula-hoop around the child and say, “This is your space.  Here’s where I need to be when we talk so I don’t invade your space.”

Make the learning fun.  Use the word invade and connect it with your child’s favorite villain in order to understand the word.  Then you can practice having conversations without “invading” each other’s space.  Use the hula-hoop to check the space until it’s understood.  Have the child “show” you his (imaginary) hula-hoop by making an arc with his hands in front of him.

Practice noticing and respecting personal space with family members and close friends.  Then, talk about noticing personal space in other places and relationships, by imagining the hula-hoop.

This same idea can be used to help children who tend to grab materials and things that belong to others.  Use the hula-hoop to reinforce the understanding that you don’t get to touch or grab things in someone else’s personal space.

Everyone needs a hula-hoop!

Do you feel like you’re all alone trying to help your child navigate their academic and social worlds?  Join us for a Parent Support Group Meeting (We call it P.E.A.C.E.) or a Parent Information Meeting.  Go to www.learningdisability.com for dates, times, and RSVP.

Hooray for Persistent Parents

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability

In a couple of hours, my brother-in-law, who was born with Down Syndrome, will fly home from Los Angeles to New York on his own.  This is quite an accomplishment for a guy whose parents were told when he was born, not to even bring him home from the hospital.

Rob has been all over the world.  He knows how to be a part of a family.  He is funny and well-behaved.  He attends concerts and church.  He conducts Sousa music like a champ.  And he can fly around the country to visit his siblings without mishap.  All because his parents never gave up.

My mother-in-law expected Rob to take responsibility for the things he was capable of doing.  He was expected to speak nicely, wait his turn, and help around the house.  And his parents were extremely persistent about getting him the services he needed to be the best that he could be.  In fact, they were so persistent that thousands of children and adults have been better served over the last 50 years because of their work with the New York State ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens).

Rob is not representative of the students that we serve at Stowell Learning Center, but I certainly run into parents who are relentless in trying to find solutions to their child’s learning challenges.  They sometimes feel bad about how “pushy” they have to be.  But who else will advocate for your child like you?  Good for you, for never giving up!

Children and adults with learning and attention challenges can and should become comfortable, independent readers and learners.  These individuals have at least average to above average intelligence and absolutely have the ability to learn more easily and confidently in school.

The key is to quit trying to find ways to cope with the learning problem and identify and correct the underlying learning/processing skills that are causing the problem.  Once the brain is efficiently getting the information it needs to think with, reading, spelling, math, and writing can be remediated so that the learner can go on to thrive in school and pursue the dreams they have for their future.

So I say, “Hooray for persistent parents who refuse to settle for compensations and accommodations when they know their child is capable of more!”

Enjoy the last few days/weeks of summer vacation,

Jill Stowell

The Gift of Movement and Unstructured Play

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability


Living in Southern California, it can get pretty hot during the day in July, but it cools off really nicely in the evening.  One of the things my husband and I love to do is to sit outside at an outdoor food court near our home that has a huge round fountain in the center.  The raised edge encircling the fountain is about 18 inches wide.

What is such fun about this fountain is watching little children run around the edge of it with absolute delight and laughter.

There are two things that particularly strike me when I watch these little children.

First, I am amazed at the coordination of the toddlers and slightly older siblings that play this running game around the fountain.  While there are occasional falls, these children show astonishing awareness and control of their bodies and movement.

Second, the children running and playing around the fountain have no toys, no electronic devices, no structured rules.  They’re just making it up as they go along.  And guess what.  They are:

  • totally engaged
  • having fun
  • getting exercise
  • using creative thinking
  • interacting with other kids
  • building balance, visual skills, and motor planning abilities.

Believe it or not, this unstructured movement play is

building skills that children need for

paying attention and learning in the classroom.

John Ratey, M.D., author of  A User’s Guide to the Brain says, “Mounting evidence shows that movement is crucial to every other brain function, including memory, emotion, language and learning. Our “higher” brain functions have evolved from movement and still depend on it.”

When children (or adults) struggle to learn or function easily in their lives, one of the first things we need to look at is what we call Core Learning Skills.  These are foundational visual and movement skills that allow us to move easily through our environment and our social and academic worlds.  These skills, which develop through movement, support memory, attention, and organization.

As a society, we have gotten very enamored with our electronic devices – and I have to admit, they are quite amazing.  But one of the very best gifts we can give to our children is the opportunity to move and create with unstructured playtime.

Do you have a struggling student?

If your child has struggled in school and you are concerned that this school year will bring more if the same, please, please join us for a parent information meeting.

By addressing the underlying processing or learning skills that are needed for efficient learning, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected.

Let us help you figure out and correct the root of the problem and remediate whatever academic skills have been affected.  This also is a life-changing gift you can give to yourself or your child.

Go to www.learningdisability.com for date, time, and RSVP.