Sit Still, Already!

Jill Stowell Core Learning Skills, General Information, Learning Disability

Legs swinging, feet kicking – at the dinner table, at the homework desk, any time seated in a chair.  That was my M.O. as a child.  I wasn’t even aware of it, but obviously my mom was, because I heard the infamous, “Sit still!” very often.

I still have a tendency to fidget with my feet when sitting, but I learned long ago to be more aware and keep those pesky feet under control.

For many children, teens, or even adults with learning challenges, sitting still is not so easy.

Those Crucial Core Learning Skills

We’ve talked often about the Learning Skills Continuum, about how there are many, hierarchical skills that support efficient learning.  The bottom tier of the continuum is what we call Core Learning Skills.  These are the visual and motor skills that lay the foundation for organization, attention, and efficient movement and learning.

When there are challenges at the Core Learning Skills level, body awareness and control can become a problem.  Did you know that there is actually a reflex – the Spinal Galant – that is critical in the birthing process, but not needed much beyond the first few months of life, that can make it almost impossible for some children to sit still in a chair?  These early reflexes should basically disappear, or quit firing, but if they linger, they can interfere with attention, memory, and learning.

What’s the big Deal About Body Awareness and Control?

We all assume that something so basic as sitting in a chair, standing in a line, or moving through space without bumping into things is automatically in our control.  Chances are this is a false assumption for students who struggle repeatedly with these kinds of things.

Feeling in control is key to feeling secure.  When we can’t get our body or our limbs to do what we want them to do, it is very disconcerting and can lead to frustration, anxiety, and fear.

Check out these You Tube videos and you’ll see exactly what I mean:

If you want to better understand Core Learning Skills challenges and what can be done to correct them, check out my book (available at

At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the

Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities

Now for a little comic relief:  Take a look at the little boy who couldn’t kick the ball paired with a dance remix.  


Have a great day!

Jill Stowell

Great at Sports but Lazy at School?

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability

At Starbucks not too long ago, I overheard a group if young teenage girls talking about a softball tournament they had just participated in. They talked excitedly and knowledgeably about the game for a while, and then the conversation turned to school. One of the girls said about her performance at school,

“I’m really lazy and not that smart.”

The girls were sitting behind me, so I couldn’t even see them, but as teenage girls often do, they were speaking quite loudly. They came across as highly motivated, intelligent, capable girls. Not one sounded “lazy” or “not smart.”

Lazy may become a coping strategy or a way to avoid things that are really difficult, but In my 29 years of helping children and adults correct their learning and attention challenges, I have yet to meet one for whom LAZY is the root cause of their struggles in school.

How is it that some students can be so exceptional at sports, yet perpetually struggle in school?

Academic success depends upon a solid foundation of cognitive learning skills. If you think about these skills like a ladder or a continuum, academics and school subjects are at the very top. Many other skills must be in place in order to learn easily at the top of the ladder. When the underlying skills, or skills lower on the continuum are weak, they may keep children and adults from learning and functioning as well and as independently as they should.

It’s sometimes easier emotionally for a struggling student to become “lazy” than to try so hard and fail anyway. When otherwise smart and motivated children and teens seem “lazy” or “not that smart in school,” it may be time to explore the underlying skills that support efficient learning.

JOIN US for a FREE Parent Information Meeting to better understand what is going on with your child’s learning and what can be done to move him or her from “lazy and not that smart” to confident, successful student.

For FREE Weekly Homework Tips and Information Meeting details go to

Football and Fresh Starts

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability

Football Team Huddle

I’m not really a football fan, but I have to admit, the sound of football on TV brings a smile to my face.  It signals the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.

Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, but each new season, especially Fall, seems like a new beginning – a fresh start.

Starting school was always a big deal in our family – new clothes, new routine, and excitement and a little trepidation over who the new teacher would be,

By the end of this week, nearly all students will be back in school.  This is a great time to establish new routines.  If your child was always late last year, this is a good time to plan a new and more efficient morning routine.  If fitting homework in around all the other commitments and activities was a challenge last year, now is the time to create a different habit.

Fresh Start – New Habits

It’s always easier to put a new structure in place when you have a natural break in old routines.  Summer provides that, making Fall the perfect time for a fresh start.  Here are some suggestions:

1.Make a morning checklist – When our son was in 4th or 5th grade, we created a checklist for him of all of the things he needed to do to be ready for school.  He played ice hockey, so we put a picture of a hockey player on the paper with the list.  The lists were posted in strategic places around the house (closet door, bathroom mirror, the door heading out to the garage).  This reduced nagging and increased independence.

Building the list together will help with buy-in.  You can even add the amount of time each task should take.  The child can time himself to keep himself on track and to make it more of a personal competition. Boys, especially, are much more willing to engage if it’s something they can beat or win – even if beating their own time.

2.Schedule in homework time  – Determine about how much time homework should take for your child’s grade and skills.  Schedule that amount of time into each day of the week.  Actually write it on the calendar  (this makes it more “legitimate”) and agree as a family that it will be undisturbed time for homework only.  If a sports practice or doctor’s appointment is going to infringe on that time, be sure to reschedule the homework time in another slot on that day.  Again, actually write it down so that everyone knows exactly what to expect.

Hope is Not a Strategy

I often speak to parents who look at the new school year a new opportunity for things to miraculously come together for their child or teen who has traditionally struggled in school.  Maybe with a different teacher or a little more maturity, this year will be better.

Unfortunately most learning or attention challenges will not just go away with time.  Certainly the right teacher can bring out the best in a child and make the year better, but actually eliminating the learning challenge is not likely to happen without specific and intentional intervention.

The great news is, that brain and clinical research lets us know that it is possible to dramatically improve or permanently correctly diagnosed and undiagnosed learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

To better understand your child’s learning needs / challenges and what can be done to help, join us for a FREE Parent Information Meeting.  Go to for details and RSVP.