3 Reasons Why Your Child’s Attention Problem Might NOT Be ADHD (Part 2)

Jill Stowell ADHD, General Information, Learning Disability

What’s really going on when smart kids struggle to pay attention in school? What could be causing your child’s attention problem?

Last week we introduced 3 students who struggle to pay attention in school.

Jeremy’s constant wiggling not only keeps him from getting his work done, but is a real distraction to his classmates.

Manny is driving his teacher crazy (and subsequently his mom, too) because he’s clearly smart, but “chooses” to entertain the class rather than do his own work.

Sara’s teacher reports that she daydreams and simply doesn’t listen, and as a result, never knows what to do.

3 Students – 3 Different Learning Challenges Affecting Attention

Jeremy can’t sit still in his chair because of a retained primitive reflex called the Spinal Galant. 

Primitive reflexes are involuntary movements that are present in infants to help with the birthing process and adaptation as a newborn. If these reflexes don’t “disappear” within about the first year of life, they will continue to fire and cause neurological interference that can get in the way of efficient development and easy learning. This is called neurodevelopmental delay.

Jeremy’s retained Spinal Gallant reflex causes him to wiggle in his chair when he doesn’t mean to. When he tries hard to sit still, it takes all of his attention, so he can’t really think about what the teacher is saying or what he’s supposed to be doing on his assignments.

Manny is dyslexic. He’s very smart and very clever. He has memorized some words, but he can’t sound out new words and sometimes when he looks at the page, it seems like the words and letters are moving around. At nine-years-old, he’s already figured out that getting in trouble for “entertaining” his neighbors is better than anyone knowing he can’t read.



Sara has an auditory processing problem. She tries so hard to listen, but what she’s hearing is spotty and inconsistent, like a bad cell phone connection. She tries to fill-in the gaps, but pretty soon, it just doesn’t make sense and she can’t keep her attention on it anymore. 



Can These Challenges Be Fixed?

Weak or inefficient underlying learning/processing skills such as Jeremy’s neurodevelopmental delays, Manny’s challenges with visual and auditory processing skills related to reading, and Sara’s auditory processing problem, will stress the attention system. In class and during homework, this easily looks like an attention problem – even ADD or ADHD. But the attention problem is really just a symptom of weak underlying skills.

Here’s the great news: These underlying skills can be developed. Addressing the root cause of the poor attention symptom can eliminate the problem.

Is There Such a Thing As ADHD?

Yes, I believe that there are children and adults who truly have ADD or ADHD – an actual biochemical attention deficit. We just want to be careful not to assume that every student who struggles to pay attention in class has this diagnosis. The behaviors in class often look the same and as a result, far too many children end up on medication.

Because there does appear to be a biochemical component to a true attention deficit, we find that the best kind of treatment is a combination of attention focus training and addressing the biochemistry. Many of our clients are very successfully able to do this through diet and natural supplements.

Take a Walk in Their Shoes

Empathy is a first great step in understanding and helping students with learning and attention challenges. Here’s your chance. JOIN US for our upcoming simulations.

▪ Attention Challenges Simulation – April 13, 2013 – Irvine, CA
▪ Dyslexia Simulation – April 20, 2013 – Chino, CA

Go to www.learningdisability.com for info and RSVP

3 Reasons Why Your Child’s Attention Problem Might NOT Be ADHD (Part 1)

Jill Stowell ADHD, General Information, Learning Disability

 “Your child just can’t seem to pay attention in class.  It could be ADHD.”

 Yes. It could be ADHD, but did you know that there are many other reasons why kids struggle to pay attention in class and when doing homework?  At Stowell Learning Center, the vast majority of our students have attention challenges, but only a very small minority actually have ADHD.

 3 students. One common story.

 Jeremy wiggles constantly in his chair. It keeps him from getting his work done and is very distracting to the students sitting near him.

Manny talks to his neighbors all the time instead of doing his work. He’s always interested in what everyone else is doing, but he can’t seem to pay attention to his own work.

Sara tries really hard to be “good.” She sits up tall and looks right at the teacher. But pretty soon, she’s fiddling with things on her desk or staring straight through the teacher. When it’s time to start working, Sara always has to ask, “What were we supposed to do?”

Sound Familiar?  These students, their parents, their teachers, and maybe even some of their classmates are frustrated by their attention problems, but not one of them has ADHD!

 If Not ADHD, then what?

Good attention and successful, easy learning depend upon a solid foundation of underlying learning skills. These skills include the following:

 Core Learning Skills: These are basic visual and motor skills that help children develop a sense of self, internal organization, and body and attention awareness and control.

Processing Skills: These are skills such as attention, memory, auditory and visual processing (how we think about and understand things that we see or hear), processing speed, language comprehension, and phonemic awareness (the thinking process critical to reading that supports learning and using phonics).

Executive Function: This is our personal manager that guides and directs our attention and behavior. It helps us reason, problem solve, organize, and make decisions.

Poor attention in class may be a symptom, not the real problem.
If a child has problems with any of the underlying learning skills, his attention system will also be stressed. While attention may become a problem in school or with homework, it may not actually be the real problem. 



What’s really going on with Jeremy, Manny, and Sara?
What could be causing your child’s attention problem?

 Visit our blog next week for answers!

Here’s the great news:  The weak or inefficient underlying learning/processing skills can be developed.  Addressing the root cause of the poor attention symptom can eliminate the problem.

P.S.  If you are interested in really understanding what it feels like to have a learning or attention challenge, join us for our upcoming simulations. 

▪   Attention Challenges Simulation – April 13, 2013 – Irvine, CA

▪   Dyslexia Simulation – April 20, 2013 – Chino, CA

Go to www.learningdisability.com for info and RSVP

What IS a Learning Disability, Anyway?

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability 0 Comments

The term learning disability has gone out of vogue because the word “disability” is now politically incorrect.  And in many ways, when talking about students who actually fit this profile, the term learning disability, can be very confusing.

By definition, someone who has a learning disability has average to above average intelligence.  In fact, many of our students are extremely bright or even gifted, but in spite of being smart, these children and adults have difficulty with some aspects of learning that cause them to struggle in school or at work more than would be expected.

Bright, Talented, and Able!

Learning disabilities are perplexing because they may cause very “able” individuals to be unsuccessful or “disabled” in certain situations.

Children and adults with learning disabilities look and act like the rest of the population. They are bright and often talented in creative or physical areas. Their “disability,” with its accompanying frustration, withdrawal, or coping behaviors, rears its head in the face of specific tasks or expectations.

There are many underlying learning/processing skills that support efficient learning.  These are things such as body and attention awareness and control, memory, auditory and visual processing (how the brain perceives and thinks about information that is seen or heard), processing speed, language processing, and reasoning.

Weak or inefficient learning/processing skills can cause smart students to struggle.  Sometimes, they get diagnosed as having a learning disability and sometimes they don’t, but parents and the students themselves know that there is something making learning harder than it should be.

Lazy?  Unmotivated?

Unfortunately, because they are obviously intelligent and generally do some kinds of tasks very easily, parents and teachers may, at first, see the student with learning challenges as lazy or unmotivated.  Older students often view themselves as lazy.

With very few exceptions, learners of any age want to be successful and would if they could.  In spite of what it may look like, there is almost always a reason why a child is not performing as expected and it’s almost NEVER because they’re lazy or don’t care.

Great News!

The great news about learning disabilities is that they don’t have to be permanent!   Brain plasticity research shows us that the brain can literally develop new neuropathways, or quicker, more efficient connections for learning. 

Students of any age with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning disabilities including dyslexia can become comfortable, confident, and independent learners.

Don’t Live a Learning Disability

The key to correcting learning challenges is to identify which of the underlying learning/processing skills are not supporting the student well enough and develop these areas.  Then remediate the troublesome basic academic areas such as reading, spelling, or math, and the student is on his way to being the learner he has the potential to be.

P.S.  If you are interested in really understanding what it feels like to have a learning or attention challenge, join us for our upcoming simulations.

  • Attention Challenges Simulation – April 13, 2013 – Irvine, CA
  • Dyslexia Simulation – April 20, 2013 – Chino, CA

Go to www.learningdisability.com for info and RSVP