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Thinking Out of the Box


Through the research of Dr. Michael Merzenich and many others, we know that the brain has plasticity. Our brains have a lifelong ability to reorganize and develop new neuropathways through learning and experience. Inefficient and under- developed processing skills can be improved through training.

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience July 2000, “shows the brain’s ability to readjust to its circuits to process language—at any age...Studies show that different types of training techniques some-times can improve dyslexics’ poor reading skills.“

If we work from the belief that learning disabilities, to a great extent, can be overcome, we find that we are no longer satisfied with a Band-Aid approach.

Processing skills include areas such as memory, attention, auditory and visual processing, processing speed, language comprehension, and reasoning.

*A strong processing skills base gives an individual a good foundation upon which to build academic skills.
*Weaknesses in one or more of these processing skills areas may cause the student to struggle to learn academic skills, in spite of good teachers and good programs.

Reading is a good example
In order to be an efficient reader, we must understand and be able to use the phonetic code of the language.
But understanding and using phonics depends upon a thinking process called phonemic awareness. This is the brain’s ability to think about and manipulate the number, order, and identity of sounds in words. If the brain cannot “hear” or process the differences in speech sounds, reading will almost certainly be affected. A good phonics program and lots of phonics drill will not solve the reading problems until the underlying thinking process is developed.

Instead of saying: “This child can’t learn phonics. He’ll just have to get by with memorizing sight words,” we need to develop the underlying processing skill(s) needed that will allow the student to become an efficient reader.

The time has come to “think outside the box” and match the curriculum to the brain.  At PLS our goal for students is that they become comfortable, independent learners at grade level.  It doesn’t happen over-night, but it is not an unreasonable expectation for students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

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