By Kathy Feist
I will never forget when my daughter had duplicated the picture of a square with a simple ‘t’ in the middle. She painstakingly drew four separate squares. In that moment I realized our brains do not work the same way.
My eight-year-old daughter had just been evaluated at Applied Learning Processes, 430 E. Blue Ridge Blvd., for spelling and writing challenges.
Her interpretation of the square(s) indicated she had yet to fully develop Visual Spatial processing, which organizes visual information into meaningful patterns. “Imagine the difficulty she had in processing words on a page,” sympathizes Melinda Buie, Clinical Director at Applied Learning Processes.
This lapse not only meant difficulty in reading and writing, but could also create difficulty in planning a day. “People [with this diagnosis] have difficulty seeing how each task fits together throughout the day,” says Buie. “They are chronically late or over promise themselves.”
“Sometimes pathways in the brain develop naturally,” says Buie. “But some students’ pathways do not get developed.”
We use a neurological treatment process,” she says. “Our goal is to develop the underdeveloped brain that is causing the child to struggle with learning.”
“We are not like a traditional tutoring program which gives a child more practice,” she explains. “We change the way the brain is functioning so the learning becomes more efficient.”
The learning center diagnoses and treats children, teens and adults. Clinicians use methods that fall under the umbrella of the Orton-Gillingham techniques as defined by the International Dyslexia Foundation. These include a range of techniques, consisting primarily of Linda-Mood Bell, but also Phono-graphix, Math-U-See, Seeing Stars, Handwriting Without Tears and others.
After an evaluation, students visit the clinic a few times a week until they have completed a given number of hours. At the end, the evaluation is repeated and the results are compared. The improvements are often stunning.
“We hear a lot of success stories,” says Buie. “The grades are better. They like going to school. They are happier and more confident. Their anxiety levels are down. It’s really good news.”
Applied Learning Processes was begun in 1993 by Billie Calvery, M.S.Ed. She and Buie have worked together since 1990 testing and diagnosing learning problems.
The learning problems they primarily diagnose are:
Phonological Processing -Unable to perceive the identities and order of individual sounds and syllables in spoken words. Though they are taught phonics, they may look at the word “fat” and say “fan” or look at the word “stream” and say “steam.” They cannot auditorily perceive their errors. These students may have a good understanding when spoken to, but cannot process written information because the words they hear are not the words they see.
Orthographic Processing – Unable to develop a visual memory of how a word is spelled and must repeatedly rely on sounding out the word. These students often reverse letters such as ‘b’ and ‘d’ or the order of letters, such as ‘from’ and ‘form.’
Visual/Verbal Integration – The inability to connect languages to images in the mind. These students often do not see the “whole picture” and may need directions frequently repeated or need to reread something to understand it. They usually have a scattered conversation or are disorganized personally. This is often misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder.
Visual Spacial Motor Processing – Unable to organize visual information into meaningful patterns. Students may write sentences with no spacing between words, or have difficulty staying between lines on a notebook paper. Reading maps or not understanding calendars may also be difficult.
Math – Any of the above diagnoses can lead to difficulties with math. Applied Learning Processes addresses focuses on the underlying problem.
After my daughter had completed 80 hours of intense work with a clinician, her reading comprehension was at an 8th Grade level. And her drawing ability? She is now an arts major at a liberal arts college, making top grades.
If you feel your child is not progressing with tutoring programs, you can contact Applied Learning Processes for a consultation at 816-942-6808.