Open Doors and New Opportunities

By Susan Paff

Paula Raves says her best advice for parents is not to struggle with a child alone. She didn’t know Total Learning Centers offered the range of services that it does or else she said she would have taken her son, Jonathan, much sooner.

When Paula first brought Jonathan to Total Learning Centers in 2003, she just wanted to help prepare him for the SAT. She had seen ads in a local magazine for TLC and walked past the building in the plaza many times, but had never stopped to ask about services.

She already knew the SAT would be rough for Jonathan since he was diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADD by age 8. He’d had learning support over the years in private school and with private tutors. However, she always felt as wonderful as all the teachers and tutors were, it was just support, not fixing his problem.

“No one ever focused on identifying his problem areas and developing strategies to overcome the problems — until he came to TLC,” she said. Jonathan knew he wanted to attend college but had never really done well on standardized tests so he was happy to take the classes. He didn’t realize he was about to not only develop his studies but also discover an employment opportunity – all because he walked through those doors.

Drs. Carol and Joe Utay know every child can succeed far beyond his or her expectations with the right remediation and support. TLC always tests students to check for any underlying issues preventing the child from learning to his or her full potential. The story was no different with Jonathan. Even though he initially came to the center for SAT Prep classes, he was tested in October 2003, and the education specialists at TLC found he was bright and had difficulties with processing his thoughts efficiently, transitions, multitasking and working memory, in addition to his ADD and reading disorder.

These weaknesses in executive functioning were not uncommon, and TLC education specialists went right to work to design a program that would really help Jonathan excel. Students can only make real progress when the underlying weaknesses are addressed first, so Jonathan stopped his SAT Prep classes and began the Cognitive Educational Therapy program.

“I immediately noticed my attention span and focus was better in classes,” Jonathan said. “That lasted over the years. I used to have test taking anxiety but as my reading and my attention has improved, I am not as anxious as I used to be.”

Cognitive Educational Therapy works to strengthen six areas of the brain’s executive functioning necessary for learning: attention, working memory, thinking (processing) speed, visual processing, auditory processing and logic and reasoning.

“I think the Cognitive Educational Therapy program helped him to immediately be more attentive and better able to focus. This helped him to gain confidence,” Paula said. “Once his confidence improved – everything improved. Also, the staff at TLC was very encouraging and supportive, and he responded to that.”

By addressing the underlying issues first, Jonathan was able to make much faster progress in his SAT Prep sessions as well.

“I did better on my SATs than I expected and was accepted to college in August before my senior year of high school. This really helped me to gain confidence. It also took away the stress of my senior year.”

Gaining confidence in his abilities and improving his attention and executive functioning skills helped him to become a better student and more attentive learner and helped him discover his strengths — which TLC tapped right away. Jonathan discovered he had a natural knack for figuring out and solving computer issues so Drs. Carol and Joe offered Jonathan a technology support job at Total Learning Centers during his junior year of high school.

“He came to work every day directly after school and managed a variety of responsibilities, mainly in computer networking and software support,” explains Dr. Carol: “In the summer of 2006, Jonathan expanded his role as he took on another level of responsibility and remodeled a new center. He did carpentry, painting, electrical and tile work. Jonathan still works at the center as technology support when he is home on school breaks and during the summer months. He thanks us for the opportunity but we feel it is us that benefit greatly from his problem-solving skills, technology know-how, and strong work ethic.”

Now in his senior year of college at California University of Pennsylvania in California, Pa., Jonathan is proud to share that he only required minimal test-taking support from the Learning Support Office for his first two years.

“My last two years I have not needed any support at all. I changed my major during my junior year and thought I might not be able to graduate in four years,” he said. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep up and will graduate as planned.” In fact, Jonathan received a 3.91 GPA this past semester and has an overall 3.5 GPA, receiving academic honors six out of seven semesters so far.

Now 22 years old, Jonathan is looking forward to graduating college and getting a technology-related job, similar to his responsibilities at TLC. He has plans to attend graduate school in the future and maybe even become an entrepreneur.

“I’ve been able to realize that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. TLC has helped me to improve upon my weak areas but also has helped me to feel confident about my strengths,” Jonathan said. “I know that I would not have been as successful in college without the skills I learned at TLC. These skills will help me for the rest of my life.”

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