Learning to Learn

Beth Ardell and Susie McDaniel were like so many moms. Their kids were having trouble learning and they couldn’t find the right help. Eventually, they realized that metro Atlanta didn’t have anything that would tackle the core reasons why their kids were struggling — until they heard about LearningRx, which was founded by Dr. Ken Gibson more than 25 years ago. LearningRx is a one-on-one brain training program that targets cognitive skills. They opened a center in Buckhead/Sandy Springs in 2008 and an Alpharetta/Johns Creek facility three years later.

“Beth and I both went to graduate school to study physical therapy at Emory. We worked together for years, and then our kids started struggling in school. We tried many different programs to help them and then Beth heard about LearningRx,” says Susie. “It was exactly what we were looking for.”

Beth’s daughter had a seizure disorder when she was one year old that resulted in significantly weakened cognitive skills in several areas. Despite Beth’s therapy background, several interventions and extensive school modifications, her daughter fell further behind in school. LearningRx’s methodology and results were the right solution, she said.

“I knew she needed this cutting edge, radical way to strengthen her cognition more than anything else. Thankfully I was right, and her life started to change. She became the best reader in her class and is now able to keep up with her peers both socially and academically.”

A Roswell resident, Susie has one child who struggled academically and faced attention issues, as well, which she did not want to medicate. She also has another child who used LearningRx for enhancement reasons.  “LearningRx helped both of my kids tremendously,” she says, “and I have not needed to use medication for my son’s early inattentiveness”

She points out that because it is not like traditional tutoring and instead trains certain parts of the brain to permanently enhance learning skills, he’s done better in other aspects of his life also. “It does tend to transfer to things like sports and music,” she says. “They can understand and remember the football plays or the music better. They tend to keep up with conversations better and get the jokes more. It helps in all aspects of life.”

LearningRx is very clear about what separates them other companies that help children learn or supplement their schoolwork. “For the most part, we don’t work on specific academic achievement, except where it pertains to the decoding or fluency of reading and comprehension. We are not tutors. We attack the core cognitive issues and processing skills so they can process new information faster and more efficiently,” says Susie, co-owner and director. “We look at skills such as short- and long-term memory, logic and reasoning, auditory and visual processing, processing speed, and attention.

We attack the core skills — the reasons why you can’t read or learn like everyone else.”

LearningRx offers “brain training.” First they test the child (or adult) to see what they can accomplish, a standardized cognitive skills assessment, and evaluate where their strengths and weaknesses are. After a consultation, they devise a plan of intense specialized mental exercises aimed at specific cognitive weaknesses. A client will work with a brain trainer for an hour a day (usually 3 – 5 times/week) for 12 to 32 weeks. Think of it as your brain going to the gym with its own personal trainer.

“When children first start out, they often don’t understand why we ask them to perform certain game-like procedures that are fun but challenging,” says Alix Luce, director of LearningRx Alpharetta. “But after a while, they love it. It changes their whole attitude about learning and being a success, and their confidence skyrockets!”

Although every mental exercise is customized, someone behind in math might work on recognizing patterns and logic rather than multiplication tables.

“With reading, we often find that the student struggles with the comprehensive component rather than the mechanics,” Susie says.

Not all of the children and adults who enroll at LearningRx are diagnosed with specific conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism. “It’s basically for children and adults who are struggling at something and want to do better,” Susie says, “or it’s for anyone who wants a competitive edge in school or beyond.”

“Opening LearningRx has been the best thing I’ve ever done because all of my children’s lives have improved as a result of going through this program,” says Beth. “The opportunities they are now taking advantage of are those they never would have had without the increased cognitive skills they attained after going through LearningRx’s training.”