A Change of Pace
By Susan Paff
At 19 and on academic probation in the first semester of his sophomore year at Bluffton University, Ohio, Matthew Thomson knew he needed help. He didn’t feel connected to what he was studying, didn’t understand the classes he was taking and desperately needed direction.
“I needed something to change,” Matt said. “I knew that I had problems with paying attention in class, and I could never keep good notes because of it.” A friend told him about the help he had received at Total Learning Centers, and Matt decided to check it out. Not only did he find the academic and emotional support he needed, but Matt found the direction he sought after as well.
Matt had never needed learning support in high school, but now he was developing great anxiety over tests and having trouble concentrating and remembering material. Anxiety related to school was quite evident and was hindering school achievement. A thorough evaluation at TLC showed Matt had challenges in executive functioning, attention, study skills and skill deficits in reading and writing. TLC education experts recommended Matt begin the Cognitive Educational Therapy program to improve processing, working memory, integration of skills, executive functioning, multitasking and attention.
Research is clear that anxiety interferes both with learning and accessing memory to show what one has learned. TLC education experts knew Matt had great potential and once his skills were remediated and his confidence increased, he would be able to function at a much higher level at school. During his time off from college, Matt excelled in the Cognitive Educational Therapy program at TLC and says he loved it! When the next semester started, Matt was confident and ready to tackle college again.
Dr. Carol Utay, co-founder and executive director of TLC, also helped Matt realize the accommodations he needed for test taking at school. By law, students who have a documented learning disability, such as a dyslexia or attention deficit disorder, can receive appropriate accommodations such as extended time or a quiet place to take a test. “I saw a huge improvement in my memory after I completed Cognitive Educational Therapy. Between being able to pay more attention in classes, and the accommodations that Bluffton is now giving me, I have definitely seen an improvement,” Matt said. “My grades have improved every single semester.”
Matt also started working for TLC as a teacher’s aide and has been able to share his experiences with other TLC students.“Teaching Cognitive Educational Therapy to other students at TLC is definitely something that I am passionate about,” he said. “I can’t even explain how much the programs at Total Learning Centers have helped me, and just knowing that I can share that with someone else struggling is an amazing feeling.”
In fact, his experience teaching at TLC sparked an interest in studying child development at college. “I knew that I wanted to work with kids. I just didn’t know in what capacity. Being involved with TLC has made me more passionate about helping children who struggle,” Matt said.
Now 23 years old, Matt has big plans for the future, including getting married and going to graduate school at Bowling Green University. He’s hoping to get hired by a college in the student activities office someday. “Working at TLC for the past three years has given me more experience than I could have ever asked for,” Matt said. “The skills that the Utays have built in me will be things that stay with me my whole life, and have given me the aspiration to go on to graduate school.”