Besides improving their learning skills, Patrick and Courtney Axline’s younger clients often receive a life lesson.
“We don’t do what you’re good at, we do what you’re bad at,” Patrick Axline said. “Because if you’re good at it, it’s not going to improve you. We want to focus on your weak areas and improve those.”
Patrick and his wife Courtney have operated the LearningRx’s Cedar Rapids franchise since 2011. While traditional tutoring helps students master a specific academic subject, usually in response to poor grades, the “brain training” techniques practiced at Learning Rx and its competitors seek to improve clients’ comprehension and analytical abilities — essentially making them smarter.
The Axlines’ clients aren’t only struggling students. They’ve worked with older clients seeking to overcome memory loss, mild cognitive impairment, traumatic brain injury or the effects of aging.
“We know you don’t have to have memory problems when you get older,” Patrick said. “You can exercise your brain.
“It’s come a long ways even since we opened up nine years ago, just knowing that you can strengthen those skills and improve yourself.”
Courtney’s experience as a Learning Rx trainer at a West Des Moines center led them to open a location in Cedar Rapids. They opened a satellite location in Coralville in early 2018 and employ six trainers between the two sites.
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“I always had the thought in the back of my head that I wanted to own a business, and Courtney loved what she was doing,” Patrick recalled.
“I knew I wanted to work with kids and with people, trying to help change their lives, and I just saw the changes my clients had had going through the program,” Courtney said. “We just decided to move over here and open our own center.”
The LearningRx approach is built around “game-like activities to help enhance the brain,” Courtney explained. “It’s all one-on-one exercise for the brain, just like you would go to the gym and get a personal trainer, so it’s not your traditional tutoring.”
The program begins with an initial set of cognitive-thinking tests followed by a consultation with the client — and their family, for younger clients.
“From that information we put together a set amount of (program) hours that’s going to obtain that goal,” Patrick added.
Clients average two to five visits weekly for about six months, Courtney estimated. Most sessions last about an hour — the center is especially busy from about 3:30 to 8 p.m. weekdays.
There are some online exercises clients can do at home, “but here at the center it’s all one-on-one,” according to Courtney.
Trainers stay with clients throughout their program.
“They build that rapport, and the trainer can say, ‘Just to this three more times and we’ll move on to the next thing,’” Courtney said.
Older clients may be recent retirees or professionals seeking to sharpen their skills for a career change.
“What we’re finding with adults, especially after retirement, is that they want to keep their brain active so they don’t have to go into an assisted living as quickly,” Courtney said.
“Somebody who doesn’t feel like they’re struggling but they want to keep their brain sharp, they can come in here once or twice a month and just maintain that,” Patrick said.
The Axlines have seen the changes wrought by smartphones and social media, technologies just beginning to spread as they launched their business.
“With GPS, lots of kids don’t know what a map is,” Courtney said. “With kids, it’s just needing that immediate feedback because everything is so readily at your hand.”
“You don’t use your brain as much because of the technology,” Patrick said. “Ask a kid, ‘When was the last time someone typed in a phone number?’ Can you even remember somebody’s phone number because now you just click on a picture?”
LearningRx techniques can help build those neglected skills, the pair said.
“Even just learning how to talk through that process and figure out what the answer is, instead of immediately just Googling it,” she said. “That’s a lot of the logic and reasoning, being able to say, ‘Hey, this is the task that I have, can I break that down into smaller pieces to get to that end?’”
The Axlines’ clients may see better grades, but that’s not the main goal of the program.
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“Increased memory, and even parents being able to say, ‘I always had to give them one task at a time. Now I can give them four things to do and they remember it and follow through,’” Courtney said. “Self-confidence is one of the biggest improvements that families see because you fail a lot here. You’re not going to make changes if you don’t fail.”
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At a Glance
• Owner: Courtney and Patrick Axline
• Business: LearningRx of Cedar Rapids
• Address: 5815 Council St. NE, Cedar Rapids, and 2461 10th St., Coralville
• Phone: (319) 393-0067
• Website: www.learningrx.com/cedar-rapids-north