We Are Doing It: Learning Rx

Sunday, October 18, 2020 - by Amy Clarke
Michelle Hecker Davis
Michelle Hecker Davis

As Chattanooga area businesses shift, pivot and change, trying to adapt to a new normal, many are tapping into the passion that led them to open their business in the first place. Over the course of the next number of weeks, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce will profile some of these owners and share their inspirational stories on how they are doing it.

Instead of celebrating their big 10-year anniversary on March 14, Pi day (3.14) and Albert Einstein’s birthday, LearningRx, the longtime brain training and cognitive skills development center located on Hamilton Place Boulevard, canceled all of its plans and went into lockdown like the rest of Hamilton County and the country.

“We canceled the party, closed and went remote with a digital testing and Zoom training option,” says Michelle Hecker Davis, executive director of LearningRx. “We had remote training options for current students or they could choose to pause their sessions.”

About half chose to pause and others went remote. LearningRx was ready.

“We had been piloting a training program for people who live far away,” Ms. Davis says. “And we were at the ending stages of the pilot when this (COVID) happened, so we said, ‘go, team.’ We were ready to go immediately into remote.”

With remote availability and an immediate PPP loan, thanks to Marsha Easter at Pinnacle Bank, LearningRx was able to keep its business going until it reopened in mid-May.

“We applied for a PPP loan early on and that made a huge difference in us being able to maintain that time without new clients and then also for my trainers.” 

“They work part-time and they work one-on-one, so when half of the clients paused, they were out half of their hours. But with the PPP loan to pay them, they got paid anyway. They didn't quit. They didn't have to get unemployment. I feel really fortunate we did get the PPP loan and were able to use it to get back up and running. That was a big deal for us. It kind of saved us in my opinion.”

When LearningRx opened back not only did they follow all CDC safety guidelines but they also added plexiglass barriers between each student and trainer as well as special masks with a clear film for easy lip reading.

“There are no more than ten people at the center at one time,” Ms. Davis says. “We disinfect between each session. When a student arrives, the lobby is closed. They do a temperature check, wash hands and we start training. We haven’t had any issues because we are staying on top of it.”

In this challenging time, staying on top of it is key to staying open, and with the added educational obstacles, it’s even more important for the students who are counting on the cognitive skills training program to keep their learning improvement plan on track for success.

“We are a bridge for someone struggling in school. We don’t teach the academic information, we build skills that make it possible to learn the content.”

LearningRx primarily focuses on key skills such as attention, memory, auditory processing, logic and reasoning, and processing speed.

“Everyone really has strengths and weaknesses,” Ms. Davis says. “The majority of our students have learning struggles that range from ADHD, dyslexia, they may be on the autism spectrum or have suffered a traumatic brain injury. We also help a lot of stroke recovery patients. And, we have trained CEOs of companies and doctors who wanted to work on memory and processing speeds so they can be more efficient.”

Now backed by validated, peer-reviewed, third party studies, LearningRx has the scientific data to back up their claims of actually improving the IQ.

“We can claim an average increase in IQ by 15 points. A lot of places can’t claim that but we can. We can absolutely claim that.”

For Ms. Davis, the data is important, but what matters to her, even more, is the impact she sees the program having on her students, regularly.

“Recently, we had a 6-year-old boy who was having behavioral issues in school. At one point, he was going to the principal's office constantly,” Ms. Davis says. “He was getting extra help for math and reading, and he was struggling, and he was angry about it. He came to our training. He did not want to, but he did it. He went through the program.

“After about three months, and he was on an eight-month program, his behavior totally changed. He was acting more confident. He was more willing to try things that were hard. We foster and train a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset. The ability to make mistakes and fail is one of the biggest predictors of success, according to research by Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford.

"By the end of the training, he didn’t need any more additional help with math or reading, and he tested out of speech therapy. He didn’t go to the principal’s office for a whole year. It was incredible. He loved his trainer. Her name was Elizabeth and he called her Queen Elizabeth. It was life-changing for this kid."

There are many, many similar stories. For Ms. Davis, it is why she does what she does. In fact, it was the success of her very first student that she trained 10 years ago that hooked her on the programs at LearningRx.

“My first student went through a six-month reading program, and by the time she was done, she made the honor roll. For the first time in her life, she made the honor roll. She never had to go on ADHD medication. The young girl is a student at Southern Adventist University studying to be a social worker and now interns at LearningRx helping other students like herself. It changed her life.”

And you could say LearningRx has changed Ms. Davis’ life. She was always a quick learner, top of her class, valedictorian and then after graduating from Lee University, started her professional career as a corporate CPA.

“The accounting world was easy for me and it was not a challenge. It was monotonous and it was not fulfilling for me at all. Every aptitude test I had taken said I needed to be an accountant.”

Bored and desiring something else, Ms. Davis walked away from her accounting career.

“I was looking for something part-time and trying to figure it out,” Ms. Davis says. “When I saw this ad on Craig’s List to be a brain trainer, I was like, ‘I love brain games and I love working with kids.’ I went through the training, and that was it. It was the right fit.”

Two years later and with more training, Ms. Davis became executive director, functioning very much like a first-time small business owner. It was 2012. She attributes much of her strong start to the free services offered by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.

“They sat and analyzed our whole business and our numbers and pointed out things I didn't know about,” says Ms. Davis. “They really helped us out. I give them a lot of credit. That made a big difference for us.”

A runner up for multiple local business awards including the Chattanooga Chamber Small Business of the Year Award and the BBB’s Torch Business Award for business ethics, LearningRx has grown to serve approximately 100 students a year.

For Ms. Davis, now a board-certified cognitive specialist, COVID has only reminded her more of the importance of every single one of her employees.

“Our staff is the main piece of this. They work with the students. We really had to increase communication with the staff during the COVID lockdown. We had to change things and make sure we were really communicating with them. And, they had to change the way they have done things and they have been incredible through this. I think this is something that is very important. It’s not, ‘Oh, the staff will be fine.’ It’s important that you take care of them. They are really at the core of the business.”


HHM Wealth Advisors Hires Matthew McKenney

Watts Bar Unit 2 Begins Scheduled Refueling, Maintenance Outage

Dalton Chemical Plant Relocated Headquarters To Chattanooga's Liberty Tower


HHM Wealth Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor firm based in Chattanooga, announces the addition of Matthew McKenney as client service administrator. "With deep roots in ... (click for more)

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 2 started a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage this weekend after generating nearly 14.2 billion kilowatt hours of carbon-free ... (click for more)

MFG Chemical, a global leader in specialty and custom chemical manufacturing has moved its corporate headquarters from the original location in Dalton, Ga., to Chattanooga. Company growth created ... (click for more)



Business

HHM Wealth Advisors Hires Matthew McKenney

HHM Wealth Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor firm based in Chattanooga, announces the addition of Matthew McKenney as client service administrator. "With deep roots in the community, Matthew joined HHM Wealth Advisors after earning a bachelor of science in finance from Rhodes College," officials said. "Matthew had several internships over the last four years, ... (click for more)

Watts Bar Unit 2 Begins Scheduled Refueling, Maintenance Outage

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 2 started a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage this weekend after generating nearly 14.2 billion kilowatt hours of carbon-free energy. “Generating low-cost, carbon-free electricity is made possible by carefully planning and executing refueling and maintenance outages to ensure reliable energy is delivered ... (click for more)

Breaking News

13-Year-Old Boy Injured Monday Afternoon In Drive-By Shooting On Central Avenue

A 13-year-old boy was shot Monday around 4:48 p.m. on Central Avenue. Police located the victim at the 5200 block on Slayton Avenue and determined he had run from the actual crime scene in the 5300 block of Central Avenue. The victim was taken to a local hospital by Hamilton County EMS for treatment of a non-life-threatening gunshot wound. Officers secured the ... (click for more)

Tennessee, Georgia Senators Vote To Confirm Amy Barrett To Supreme Court; She Is Approved 52-48

Tennessee and Georgia senators were among those voting to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. Judge Barrett was confirmed by a vote of 52 to 48. She previously served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Judge Barrett is a mother of seven and is now the youngest member currently serving on the Supreme Court. Senator Lamar ... (click for more)

Opinion

We Must Love

I feel it too. It is easy to hate. Maybe we could try harder to love. Hate seeps into our bones, rules our integrity, and convinces us to forsake those we love. Hate is toxic. It spreads to our neighbors; people we once trusted. It spreads to our coworkers and friends; people who once trusted us. We lose sight of what truly matters. That is what we have in common now. Is ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Trump & The J-Word

There have been a bunch of times in my half-century as a writer when people – especially other writers – have called me out for being different. That in itself isn’t a bad thing (I rather like it), but Alf Van Hoose, the legendary sports editor, told me once in a crowd, “You are a rarity … you’ll put the word ‘Jesus’ in a paragraph, and I appreciate that.” But it’s true - the scariest ... (click for more)