Name: Erin Bell
Job: Director of communications
Organization: Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes
What they said then: In March 2011, The Tribune noted that Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes in San Luis Obispo was celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Begun in 1986 by Patricia Lindamood and Nanci Bell, the company develops programs for children and adults to improve skills such as reading, spelling and comprehension.
It’s “not an IQ issue” but about developing the “sensory-language” connection, said Nanci Bell, director and CEO of the company on Higuera Street.
Lindamood-Bell then operated 43 learning centers in the United States, London and Sydney, Australia. Erin Bell, director of communications, said it also offered instructional programs, professional development and consulting to hundreds of schools.
It planned to open five new U.S. learning centers that year.
What she says now: In the past year, Lindamood-Bell opened seven new locations. It has also been involved in groundbreaking studies on learning and supported school reform efforts in states such as Colorado.
“We do a lot to communicate with people who are decision-makers in school districts, special education directors, school board members,” Erin Bell said. “Even in a district that is predominantly filled with children who are low-income and may even be English-language learners, we’ve shown they can perform well on state tests.”
But the bulk of Lindamood-Bell’s work occurs one-on-one with students in their learning centers and intensive programs.
With new locations in Maui, Hawaii; Thousand Oaks; Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Md.; Birmingham, Ala.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Bronxville, N.Y., the company now employs 694 people year-round.
Its San Luis Obispo staff numbers 74.
Summer programs bump employment to about 1,400, Bell added. In many cases, those seasonal lessons lead the way for permanent centers.
“Usually when we open a new learning center, they’re the result of demand in a particular area,” the spokeswoman said. “We’ll have a seasonal intensive learning clinic and be there for a couple of months during the summer, which is when many people are interested in having their student come.”
None are franchises, so close communication is a key, and the company holds weekly meetings with satellite locations. Bell said Cisco’s Webex has been helpful for video conferencing.
“It really has facilitated having more and more centers,” Bell said. “It can be expensive to travel. (But) we have a vested interest in all these places. The quality and integrity of Lindamood-Bell is really important to us.”
In late 2010, the journal NeuroImage published findings by researchers from the Center for the Study of Learning, Georgetown University Medical Center and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Their study used dyslexic students sent to Lindamood-Bell’s Seeing Stars program for reading and spelling.
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, researchers observed areas of their brains dealing with learning and visual imagery. The study showed structural changes in gray matter that remained after their lessons ended.
Last year, Lindamood-Bell worked with the University of Alabama at Birmingham on an autism study.
Two weeks ago, the company announced the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is planning another study to measure neuroimaging changes in the brains of early elementary students. They will attend Seeing Stars for six weeks as part of the research.
“There’s a large population of children in the nation having trouble learning,” Bell said. “One of the missions of Lindamood-Bell is to solve that in some way.”