Learning Disabilities Chino, CA
The many faces of learning problems.
Math makes Amanda want to cry. In fact, most nights, she does end up in tears when her dad is trying to help her get through her homework. It just
doesnt make sense.
And it takes forever.
She feels like shes trying really hard, but those numbers and signs on the page just dont make sense. She manages to get her homework done with her dads help, but when test time comes around, its all over. Shes gotten in the habit of hiding her tests so her parents dont know shes gotten another failing grade.
Amanda hates math and shes beginning to hate school as well. All she really wants is to have friends, but somehow that doesnt seem to work out very well either. Whenever she makes a new friend, they end up in some kind of a misunderstanding. Amanda doesnt even know what happened, but her new girlfriend quit hanging out with her. Somehow, whether its math class or talking to other kids in the hall, Amanda finds herself confused or saying the wrong thing. Even when she tries her best, people make fun of her and her teachers and parents think shes not trying.
Amandas real problem is her auditory processing.
Her poor listening skills make math hard because she misses some of the important information the teacher is explaining. She can get by in other classes because she can fill-in the gaps by re-reading the chapter, but shes completely lost in math. Too much has been missed along the way.
Amanda misses information in conversation as well, so she says the wrong thing or misinterprets what other people say. Shes always getting her feeling hurt and getting defensive so other kids dont really want to hang out with her.
The 4 Groups of Learning Skills
Easy learning is built upon a continuum of neurodevelopmental learning skills that start with reflexes in utero and continue developing to the highest levels of thinking.
We think of that continuum in four basic levels:
Developmental or Core Learning Skills - Learning, or information processing, is actually stimulated by movement. It begins in utero with movements triggered by reflexes. When babies are born, these reflexes begin to go away, or become integrated, as higher levels of thinking begin to take over. Integration happens through trial and error movements and gradually intentional movement. Physical movement and exploration is critical to developing visual skills and becoming internally organized.
People often think of organization in terms of planning and organizing time, projects and materials, but internal organization is needed in order to sit in a chair or walk across a room without bumping into things.
Processing Skills - Processing skills is the second level in the learning skills continuum. These include such skills as memory, attention, visual processing (how we think about information that we can see or imagine), auditory processing (how we think about information that we hear, such as the sounds in words or the tone of voice our friend is using), language processing, and processing speed ( how quickly we can think about and respond to information).
Challenges in any of these areas will cause the learner to have to work longer and harder than they should.
Executive Function Skills - Executive function is like the brains CEO. This is the part of the brain that guides our behavior and attention, that helps us plan and reason and solve problems. Students are notorious for putting long term projects off to the last minute. But the bottom line is it takes a number of sophisticated executive function skills to plan out and execute a project.
If a student looks lazy, unmotivated, or disorganized, the real culprit may weak executive function skills.
Academic Skills or higher learning skills - The highest level on the continuum is academic and higher learning skills. Success in this arena depends upon a solid base of skills in the levels below. People of all ages learn how to compensate for their challenges, but compensating is hard and inefficient. The supporting skills must be in place in order to learn new information easily.
Learning problems are very broad. They look different on different kids, but the thing they have in common is this:
Something is breaking down in their processing of information.
Learning is all about processing incoming information - whether its a toddler picking up a cracker and finding out that it breaks in his hand or a 12th grader doing calculus.
When students that you know are struggling in school, when you are tempted to write it off as lazy, or attention, or immaturity, take a closer look. There are dozens of skills that may not all be working together to make learning easy.
The Good News: All those skills can be taught, built, corrected. There is REAL hope for all those kids.