Do you wonder why you frequently have to explain directions, a task, or a lesson over and over and over again? Do you wonder why it takes your students a long time to complete their work? There may be something going on that is interfering with your student’s learning, making it harder than it needs to be. To varying degrees, approximately 20% of the population has one learning problem or another.
What Counts As a Learning Problem?
Sometimes there is a slight problem but not enough of one that a parent or teacher would necessarily even look for help. In these cases, though it may seem small, the problem is big enough to make life difficult; the student gets frustrated with school work and doesn’t work up to his/her potential. At times, these students have more than one area that makes learning difficult.
The key is to understand what may actually be a learning problem.
Learning problems come in many shapes and sizes. For instance, a student might not remember what happened in the story he just read. This is usually due to the learning problem and not because they weren’t paying attention. When this happens, it can be because of poor visual memory or difficulties with visual tracking. Remembering a list of chores to do is another area of difficulty; this may be a learning problem in the area called auditory memory.
Even bright students may be working harder than necessary.
Sometimes, a difficulty or disability might not be obvious. Here are some examples of bright students who each had an area that needed to be addressed to make learning easier.
A Student Overwhelmed By Spelling
One student I worked with had a spelling disability. She had great difficulty hearing the different sounds that were in each word. Sometimes, she mispronounced the word she was trying to spell. When she saw a word, she was unable to isolate the sound each letter made. This is because she had difficulty with auditory-visual association, auditory closure, and auditory discrimination. She would get extremely frustrated with spelling and writing. I often had trouble deciphering the word she had written. She had misspelled it so badly that she couldn’t even find it in the dictionary.
A Student Overwhelmed By Vision Perception
Another bright student had vision perception difficulties. Several behaviors cued me that he had a learning problem. For starters, he used to take forever to do his work. He couldn’t just sit and do it; he’d always find some reason to get up and wander around. First, it was, “I need a drink.” Then, “Where is the map?” and finally, “I need to go to the bathroom.” He would do everything he could to avoid sitting down and working. The diagnosis was that he had a visual tracking problem that taxed his vision system, temporarily overloading it. The vision system needed to take a break. It wasn’t that he wasn’t smart enough to do the work. You see, he was an intelligent student who went on to receive a degree in physics and astrophysics. But as a student, he drove his mother nuts with homework during grade school and middle school!
A Student Overwhelmed By Noise
Another student had a problem in the area of “auditory figure-ground.” The behavior that tipped me off to his learning problem was that he was extremely sensitive to background sounds. In fact, excessive noise bothered him so much that it gave him headaches. When there was too much noise, he would just sit quietly with a pained expression while the rest of the class was enjoying the activity. I’d ask him if something was wrong and he’d say he had a headache. This happened repeatedly when there was extra background noise as well as when the class got a bit rowdy.
Some students are academically gifted. Some are athletically gifted. Some are socially gifted. Some students have the gift of gab. Unfortunately, some students can be gifted and still feel stupid. A teacher’s job is to try to bring out the best in all students. Sometimes that is easier said than done.
Parents are usually correct in identifying when a problem exists, but they don’t always know whether it’s a behavioral problem, a learning difficulty, or a learning disability.
Often, parents have told me their child had just finished reading a passage and then couldn’t answer the related questions or could only answer half of them. When that happens, the problem could be a poor visual memory, difficulties with visual tracking, or difficulties with visualization. Sometimes parents tell me their child can’t seem to remember what happened in the story they just read to them. This time, an area of auditory memory is affected. Parents are usually correct in identifying when there is a problem. However, they may need a professional’s guidance to help their child overcome the learning problem.
If you suspect your child has learning problems, give our office a call (530-888-7160) or go directly to my calendar to schedule a complimentary online consultation where I’ll go into greater depth on what you can do when you have a child who is struggling.
Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET
Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET is a board-certified educational therapist, a learning disability specialist, and dyslexia and ADHD expert.
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