October – the month of harvest and Halloween…and PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES!! Many schools have just completed this fall ritual and many parents have returned home concerned with their child(ren)’s lack of progress in the first quarter of the school year.
It is very appropriate that the month of October has also been designated as DSYLEXIA AWARENESS and Attention Deficit (ADHD) AWARENESS Month!
At the beginning of this school year, kindergarten – 5th grade students in the state of Idaho participated in screening for dyslexia. Students were identified as exhibiting characteristics of dyslexia if they scored below standard in one or more of the following essential areas of reading:
• Phonological awareness
• Alphabet knowledge
• Decoding skills (reading)
• Encoding skills (spelling)
• Text fluency (fluidly reading)
Many parents, for the first time, became aware that their child’s “slow reading” skills has a name! DYSLEXIA
Historically, when students struggle to read at grade level, schools provide some form of intervention, which parents may or may not know about. In the past, parents may not have been aware of their child’s continued struggle in literacy past third grade because subject area grades are not an accurate measure of a student’s reading ability. Now, in the state of Idaho, parents of students who have been identified as exhibiting difficulty in the areas noted above, are required to be informed and the school is required to provide intensive intervention addressing these deficit areas.
Some may wonder, are these the ONLY characteristics of a potential learning struggle and the answer to this is NO! The above areas are specific to literacy, but dyslexia effects much more than just reading (although that is one key component). Here is link to specific academic characteristics by age level.
A list of additional characteristics of dyslexia can be found here.
How does Dyslexia lead to difficulty in school? It has to do with how we process information!
Here is a simplified explanation of how this happens:
There are two mental processing styles: verbal and non-verbal. All people begin life as non-verbal “picture thinkers”. As language is introduced and the brain develops, a preference for processing occurs. Individuals who think primarily in language are considered verbal processors--linear or “word thinkers.” Individuals who think primarily in images are considered non-verbal processors--global or “picture thinkers.” All people process in one of these two styles of thinking or a combination of both.
When the brain encounters new or unique information, the first thing that happens is a subconscious sensation of confusion. This triggers the brain to attempt to resolve the confusion. A word thinker’s brain accepts this challenge and begins looking for details in a sequential manner; a picture thinker’s brain begins looking at the big picture, seeing the confusing information from all angles--front, back, top, bottom, left and right. For both ways of thinking, either the confusion is resolved, or frustration occurs.
Word thinkers tend to be detailed oriented and sequential--they tend to perform well with tasks involving the written word and numbers and because of this, they generally fare well in school.
On the other hand, picture thinkers tend to think globally--looking at the big picture and visualizing the end results, using their imagination in problem solving and addressing issues from multiple angles. They tend to think quickly and then fill in the details later. These individuals are often artistic, athletic or musical. Even with these strengths, the world of written word and numbers (school) is often a struggle. This can be both confusing and frustrating for these individuals which can make school performance even more difficult, leaving them to question their own intelligence and outsiders to question their work ethic. Their struggles are often inconsistent--one day they can perform a task and the next they can’t. If allowed to continue in this struggle, the picture thinker becomes lost and considers himself a failure at school and its related activities. A learning disability is developed.
Luckily this does not need to be the end of the story. It is possible to help control global thinking so that they can consistently bridge the gap between picture thinking and word thinking, while at the same time retain their unique talents.
We do this through the intentional use of tools to be FOCUS and PRESENT.
This turns off the confusion to allow for regulation of emotion and energy, and clarity of thought.
For more information about these tools contact us at Empowering Minds – The Tutoring Center.