A learning disability may be defined as an individual not being able to perform at his/her potential level of functioning. Often academic difficulties are attributed to poor motivation. We have all heard comments like, “If he only cared more, tried harder.” If we stop to think why someone who is proud of his/her achievements, and values the praise of teachers and parents would choose the punishing path of failure, it would make no sense. Lack of motivation often reflects an individual’s attempt to avoid failure and consequent anxiety. It is easier to be thought of as someone who will not, rather than someone who cannot. In spite of attempts to learn and do well, poor results ensue. It is no wonder that the individual begins to doubt his own judgment and ability. Some of the challenges that can impact learning and success in school are a student’s proficiency or deficiency in the following skills:
- Attention - It should be determined whether an attention deficit disorder is interfering with the acquisition of information or the ability to demonstrate what has been learned. Learning disabilities can occur with or without ADHD. ADHD results in incomplete learning. It is easy to forget what has only been partially learned. Inconsistent performance results lead teachers to make comments such as, “I know he can do it when he tries.”
- Cognitive Skills - Successful learning depends on many cognitive abilities working together. Information must be received and understood, integrated and then expressed in a way that demonstrates the learning that has occurred. Interference with this process at any level can result in academic failure. The evaluation process must identify where the interference occurs.
- Visual and Auditory Processing - Learning occurs through all of our senses, but in the classroom, we depend primarily on our visual and auditory processing. Hearing and vision should always be tested to rule out poor acuity. Visual perception and visual motor skills are important in the development of academic abilities, and must be evaluated during the assessment of school failure.
- Language - Oral language skills cannot be emphasized enough as a contributing factor to the success or failure in the classroom. Whether language arts or mathematics is being taught, instruction occurs through the spoken word. Poor oral language skills results in poor written language skills. Language is a complicated symbol system. Often, we think that because someone can converse fairly adequately, that the entire language system is intact. However, the language of the classroom is often more complicated. Language is divided into subsystems of sounds (phonology), grammar and syntax, vocabulary and meaning (semantics), and the ability to use language in different contexts (pragmatics). A break down in any one of these systems can result in significant difficulty being experienced in learning. Individuals with language disorders have difficulty processing sounds at the necessary speed. Pathways in the brain which allows this rapid processing have not been established. While this theoretical concept has been understood for some years, it has been difficult to remediate it effectively.
Students with ADHD or a learning disability have specific challenges that can impact learning and success in school. Their brains often lack connectivity, processing speed, timing, organization, and working memory skills. The more efficient the brain the more the student will benefit from conventional therapies. These students need to make functional changes to their brains so that they are ready to learn and reach their potential.
The concept of brain plasticity (the ability of the brain to develop new pathways) continues to be the basis of the interventions provided at The Tarnow Center. We understand that increasing the brain’s ability to learn provides a basis for the acquisition of academic and social skills. We are able to provide a variety of techniques to assist students so they can be optimally successful in school and life. One of these techniques is the computer-based program Fast ForWord.
Based on more than 30 years of research, the Fast ForWord program accelerates learning for students across a wide spectrum of ages and abilities — including those working at, above or below grade level — by applying proven research on how the brain learns. By building cognitive skills in the areas of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing, learners can realize achievement gains of up to two years in as little as three months and maintain an accelerated rate of learning even after the programs end.
Scientific Learning’s results are demonstrated in over 250 research studies and protected by over 55 patents. Today, learners have used over 3 million Scientific Learning software products. The programs are available to parents, K-12 schools and learning centers, and are used in more than 40 countries around the world.
Summer is the best time for Learning
For students who are facing challenges, trying to address those challenges during the school year can prove very challenging. The amount of energy required just to handle daily pressures and meet regular schedules can make addressing deeper issues feel like an impossibility.
The summer, however, is easier. Children are out of school, their energies aren’t divided and neither are those of parents. This can be a golden opportunity to do some serious work on the serious challenges that are making school so problematic.
Parents who are interested in learning more about any of our summer programs including the Scientific Learning Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant family of products in Houston and the surrounding areas can contact the Tarnow Center for Self-Management at 713-621-9515.
We are currently offering summer sessions geared toward students who need to quickly build the cognitive skills essential for learning and reading success.
By Linda Narun, CCC-SLP