10 Steps Every Parent Can Take
Parents, you are the authority in your child's life. You are ultimately responsible for your child's growth and development. It is imperative to realize that no child need ever be left to struggle with the effects of Dyslexia, ADD or any other sensory-based processing disorder-that no child or adult need be marginalized, ostracized or suffer through endless hours of inappropriate teaching or tutoring methods simply because they are different.
Whatever you child's struggle or difficulty, be it with ADD, Dyslexia, Autism, Asperger's Syndrome or other sensory processing disorder, you can take positive steps to help him make the most of his natural gifts and rediscover the joy of learning-to not only survive in the world, but thrive in it.
For that reason, every child and adult who struggles with learning should be evaluated for his abilities as well as his challenges. It is important to help each child make the most of his or her natural abilities-to help each child understand and appreciate the unique talents and gifts that he or she brings to the world. The following are 10 steps that every parent can take to help insure their child's success in school and in life.
1) Understand Your Child's Learning Style and Learning Strategies : Children are learning machines. They are neurologically 'wired up' to learn so if they are not learning effectively, something must be interfering with that natural process. In many cases, children can experience learning challenges because a child's learning 'strategy' is not effective for learning or processing a particular type of information. For example, a child may have learning strategies that are very effective for art or music, but not for math, spelling or science.
In other cases, there may be a fundamental difference between the preferred learning style of the child and the basic approach to learning being used by the teacher or the school system in general. Many intelligent and ultimately successful people struggled with learning in the context of our current education paradigm.
2) Utilize Effective Learning Strategies: While our preferred learning style is determined largely by genetics, our various learning strategies are largely developed between the ages of 2 to 6. These important strategies are our tools for storing, processing and recalling various types of information.
The good news for parents is that because these strategies are, themselves, learned (as opposed to being 'hard-wired'), they are relatively easy to change with appropriate coaching. The Neuro-Linguistic Learning Centre specializes in helping children, teens and adults acquire powerful learning strategies.
3) Proper Nutrition: Children's bodies are constantly growing. Their minds as well as their bodies require adequate nutrition. Many good books have been written about diet and nutrition so we will not attempt to repeat that information here. Our goal here is to encourage parents to seriously consider the impact of diet and nutrition on learning.
4) Adequate Sleep: The old adage, 'Early to bed...' may sound trite, but it is sound wisdom. It may be surprising to know that when we sleep may be just as important as how long we sleep. It turns out that not all sleep is equal. The hours between 9:00 PM and Midnight are particularly important to the learning process.
5) Regular Exercise: A sound body goes hand-in-hand with a sound mind. ADHD children, in particular, need regular, exercise. Intense, individual sports or activities seem to offer the best results for this group. Wrestling, Soccer, Cheerleader, Martial Arts, etc., are often good choices.
6) Rhythm and Routine: Our minds and our bodies respond to routine. Children, especially, need routine to facilitate a high level of performance. A predictable routine can encourage cooperation and facilitate transitions from one activity to the next. Several simple but important routines for school-age children are wake up (get ready for school) routine, bed time routine, and homework routine.
Rhythm is analogous to breathing. We breathe in and we breathe out. A rhythm of active (breathing out) time followed by quiet (breathing in) time can facilitate concentration and focus while minimizing fatigue, restlessness and boredom.
7) Parental Modelling: At a large family gathering I once observed that about 80% of the behaviour for which children were disciplined was imitating their parents. Children are, literally 'wired' to imitate their parents-their behaviour, their interests and their values. If you, as a parent, value education, you must convey that value to your children, not only with your words but with your actions.
8) Limit Media Exposure: This can be a difficult balancing act for many families, however one of the most important things parents can do for their children is limit their exposure to media. This includes TV, movies, the internet, ipods, video games, etc.
All too often young children are loosing their imagination and sense of wonder to television and movies. This can greatly interfere with their ability to read and focus in the classroom.
Many movies are simply exposing children to inappropriate concepts when they're too young to understand. This causes confusion and misunderstanding.
Excessive playing of video games will often lead to an inability to pay attention in the classroom. For many children, the intensity of many video games significantly increases their stress level.
In general, excessive media exposure can cause a child to dissociate from his own life. They begin to reject what is real in favour of a fantasy.
9) Reduce Stress and Anxiety: Stress is the enemy of effective learning. Whenever we are physically or emotionally stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is activated and our mind goes into its 'Fight or Flight' mode. In this mode, many children will find learning to be extremely difficult.
For many children, stress can make it difficult to effectively store information. Their minds are simply too engaged in the process of resolving the fight or flight situation. If the new information to be learned is not deemed to be related to the cause of the stress, the information may simply be discarded by the mind.
Stress can also make it difficult to recall information. A common example of this is 'test anxiety'. Again, the mind is too engaged in the process of resolving a real or perceived threat and even information that has been studied is unable to be recalled.
Emotional Stress can have many underlying factors including conflict at home, fear of failure, frustration about school.
Physical Stress can be brought on by poor diet, exposure to toxins in the environment, illness, injury
It is important for every parent and child to understand how to reduce stress, particularly with respect to school and learning. For information programs to effectively reduce stress go to: www.swish4fish.com/programs_services/422_stress_anxiety.html.
10) If Your Child is Struggling, Get Help: 'A stitch in time, saves nine.' Many parents wait to get help until long after the need has become apparent.
There are two basic categories of learning problems-acute and chronic. Acute problems are usually due to a sudden change in curriculum or extended absence. Acute problems are temporary (less than 6 weeks) and are generally resolved with a few weeks of tutoring or extra time spent on the specific material.
Chronic problems are generally long-term (a year or more) and usually require a solution that is beyond simple tutoring. Chronic problems are usually the result of an inability or difficulty with processing one or more specific types of information.
At the Neuro-Linguistic Learning Centre our primary goal is that all children who enrol in our programs graduate not only with their new skills and abilities but with the very real understanding that he or she is gifted-not broken. This understanding begins at home with both understanding and action.
About the author: Gerald has lived in El Dorado County for the past 12 years and is father and stepfather to six children, several of whom have had their own struggles with Dyslexia, ADHD and other learning challenges. He is Director of the Neuro-Linguistic Learning Centre and a frequent speaker/lecturer on education and learning disabilities. He is author of the book, 'Gifted-Not Broken: Overcoming Dyslexia, ADHD and other Learning Challenges.'