Tag Archives: Learning disabilities

GETTING ALONG AT SCHOOL

Hate Math? Many do.

Why this parent advice topic

This month I am devoting a great many parent advice posts to getting along in school.  This one focuses on the math problems and the learning disability called dyscalculia. Four out of every ten Americans hate math.  When I asked in my graduate classes how many students hated math, practically every hand raised.

I passed every math course I had to take by the grace of teachers who tried their best and knew I was trying my best.  I was a compliant, hard working student, eager to learn – attitudes that make teachers care and want to help.  Some gave me a C- and others a D+.

I am lying a bit, for I aced algebra.  Not sure why. It did involve a bit of math, but I think that it relied on thinking and not memorizing formulas – one of the areas my brain falls short.  I also think I saw it as a sort of narrative – if you do this, then that will happen.

Before I go further here are the symptoms of dyscalculia:

  • Difficulty learning to count
  • Trouble recognizing printed numbers
  • Numbers reverse
  • Difficulty tying together the idea of a number (4) and how it exists in the world (4 horses, 4 cars, 4 children)
  • Poor memory for numbers
  • Trouble organizing things in a logical way – putting round objects in one place and square ones in another
  • Trouble learning math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)
  • Difficulty developing math problem-solving skills
  • Poor long term memory for math functions
  • Difficulty measuring things
  • Avoiding games that require strategy
  • Difficulty estimating costs like groceries bills
  • Difficulty learning math concepts beyond the basic math facts
  • Poor ability to budget or balance a checkbook
  • Trouble with concepts of time, such as sticking to a schedule or approximating time
  • Trouble with mental math
  • Difficulty finding different approaches to one problem
  • Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualisation, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)

Here are the symptoms I have.

  • Numbers reverse
  • Poor memory for numbers and other facts unrelate to narrative
  • Evidence of memory problems mean trouble learning math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)
  • Difficulty developing math problem-solving skills
  • Poor long term memory for math functions
  • Difficulty estimating costs like grocery bills
  • Poor ability to balance a checkbook
  • Trouble with mental math
  • Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualisation, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)  but only with the visualizations required in solving word problems and the arrangement of objects as required in geometry.

My IQ is rated in the top 10% , but every psychologist who has tested me  has remarked about the great disparity when it came to math.  I think the last time I was tested which was about ten years ago – my math level was well below average for someone my age – second grade level.  My verbal abilities keep me in the top 10%.   I am sharing this to make four points:

Point one: Diagnosing any mental health problem is difficult, the professionals quarrel and the fact that we are all more or less okay and okay in different areas makes finding if a brain glitch – what I think most of the major psychiatric labels involve – so very difficult.

Point two: Life goes on  when a mental health problem is part of your life.  I have learning disablities that have diminished what I could accomplished, but I had strengths that allowed me to move on.

Point three: The right diagnosis helps.  When I realized I had dysgraphia and dyscalcula, my shame and certainty I was stupid diminshed. Moreover, I was able to get my sons the help they needed in order to move ahead.

Point four:  The need to deal with the pain of these problems sent me searching for ways to combat the negative feelings.  I found a number of self soothing skills that allowed me to move on.  These form the heart of Emotional Fitness Training and my 12 Daily Emotional Fitness exercises.

PARENTING ADVICE

 Parenting tip one:  As I said repeatedly in the previous posts in this series:

  1. Learn all your can about the possible causes of your child’s unhappiness or inability to do school well
  2. Develop a respectful partnership with your child’s teacher and other school personnel
  3. Know the law in terms of what the school is obligated to do to help a child be all he can be.
  4. Find support
  5. Strengthen your emotional fitness skills so you can stay calm when dealing with your child and others teaching and caring for her
  6. Help your child learn emotional fitness skills.  My little E-book, Tame the Test Anxiety Monster or my longer book Parents Are People Too, an Emotional Fitness Program for Parents are good places to start improving your and your child’s emotional fitness skills.  Click here to go to  my author’s page.  Scroll down the oage for the Kindle editions.  Don’t have Kindle,   down loading to your computer  with Amazon’s free Kindle for computers program.
  7. Be patient and assertive.  Getting your child the help she needs takes time.  Help your child appreciate her strengths as well as her weaknesses takes time and is essential to helping her move ahead.
  8. If you have missed any of the previous posts, read them.  If you have read them, re-read them occasionally.

Parent tip two:  Concentrate on your child’s strengths, find him as many paths as possible to feeling competent and masterful.  I know for me, learning to ride gave me a strong sense of my self  as competent and powerful.  My love of horses was but one of the paths my parents lead me down.  Love of nature was another and as I mention frequently my love of reading was pivotal.  I’ve recounted previously my mother’s battle with the local library to let me have access to the adult library well before the usual age.

Parent tip three:  Teach good manners. As Emily Post, the guruess of manners during my growing up years noted: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.”

Moreover, good manners generally help you get along with others and a great deal of research show that the most important key to success remains getting along with others.

Parenting tip four:  Promote good work habits beginning with the idea that a job is what people are paid to do and not necessarily the road to happiness. For many, the happiness lies in the pay check; for others the sense of having done their work well. Doing your work well is the better motive.

Parenting tip five: Build your life and your child’s life on values that matter.  Good marks are nice, going to the best college is nice, having a job you love that pays you well is almost priceless.  Almost priceless because all too often what is sacrifice in getting good marks, going to college, having a job you love and one that pays well demands putting aside many other more important things.

As he was facing his death, like so many men, my father wished he worked less hard, settled for fewer material rewards, and spent more time with his family.  The times he spent with us mattered a great deal, but more time would have been better.

More than having time to spend on the better things of life, many seeking the traditional markers of Western success become uncaring and often cruel.  Something my father did not allow to happen to him.

If your job matters more than time with your children examine your priories.  You must model the values you want to gift your children with them.

Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle, but also is the road to some of best moments of life on earth.

Katherine

Disclaimer one: Advice is just advice.

Even the most learned researchers and theorists quarrel about much.  Take their advice and mine carefully.  Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think.  Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you by others.  As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.

Disclaimer two: Forgive my grammatical errors

Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability that is akin to dyslexia when one writes. It was the reason my high school English teacher thought I would fail out of college.  I didn’t.  Moreover,  with the help of some patient and good editors I became an author.  Still mistakes get by.  When I am in a rush,  posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense.

Sigh, if you need perfect posts, you will not find them  here;  I will understand if you don’t follow me.  If  you want to hang in with me, thank you; if a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, try reading it a few days later.  Often I catch the worse mistakes when I read the post after a few days.

Meanwhile, forgive me, it is an Emotional Fitness Training exercise and practicing it will strengthen your ability to deal with stress, frustration, and all the other negative emotions.

WRITE OR RIGHT?

IMAGE BY: Smashing Hub

This post is about one of the lesser known learning disablitites.  If you read my posts, however, you know I battle Dysgraphia in order to  write right

Dsygraphia is not just about bad handwriting, although that can be one of the symptoms. The bad hand writing seems to stem from a glitch in the brain that is like dyslexia.  Many who have dyslexia also suffer from one or another of the symptoms of dsygraphia.  At other times the two are totally separate.

Reading has been one of my life lines, I read quickly, and grasp multiple levels of meaning – why some of my professors thought I should teach English.  When it came to putting words to paper, however, other professors wondered that I had made it through highschool.  I do not have dyslexia, and I do have dysgraphia.

Here is a good description of dysgraphia  from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers, and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:

    • Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees
    • Language processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears

As with all learning disabilities (LD), dysgraphia is a lifelong challenge, although how it manifests may change over time.

If your child is having difficulty in school, you need to think about the possibility of dysgraphia.  Particularly if she is an avid reader, can understand what she has read, and can talk clearly about the plot, and what she like, but is not doing well in spelling tests or writing assignments.

What to look for?

  1. Unusual pencil grip particular after the age of six or seven
  2. Difficulty staying within lines, may not enjoy coloring
  3. Forms letters slowly and with difficulty
  4. Letters are poorly formed
  5. Letter reversals
  6. Poor spacing.  Words may run into each other, sentences run off the page, double spacing for some lines half spacing for others.
  7. Mix of cursive and printing
  8. Mix of capital and lower case letters.
  9. When copying skips or leaves out words
  10. Incorrect words — “our” for “own” or “now” for “not”
  11. Common words such as “the” or “and” are mis-spelled at least half of the time
  12. Can’t follow along and read what another is writing
  13. Can spell or punctuate properly one day or for several sentences in a row, but not consistently.
  14. Can dictate a coherent story or test answer, but cannot write the same answer

What can be done?  accommodations range from concentrating on try to improve handwriting to eliminating the need for the child to write by having a scribe.  Sometimes using a computer helps, sometimes not.

PARENTING ADVICE ABOUT DYSGRAPHIA

Parenting tip one:   If worried, learn more. If you have not already read the earlier posts about school problems,  read them now.  Also go to the various links and read what each has to say. Browse the internet for other resources.  Learn all that you can about learning disabilities.

Parenting tip two:  Observe your child for signs.

Parenting tip three:  As always make sure your relationship with the school and your child’s teachers are positive. It never helps a child with problems to have the parent seen as troublesome also.   See what my guest blogger Jean Tracy had to say about that in her post Getting Along in School.

Parenting tip four:  Ask if you can sit in on a class to observe your child.  Most schools will allow some short parent visits to the class room.  Make your request in writing.   If you can email your teacher, great. Otherwise write a note and ask that it be placed in his mail box at the school.

If the answer to a class room visit is “No,”  do not make a fuss, just send another note saying,   “I am worried about the problems he gives me when I try to practice help him with written work.  I wanted to see if he gave you the same trouble as well as what I could learn from how you teach him.”

That said, add, “Lets make a date to talk about this.”

Parenting tip five:  Prepare for your  face to face talk.  Your goal is to arrange a proper evaluation, starting with the school’s resources.  Begin by asking for the teacher’s ideas about what is going on.  If she seems to know he might have a Learning Disability or is struggling.  agree and talk about the symptoms you see, then ask for  an evaluation.

If the teacher doesn’t seem to think your child is anything but a slow learner, talk about what you have learned.  Agree he is struggling with written work, but point out he seems to be advanced in other ares and say that is a common sign of a specific learning disability.

Say you have been trying to figure out what is going on and have learned a bit about learning difficulties, but one thing you know is that it takes a professional evaluation to really figure the problem out and you want to know how to arrange this through the school.

Parenting tip six:   Try to inject a bit of humor or self-deprecation into your conversation with the teacher.  Doing so can defuse feelings he is being challenged. Teachers want to be seen as experts and in control.

Say something like.  “Maybe I am just a hover parent, be patient with me.”

Then add, “I know we both want what is best for all the kids.  Do you see a problem with asking for a professional evaluation?”

Parenting tip seven: Don’t rush your child, or the teacher.  Rushing and pushing a child to learn what is hard for her, only creates frustration. Not helpful.

As for teachers, although more and more is known about various learning disabilities, most teachers do not yet have specific training.  If you have followed my posts about school challenges, you may know more than the teacher.  So if after doing the above, the teacher is reluctant to ask forga psychological evaluation at the school, suggest that you will work with your child at home, and you would like to meet again with the teacher in four to six weeks.  If there has been no major improvement, then you feel it might be time to go  up a level and discuss the problems with the IEP team.

What is an IEP team?   Since 2004,  all public schools in the United States have been required to have a team devoted to making certain all a children’s educational needs are met.  The team is charged with creating what is called an Individualized Educational Plan for children not learning as they should be.   Wright’s Law is a useful web site  to learn all about the what a public school in the USA must do to make sure all children get properly educated.  Other countries approach things differently.  If you have a child challenged in school, you need to know what a school is required to do legally.  A teacher may want to help, but may be limited in what she is allowed to do by legal restraints.

Parenting tip eight: Find support for yourself.  In the past ten years in the United States at least, parents have demanded more inclusion when it comes to planning for their child’s education or when needed, mental health care.   For many years professionals devised “treatment” plans without asking for parents’ ideas about what would work.   These plans were announced to parents and a parent who did not agree could be referred  to the child welfare authorities for educational of medical neglect.

The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health successfully advocated for the right of parents to sit with the experts when it came to making  plans for a child.  Their motto  is “Nothing about us without us.”

If there is not such an organization near you, ask a friend to offer you support while you work out the best educational plan for your child.

Parenting tip nine: Tailor all advice, even mine, to your child and your need. Even the most learned researchers and theorists quarrel about much.  Take their advice and mine carefully.  Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think.  Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you by others.  As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.

Stay strong

Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle, but also brings more joy to your life.

Katherine

DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS
If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. As noted above, I have dysgraphia which means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are. Thanks for your understanding and reading my work.

FURTHER PARENT ADVICE CAN BE FOUND IN MY BOOKS

All my books are available on Amazon, and readable on any tablet, laptop, Mac, PC, e-reader or Kindle device.

When Good Kids Do Bad Things. A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers

Parents Are People Too. An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents

Tame the Test Anxiety Monster

Coming soon from Metaplume: How to Hold a Successful Family Meeting,

GETTING ALONG AT SCHOOL

Why this parent advice topic

When a child is having trouble in school, every one has something to say.  This month I am devoting a great many posts to getting along in school.  The next few posts will focus on the various learning disabilities. Today, dyslexia is the topic. Can you read this?

Can you read this?

This is taken from an unfinished novel by my intimate friend Catherine Vaughan.  She is writing a book about how the Roman Empire became the Roman Church and continued to seek world domination.  She uses the Authorian Legend as her motif.  In this scene, the Great King Uther Pendragon is talking to Merlin and telling him to flee to a distant corner of Brittania and hide; he hopes Merlin and those with him will establish a safe haven for pagans. Pendragon  is telling the wizard to be take care as the Roman Church wants him and all pagans killed.

This is how the sentences above should read:

 “They wanted to sprinkle me, but I don’t have patience with their  prattling.   Now that I am the great king, I am safe from their death threats.  You are not. I will send some young pagans with you as  guards, these will accompany you; but on your journey you may want to consider following their ways  or at least being lamb like. “

He fell silent for a few breaths, then eontintued, “I hear from the Roman Priests their God’s son said, ‘The meek will inherit the earth.’

He fell quiet again, then with a smirk and a laugh added,  “Of course, he might have been referring to their graves.”

The first reading contained many of the mistakes made by dyslexics.  Letters reverse, jump around, jump off the paper, or get mixed up. Moreover, many dyslexics  learn to sight read and then make false assumptions about what they are seeing. Complicating all these problems are the strong negative emotions that attach to learning or trying when one cannot do what others seem to do so easily.

PARENTING ADVICE

 Parenting tip one:   As discussed in Round Peg in a Square Hole, the problem might be a goodness of fit.  Follow the tips I gave there.

Parenting tip two:  Establish a solid and positive relationship with your child’s teacher.  See what my guest blogger Jean Tracy had to say about that in her post Getting Along in School.

Parenting tip three:  If people in your family didn’t do well in school and don’t like to read a great deal, think dyslexia.  By and large it seems to be a genetic disorder and gets passed down from grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents. Here are some early warning signs:

  1. Letter and number reversals are the most common warning sign. Such reversals are normal up to the age of 7 or 8, but have usually diminished by that time. If they do not diminsh, it may be appropriate to test for dyslexia or other learning problems.
  2. Parts of words, whole words or even sentences might be skipped over when reading.
  3. Mixed brain dominance as shown by being left handed, ambidextrous, or having difficulty telling right from wrong.
  4. Do not like puzzles as often cannot connect the pieces; the same with connect the dot pictures
  5. May have poor motor skills.
  6. Difficulty when trying to copy something for another paper, a book, or the black board.
  7. Memory problems.
  8. Difficulty moving in rhythm to music.
  9. Sequencing is problematic.
  10. Child is mostly happy if not having to go to school or do home work; child seems moody, acts out, or has low self-esteem.

Parenting tip three:  Be patient trying to figure out what is going on. but do not ignore the child’s unhappiness.  Most learning disabled children have good days and bad days.  Sometimes they read with some ease, five minutes laters cannot make sense of a simple sentence.  A child can have a number of the above signs and not be dyslexic.

Pareting tip four: Be patient but do not ignore school problems.  Teachers, other school personnel, and  parents prefer to believe most problems learning can be out grown.  However, a child who unhappy in school, day after day after day, is a child in trouble; professional evaluation is indicated.

Parenting tip five: Teach your child good manners and the social skills needed to get along with people.   School matters but is not the only path to success.  Most studies show that getting along with people and that means having good manners is more important in being both happy and successful then either intelligence or advanced degrees.

Parenting tip six:   Develop a good work ethic in your child.  Do not promote the idea that one must be happy in his or her work.  Work is called work because you have to be paid to get up every day and go to your job.  Those who love their work are very lucky.

Parenting tip seven: Strengthen your self-soothing skills. Teach your child how to self sooth.  Everyone benefits from learning to self-soothe, but if you child has a major learning disability, both of you are in for years of struggle.  Follow this blog, but also visit Emotional Fitness Training’s blog for more tips and support.

Stay strong

Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle, but also brings more joy to your life.

Katherine

Disclaimer one: Advice is just advice.

Even the most learned researchers and theorists quarrel about much.  Take their advice and mine carefully.  Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think.  Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you by others.  As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.

Disclaimer two: Forgive my grammatical errors

Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability that is akin to dyslexia when one writes. It was the reason my high school English teacher thought I would fail out of college.  I didn’t.  Moreover,  with the help of some patient and good editors I became an author.  Still mistakes get by.  When I am in a rush,  posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense.

Sigh, if you need perfect posts, you will not find them  here;  I will understand if you don’t follow me.  If  you want to hang in with me, thank you; if a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, try reading it a few days later.  Often I catch the worse mistakes when I read the post after a few days.

Meanwhile, forgive me, it is an Emotional Fitness Training exercise and practicing it will strengthen your ability to deal with stress, frustration, and all the other negative emotions.