School Tips

Why This Little Known Factor Affects Whether or Not Your Child Learns

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how to help your child succeed in schoolHave you been wading through endless workbooks and online sites trying to teach your child to read, write, or master math, only to find that none of that stuff works for your child?

There’s more to reading, writing, and math than meets the eye.

Actually, the reason your child isn’t succeeding in school can be summed up in two words: academic subskills.

No, that’s not some sort of code phrase that only the “in” group are privy to. Academic subskills are the skills your child needs in order to accomplish a broader academic task, like reading, writing, or math.

Reading, for example, has subskills like word decoding and comprehension. Writing is even more complex, since you have subskills like letter formation, spelling, and organizing ideas. Math is the hardest of all, since each year new skills are added that are based on the ones from the year before.

If your child is your average neurotypical kid, then it’s generally enough to focus on teaching them the academic subskills they need in order to read, write, and do math.

Typical remediation programs for LD don’t work.

Kids with LD, however, are unlikely to pick up many of these academic subskills, even with superior teaching. Most remediation for kids with LD focuses on teaching academic subskills in all kinds of creative ways. Multi-sensory teaching and repetition are good examples of this.

But those methods typically take a really long time to see any sort of progress. And for each day that your child spends learning the old material, the rest of the class is busy learning new stuff, figuratively leaving your child in the dust.

Your child needs to strengthen the brain processes that control how well she learns.

There are 3 layers that affect how your child does in school.

Academic skills

Academic subskills

Neurodevelopmental functions

The last layer, neurodevelopmental functions, is the most important.

It simply means the brain processes that your child needs in order to achieve success at school and at home. When you are trying to create a program to help your child learn to read more fluently, understand what he reads, learn his multiplication tables, or spell properly, you need to ask yourself: could it be that my child isn’t succeeding because the brain processes that control that particular skill are out of whack?

If your child can’t read fluently, of course you’ll need to work on building his sight word vocabulary, helping him be more aware of word patterns, or teaching him to use context to check meaning. But those things come after the underlying brain processes are strengthened.

Why strengthening the brain first makes a lot of sense.

Just imagine that you suffered a bad leg break, and got stuck with a cast for a couple of months. The first thing you need to learn how to do when you get out of that cast is to learn to walk, no question about it.

But if at every therapy session your OT sat down with you and spent 90% of the time discussing the best athletic shoes and adjusting the padding on your crutches, you’d go looking for another OT faster than you can say “The Running Man.”

It’s obvious that the first goal of therapy is to strengthen those leg muscles so that you can walk again without crutches before you turn ninety. Well, the brain isn’t so much different. It can be strengthened, and you’ll find that doing so will make the crucial difference between whether your child succeeds or fails

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