Children Learning Problems
Current Responses to Learning Problems
When a child is diagnosed with a learning problem today, typically one of five approaches is prescribed. Here is a brief description of each:
Approach 1: Focus on strengths
School programs often focus on a student's strengths, thereby helping a child who is struggling learn how to compensate for weak skills. Unfortunately, this is the wrong method if eliminating learning problems and helping the child long-term is the objective. With this approach, a skill may be so weak that it can cripple and mask the strengths. Weak learning skills don't disappear by themselves. If it appears that the weak skills have disappeared, it's only because the child has temporarily found ways to compensate with stronger skills.
The tactic of focusing on strengths may appear to work, but eventually time and increased academic demands interfere with the act of compensating, and the skill weaknesses and related limitations will arise to plague the student.
Approach 2: Accommodate for learning struggles
A school's special education program is often a good example of an attempt to "accommodate" students' learning challenges. In other words, students are taught to adapt to or live with their learning problems.
Until about fifty years ago, special education was designed to only assist children with sensory, motor, and significant mental disabilities. Then, in the 1960's, learning disabilities were "discovered."1 Students were given the label of being "learning disabled" because they were falling behind academically. A huge growth in special education was the result.
Many special education programs promote the idea that grouping and labeling such learners puts the blame for below-average progress on something other than the student. This often compels teachers to lower their expectations for students diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. The problem is that teachers haven't been informed that a student's low academic performance is likely only partially the result of ADD or ADHD—that other weak learning skills are almost always present.
Special education programs also typically seek to accommodate struggling students with a primary strategy of lowering expectations to help those children get through school. Kids compare themselves with peers, however, and special education students often suffer eroding self-esteem, which seems to make their learning disabilities all that much more debilitating.
Children Learning Problems — The necessary skills
To succeed in school, children need the right learning skills. If those skills are not operating correctly, academic work can become increasingly challenging, and children can be mislabeled. And, when children are mislabeled and put in a special education program, they rarely get the help they really need -- strengthening their learning skills.
1 Kirk, Samuel. Behavioral Diagnosis and Remediation of Learning Disabilities. Proceedings on the conference into the problems of the perceptually handicapped child. 1st Annual, Chicago, Illinois. Volume 1. April 6, 1963.
Excerpts of the book Unlock the Enstein Inside by Dr. Ken Gibson