Approach to helping with learning struggles - Learning Skills
Approach 5: Attack weak skills through training
As you have seen, the first four approaches for helping a child with a learning disability have significant drawbacks. To ignore the cause of the problem is, in all likelihood, guaranteeing that the problem will never be solved.
This last approach is the only option that does not ignore underlying learning weaknesses, cause parents to lower expectations of their child, or ask a doctor to prescribe medication. Strengthening a child's weak skills is the only option that can bring almost immediate results and have a life-long impact on learning.
An analysis of basic cognitive skills is the first step in obtaining a solution. These are the foundational skills or tools a child uses to learn. Cognitive skills are not the same as the academic subjects taught in school; rather, cognitive skills are the mental tools needed to process and learn what is taught in an academic environment. These skills are also called mental skills, intelligence, learning skills, learning tools, and processing skills. These terms all refer to the same cognitive skills that are needed for consistent success in school, in the workplace, and in all areas of life.
For those students who struggle to learn, there is hope! Cognitive skills can be identified, targeted, and improved. Mental skills can be improved. Abundant evidence from brain research shows that the mind can continue to grow, not just in young children, but well into an individual's later years. I like the sound of that, don't you?
Learning Skills — An example
Think back to Mike. More than likely, after testing, he will be classified as having a learning disability and may end up in special education. His homework will be modified and other academic accommodations will lower the standards normally set for children in the classroom.
He may experience some short-lived relief by not facing math problems, but that can't change what life actually requires. How many career limitations, or even job rejections, will he face because of the accommodations set forth in elementary school? What parent would not want to avoid a lifetime of struggle for his or her child?
The weak areas need to be attacked, not avoided. Mike's weak skills can be improved, which will improve his potential in every area of life. His smile and sparkle—a sign of healthy self-esteem and confidence -- can return in the classroom setting. Like Mike, all students are able to improve their capabilities. I have seen thousands of students, from all backgrounds and areas of the country, dramatically improve their learning skills.
You may be asking, "Why can't teachers teach underlying learning skills? Isn't that what school is for?" Theoretically, they could, but effective cognitive skill training requires focused attention and immediate feedback in a one-on-one setting. Most teachers have not been given the specific training necessary and, if they have, simply do not have the time or resources to devote that kind of sustained effort to individual students.
Cultural and political factors -- plus tight budgets -- are also impacting the choices schools can make.
Learning Skills — True Solutions
I want to share the knowledge I have gained about learning and reading struggles; this knowledge is based on the analysis of an enormous amount of recent research on the causes of learning and reading problems. I have also monitored the development of research-based clinical treatments. Over seven hundred learning professionals and fifteen thousand students have partnered with me in the development of programs that either greatly diminish learning problems or, in many cases, eliminate them altogether, thus securing a better future for all involved.
Excerpts of the book Unlock the Enstein Inside by Dr. Ken Gibson