Being a homeschool mother has made understanding the workings of my children’s brains a necessity. Learning potential can be maximized by gaining knowledge about your child’s learning styles, understanding learning difficulties and why they may present themselves, and in finding the best fit for your child in regards to educational environments. No two kids are the same. Even kids with “learning disabilities” or “attention deficits” can grow to be some of the best students and most brilliant thinkers out there. We, as parents, just need to find the key so we can “Open the Door to Success” for our kids. I think ‘The Mislabeled Child’ is one of those keys… helping to educate the parents – so we, in turn, can educate our kids in the best way possible.
The Mislabeled Child
How Understanding Your Child’s Unique Learning Style Can Open the Door to Success
~ by Brock Eide, M.D., M.A. and Fernette Eide, M.D.
(Founders of the Eide Neurolearning Clinic)
Some time ago, Doctors Brock and Fernette sent me a book to review. My reading time being limited, it took me a good while to pick it up and get started. Once I did, I knew it was one of those books that every parent, educator, and children’s physical or mental health-care professional would need on their shelves. In this day and age, there is almost an epidemic of children hooked on medicines to help them ‘fit in’ with the rest of the ‘normal’ world. ‘The Mislabeled Child’ aims to help parents better assess their children, help doctors better assess their patients, and to help everyone better understand WHY we all are so unique. We need to be designing programs of education that help our children learn and achieve to their greatest potential (instead of labeling them as faulty kids and lowering our expectations). The Eides aim to get the message out that kids today are being mislabeled by doctors, teachers and parents. It is time all of us throw out ‘our one-size-fits-all’ labels and really do some research into truly HELPING children (not just automatically drugging them and giving them a label for the rest of their life).
To start out, The Mislabeled Child offers the layman an understanding of brain functions. They explain how our nervous system thinks and learns. They take us through the intricacies of ‘information input’, ‘pattern processing’, ‘output for action’ and ‘attention’. They discuss how good assessments of children’s strengths and weaknesses make a ‘complete learning profile’. Understanding the connections that need to be made for learning to take place helps us to figure out where there might be a problem.
‘The Mislabeled Child’ goes into vivid detail about how evaluation might help to narrow down any learning challenges. They explain how the goal is not only to find out where a child encounters problems, but also to identify particular areas of STRENGTH so that interventions can be used to help the child OVERCOME challenges.
Here’s a particularly lucid quote from their chapter on “How to get the Most of this Book”:
“People who are worried about giving special learning advantages to children need to rethink their whole perspective. We should be trying to provide as many learning advantages as we can to all children. This does not mean relieving any child of the responsibility of making the kind of diligent effort that is needed to learn, but it does mean lessening the burden imposed by learning challenges that make certain kinds of work essentially impossible and channeling a child’s energy into more beneficial forms of work.”
The Eides cover issues regarding memory, vision, hearing, communication, attention,
autism (and autism-like disorders), sensory processing, dyslexia, writing, math, and even challenges facing gifted children. It seems that there is ‘no child left behind’ which could not benefit from the knowledge this book aims to impart to their care-taker. They include detailed ‘signs of difficulties’ lists that help you get an idea of what types of behaviors to look for in assessing your child. But they don’t stop there (and that is the key to how great this book is!). They go on to give you a LIST OF HELPS for each problem that will boost your ability to actually overcome the problems at hand. Knowledge indeed is power.
For instance… did you know that studies show that “approximately one-third of kindergarten-age children have an auditory memory span of nine words or less”? Yet many instructions given orally by teachers and educators for school-work and tests have well over this number of words. Even parents may use sentences that are too long in giving children direction.
The Eides write:
“Good teachers have always known this. Think of the slow, clear “teacher’s voice” used by most skilled and experienced elementary teachers (and day-care workers, children’s therapists, pediatricians, etc.). These professionals did not grow up speaking this way, nor did they gravitate toward their professions because they had a certain kind of voice. Instead they’ve learned over time what style of speech children best respond to, and they have adopted this style as their own.“
The Eides provide teaching tips and memory enhancement strategies that no educator should be without in their chapter on memory entitled, “Gone in Sixty Seconds”. I made so many notes and drawings in the margins of my book that I might as well have just underlined EVERYTHING in the chapter. Some of the VERY BEST advice in the chapter, however, I feel needs to be shared with everyone… especially those who aren’t going to go and pick up a copy of this book for themselves:
A Final Key to Learning: Incremental Challenge
In addition to making use of a child’s optimal learning style, parents and educators can maximize a child’s learning potential by making sure that challenges are presented in a stepwise, incremental fashion. Research on motivation has demonstrated a critical relationship between success in learning and continued motivation: When children fail to achieve sufficient success or experience a sense of progress, their motivation plummets and they simply stop trying. Often children are diagnosed with attention and behavior problems when, after repeatedly facing challenges that demand unmakeable leaps rather than incremental steps in their exercise of skill, they simply lose heart and give up. But even thoroughly discouraged children can be reinvigorated by success. … Success breeds success by developing a taste for mastery. Research has shown that mental focus increases dramatically even in children who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD when they’re given MEETABLE CHALLENGES, and deteriorates both when challenges are unmeetable, or -crucially- not challenging enough. The desire to achieve mastery is natural; apathy is learned.”
Another interesting note made by the Eides in ‘The Mislabeled Child’ is that there is a frequency in the misdiagnosis of children who have certain types of hearing disorders. Children who have hearing disorders often miss a speaker’s intent. There are children who have problems with hearing the “musical aspects” of speech which cause them to display similar symptoms to autism spectrum disorders (such as Aspergers). There are also a great many of hearing disorders that will be nearly undetectable with school tests due to the fact that the child CAN HEAR, but they hear differently than other children. Children with “sensitive ears” may show no other signs of a hearing disorder. However, their brains may be unable to drown out background noise and differentiate between what is important to listen to. Children with these types of disorders might score 100 percent on a written test while scoring only 45 percent on an oral one in a noisy classroom. Understanding why a child may have problems in social arenas if they are challenged with physical learning barriers can help educators and parents empathize with the child and not discourage them with negative feedback. It can also help the child learn if the caretakers are willing to put in practice some of the beneficial tips the Eides give to remove those barriers and encourage the child.
Understanding what your child’s learning style is may be a key to unlock their weaknesses. If they are strong in one type of learning style, it may indicate that they have a barrier in another area. An amazing fact given by The Mislabeled Child in the chapter on Communication and building language skills was that nearly 60% of English words have multiple meanings. Of course, most educators know that the “broader and richer a child’s exposure to language (and the better her ability to process language patterns), the richer her network of associations will be.” If there are structural problems in various brain regions, certain types of words might be difficult to understand due to the different areas words are stored. The Eides make the case that if your child has language barriers, a language specialist should be employed in the assessment of their issues. Reading about the different brain regions and storage methods for grammar, word groups, concrete and abstract words, etc. was very interesting. Do you have a child that has trouble with finding words for their ideas and yet you KNOW they understand the topic they are trying to discuss? They may be a visual-spatial thinker (one who thinks in words and has a hard time with sequencing in an orderly fashion).
Understandably language barriers “pose a threat to ALL aspects of a child’s education”. Brushing up on your understanding of how the brain stores and retrieves language data is an invaluable tool for better teaching. The Eides data seems to reinforce the Charlotte Mason idea that children should be provided with “Living books” (as opposed to material specifically written for children that has been “dumbed-down”). Charlotte Mason called fluffy, re-written and abridged children’s books “twaddle”. Ironically, the Eides suggest that over the past forty years, children’s language skills have declined significantly (despite being exposed to MORE talking, singing and sounds than ever before via television and daycare). They assert that it is due to the fact that face-to-face verbal exchange in a relatively quiet background is not used as much in teaching anymore.
“Children who spend the bulk of their formative years receiving auditory stimulation primarily from TVs and music players, or through early group exposures in day care, may be receiving more noise stimulation than language stimulation. In fact, too much noise can actually serve as a barrier to language development and create a condition of communication deprivation.“
The Eides have some excellent communication skills advice for parents and teachers in their chapter entitled “The Communication Gap”. They are big advocates of reading aloud together. They also suggest that you NOT “fill-in-the-blanks” when your children are having a hard time getting
their thoughts in place to verbalize something. Sometimes we parents tend to finish their sentences just to save time. They suggest that this is detrimental to progress. Instead of giving them correct answers to help them finish off thoughts, they suggest instead to insert off-the-wall ideas that do NOT fit the sentence if your child seems to be stuck and unable to move forward. Sometimes the humor of a wrong answer might be the key to bringing forth the correct one in the child’s mind.
One of the things I found interesting in their “helps” sections that span many different learning blocks was that sometimes the use of body movement can help a child to think better. Tapping, hand-wringing, pacing, rocking, or other physical movements that seem distractive on the surface… are actually HELPFUL. Movement is one of the keys to diagnosing many different learning barriers. Children with Hyperactivity disorders, impulsivity disorders, autism spectrum disorders and sensory processing disorders all have tell-tale issues with lack of movement or too much movement.
The Eides share this amazing fact:
“Recently researchers have shown that engaging in various types of physical movements can improve baseline levels of alertness and attention. Even minor body movements like finger tapping can activate various brain regions associated with learning and attention, including an important part of the brain that’s associated with auditory sentence comprehension, visual search, and spatial attention. We may actually learn better if we engage in minor movements.”
Now I bet you don’t feel so bad about that kid you have at home with the wiggles, do you? Research like that seems to encourage the ‘hands-on’ learning methods that KONOS Curriculum (which we use) employs in their unit-studies.
The section on Gifted Children is one you will want to re-read when you are done. The Eides provide exceptional help ideas for the most exceptional kids. If you have an introverted or fiercely independent learner, or suspect that your child might be gifted, this section is a must-read. I especially loved their homeschooling section and the descriptions of different types of attention styles (the “python” who learns best from intense and prolonged “digestion” of a single topic and the “hummingbird” who prefers frequent little “sips” from many subjects). They make the case that homeschooling is a great educational environment for children who have varied strengths and weaknesses in different subjects, who have issues with background noise, who have signs of giftedness, and even children with certain learning blocks which can not be easily accommodated in a classroom environment.
I could go on and on about every chapter in the book, but that would not be fair to the Eides who took the time to research and compile this data for you in one place. Whether your child has the “Midas Touch” or their “Numbers Won’t Add Up”… there is a wealth of information waiting for you in “The Mislabeled Child”. I hope you will pick up a copy and increase your knowledge for the sake of your child.
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