Why Can’t My Child Read Those “Little” Words?

snapwordsIf you’ve ever read with a dyslexic child you’ve probably been curious, or maybe even frustrated with the fact that when reading aloud they read multi-syllabic words with relative ease but often stumble over smaller words, typically sight words, such as; for, any, if, they, her, etc.  So what the heck is going on?

Don’t be overly concerned because this phenomenon is common among dyslexic brains, as well visual-spatial learners; otherwise known as right-brained learners.  Perplexing as it may be I can’t stress enough that this is NOT due to laziness, nor is it a sign of some kind of regression from progress.

I like to call these little words, “Trigger Words”, taken from Ronald D. Davis’ book, The Gift of Dyslexia.  The reason why these smaller words are such a challenge to a visual-spatial reader is due mostly to the fact that they are difficult to make a visual picture for in the brain.  If I’m reading words such as; picnic, photograph, magically, environment, I can actually form a picture for those words in my mind’s eye but for words like; for, the, is, any, and which, it’s much more difficult.

It can be difficult to accurately assess reading levels for these kids because they so often misread or skip these trigger words on fluency and comprehension assessments but as comprehension questions go, they are typically able to demonstrate an understanding of what they read. These kids are much better silent readers; they most often skim the text but are still able to obtain meaning because their brains are processing very quickly and making visual pictures as they skim therefore meaning is easily constructed regardless of whether they read every single word.. think “speed reading”.

So… as a parent, what can you do?

Be patient… encourage your child to use the decoding skills they’ve (hopefully) mastered.  For example, a common error when a dyslexic/right-brained child reads the word “for” is to say “from” in its place.  I will stop the child and ask them to LOOK at the letters as we review the sounds.  F says /f/ and OR says /or/ like “corn for the horse”. We then compare it to “from” and note the differences then we read it correctly and move on.

The main concern is to be sure they’re getting the help and support they need in order to feel confident and successful, whether from an aware and understanding teacher/tutor or some other support person and secondly, are they making progress?  As long as progress is being made they’re on the right track.  It may not currently be at the exact rate of their peers but progress is progress and the gap will eventually close.

I highly recommend the book mentioned above called, The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D, Davis.  It does an excellent job of explaining why dyslexics and visual-spatial readers read the way they do.  It also has some great tips and strategies for supporting these readers.  Things like making words from playdough/clay to lock the sight words into memory, drawing pictures to go with words, or using something like Snapwords (example shown on pic above) from Child 1st publications to help kids remember the words.

And as always, I can’t stress enough how vitally important it is for these children to know their gifts… their own sense of brilliance and the purpose and potential they bring to the world.  We are all different, we were made for unique and special things, we DO NOT all learn in the same manner and children should be respected and supported via their own personal learning style.  I strive to empower children to KNOW the truth about how brilliant and amazing they are but they need this from their parents as well, it is CRUCIAL!  I encourage them to ASK for help when they need it and to NEVER be ashamed of their learning style.  Ultimately they will be their own greatest advocate so let’s work toward teaching them how to be and do that for themselves with healthy pride and dignity and for now, we will advocate for them.

If you know a child who needs support reach out to me, I’m here to help!

References: 

Davis, R. (1997) The Gift of Dyslexia.  San Francisco, CA: Perigee.

Happy New Year!

Talk to KidsIt’s a brand new school year and my heart is completely full… I feel so incredibly blessed to be doing this work that I love, work that fills me up inside and makes me feel like the luckiest person alive.  I definitely don’t take it for granted.  I’ve written similar blog posts in the past, but every so often I feel the need to share from my heart so, again… I write of this privilege to serve the little ones who will be in charge of the world when I’m old and gray one day.

I’m grateful to know my life’s purpose…to teach, support, nurture and LOVE the absolute BEST out of kids. They’re all so precious…ALL children matter to the good of this planet.  Each with their own unique personality and individual strengths and mighty purpose and special gifts to offer the world… and it’s OUR job to keep them safe and loved and to build them up and to protect their little spirits so that they can see for themselves how much they truly matter.

“I work with kids…”  That’s what I say when people ask what I “do” for a living.  But I DO so much more…yes, I help them… I teach them… I guide them and show them how amazing they are… and I’m damn good at what I do… but I GET kids, I understand how they think, I instinctively know who they are and exactly what they need but I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t believe that THEY KNOW THIS TOO, even better than I do!   Most often they only need an adult to believe in them, to reassure them that they are perfect just the way they are (and parents, you don’t count, lol.  You know it too, but it’s not the same).  Someone to advocate for them…

Each and every one of the children I work with, are brilliant, creative, full of BIG life and positive energy and happy to just BE HERE NOW… they definitely rub off on me; they keep me young and excited about living, and most importantly, they give me hope for the future.

As we begin this exciting new school year I ask that all of us be especially aware of how we interact with the precious energy of the children in our lives… it’s all to easy to shame, ridicule, blame and squash their little spirits. It doesn’t take much so please be aware and sensitive going forward, for THEIR sake.

As in the quote above: “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice…” Once the words are spoken they can’t be taken back… ever.

Blessings as we move into this new year and a mighty THANK YOU for the privilege of working with YOUR babies… just know that I truly LOVE each and every one of them. Love, love, love, love, love…

Thank you… ❤

Non-Toxic DIY Waterproof Sunscreen

Memorial DayHappy Memorial Day!  This day is the special day on which we honor and remember the brave men and women who have made so many sacrifices for us and our freedoms in this country and for that I am SO grateful!

And it’s also the day that officially kicks off summer.  YAY!

Most people who read this blog either have kids or work with kids and most people ALSO will be playing in the sun to some degree this summer so I wanted to share something that I hope will keep you safe from harmful sun damage as well as chemical toxins…

 

 

 

waterproof sunscreenAnyone who knows me knows that I CARE about my own health and the health of those for whom I care!  Kids included!   I’ve recently changed brands for so many of the products I use due to the toxic ingredients contained in so many beauty/cosmetic and daily toiletry items…I’m serious about getting the chemicals out of my house and off of my body and my nieces and nephew’s bodies! It seems that most everything store-bought these days is like some form of chemical soup concoction, sunscreens included!

Just look at the labels, the list of chemicals is SO looooong!  If you’re not familiar with EWG (Environmental Working Group) check it out.  Their Skin Deep page allows you to type in and search almost any popular cosmetic, skin care product, etc. to check the levels of cancer causing ingredients in the item.  AMAZING resource!  They even have a sunscreen section as well, with plenty of options for purchasing safe sunscreens for you and your family but if you’re like me and want to be creative and make your own, I’m posting a DIY for a safe and natural, as well as waterproof, sunscreen recipe that’s EASY, cost effective, and completely non-toxic – plus this recipe is actually GOOD for your skin and best of all it’s WATERPROOF!:

Note: If you don’t want to make your own sunscreen, there’s a great one you can buy that is rated a 1 (green) by the EWG! You can find it HERE. I also love their sun stick that you can toss in your purse and beach bag!

DIY Waterproof Sunscreen

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil — contains a natural SPF of 10 — where to find
  • 1/4 cup sweet almond oil — great for skin elasticity — where to find
  • 1/4 cup beeswax — where to find
  • 2 Tbsp Shea Butter — I love this brand, they even send you a free recipe book for more DIY recipes.
  • 1 tsp Vitamin E — keeps your lotion from going rancid and is good for your skin — where to find
  • 2 Tbsp Zinc Oxide powder  — contains a natural SPF of 20 —where to find
  • Optional: I always add lavender essential oil to mine because it smells SO GOOD and is extremely beneficial to the skin. I typically add about 30 drops after it’s all mixed up and has cooled down a bit. Most of you know that I only use therapeutic grade essential oils, so that the quality is to my high standards (especially for use on kids!). Here is the brand we use in my family.

Extra tip: Zinc Oxide powder can be added to your foundation to add extra sun protection and when mixed with aloe vera gel and applied at night, it can help to treat acne symptoms!

Directions:  In a double boiler (or glass or porcelain container in a pan of water) combine everything except the zinc powder:

DIY Watreproof Sunscreen | Real Food RN

  • Warm SLOWLY over medium heat until everything is melted… don’t be tempted to rush the melting process.
  • Pour into a glass jar and add in the zinc powder.

DIY Watreproof Sunscreen | Real Food RN

  • Put a tight lid on the jar and shake really well (you want to avoid breathing in the zinc powder). Be careful, it can be hot. Try wrapping a towel around the jar before shaking it.

DIY Watreproof Sunscreen | Real Food RN

  • Pour into desired containers. I love these cute jelly jars like these from Amazon but you’ll also find them at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. And for at the beach these refillable silicon tubes are great (find here).
  • Allow to cool completely before using.
  • Use when out in the sun for prolonged periods of time, reapply as necessary. This stuff really lasts, even in the water! Gotta love DIY waterproof sunscreen!
  • It makes about 1 cup and lasts for a long time — It will not go bad but be sure to store it in the fridge in the winter to keep the oils from going rancid.

DIY Watreproof Sunscreen | Real Food RN

 

I hope everyone has a WONDERFUL summer and I look forward to seeing some of you over the next few months!

Let me know if you have any questions about making this awesome sunscreen 😉

 

Why Visual-Spatial (Right-Brained) Kids Struggle to Spell

Spelling

I have no trouble with spelling personally, in fact I LOVE words and am fascinated by the way words are put together. However, although I work with the most amazing, brilliant and creative kids… kids with more visual/artistic talent in their little finger than I have collectively, most struggle greatly with spelling…

Why…?

For about 1 in 5 children the elementary school years can be immensely stressful in regard to academically meeting grade level expectations for reading, spelling/writing and math.  There are many children who ultimately develop adequate fluency with their reading, but will continue to struggle to spell well, despite testing in the high range of IQ scores (another sore subject but I’ll leave that for another post).

FACT: The ability to spell well, or accurately, has NOTHING to do with intelligence… nothing whatsoever.

The reason for this struggle lies in the way they read; their practice and approach to reading. Therefore, the solution to supporting these kids lies in changing their approach to reading and the way they apply strategies to ensure their comprehension.

 

Why we mustn’t hold the same expectations for all kids at the same time…

Auditory Reading Style

There are two main reading styles: visual and auditory.  Most children – about 4 out of 5  – will naturally use an auditory path.  These kids are naturally able to  map text patterns to the individual sounds in words as they read through their auditory cortex, in other words, they easily make the letter-sound connection.  They then process the sounds as if they were spoken aloud; they are able to hear them in their heads.   This route engages the entire auditory and linguistic cortex that we as humans have developed over thousands of years.  Pretty cool…

Visual Reading Style

This second style, often used by more right-brained, visual-spatial learners and thinkers, is the ability to process text purely using their visual memory.  So for example, the word cow is processed in much the same way as a picture of a cow.  This explains why highly visual, dyslexic children sometimes flip letters and whole words like ‘was’ to ‘saw’. You can flip the picture of a cow and it will still be a cow, but unfortunately, the same technique doesn’t apply to most words in our English language. When words are flipped they typically say something else!

Visual-spatial learners generally think in pictures rather than words.  And if you’re not a visual-spatial learner (most teachers  are NOT) then it can be difficult to conceive.  Visual-spatial learners tend to learn holistically, instead of sequentially, or in smaller parts.  They are able to see the “big picture” of things but can easily miss the details.

The Challenge For Visual Readers

Bright children who are able to make progress and cope with reading but who continue to spell poorly are almost always visual-spatial learners/readers.  I would say 99% of the time…

They have the ability to recognize and recall the shape of common words from memory.  For words they don’t know they’ll skip or guess from cues like the first letter or the length of the word and the context.   And for this reason they will tend to make more mistakes when reading shorter words than longer ones.  Have you noticed?  They struggle to read words like a, the, on, if, for, it, etc.  And sometimes you’ll see them read a totally different word than the one on the page like they just pulled one out of mid air.

These kids process so fast that their brains are 10 miles ahead of where their eyes and mouth are if they are reading aloud… it’s very tough for them to slow this processing down.  This is why they tend to struggle with writing as well.  Their brains have sped ahead and they are challenged to slow the processing down enough to get their thoughts from their minds to the paper.  This can be painfully challenging for some kids!

The Spelling Challenge

This reading strategy they’ve come to rely heavily upon causes much difficulty for them when it comes to spelling because they haven’t been truly engaged with the internal structure of the words through reading.  Not on purpose… they just have difficulty grasping the small parts of words; vowel combination, suffixes and endings are small parts that make up whole words, visual learners struggle with small parts. As previously mentioned, visual-spatial learners (both kids and adults) see the whole, they grasp the big picture with ease but struggle with the smaller parts that make up the bigger whole.

This difference in learning (NOT a disability!) leads to two types of mistakes when they write.  The first consists of little omissions and errors that an auditory reader would never make, like fist for first, smoak for smoke, snugle for snuggle.  I see this consistently with my students.

The second type of mistake they tend to make is to write what they hear, based upon the phonics they’ve learned, but they may choose a different set of letters that make the same sound as the correct spelling pattern. For example:  furstsmok, bowt, feal, or snuggul.

Memory Challenge

Often these kids will manage to do well on their weekly spelling test because they can hold the photographic memory of a list of ten words overnight.   But when we retest them at a later date the memory of those words has gone ESPECIALLY if they weren’t clear on the meaning of those words.

However… the right strategies can be used to rectify this reality, but more on that in a moment.

The Solution

Being that the underlying problem is reading, it’s obvious that the only solution is a re-engineering of these right-brained, visual-spatial kids’ approach to reading.  We need to engage the auditory part of the brain (auditory cortex) in the process of reading and writing so that they become familiar with the internal structure of the words; all the parts and pieces.

We can do this by incorporating entertaining visual support structures, which allow for the linking of imagery to all the different sounds/phonemes in the words they read and at the same time appeal to their natural learning style. This brings our visual learners back into their comfort zone and allows them to build the visual-auditory synaptic links that they need if they are going to read in an auditory way.  Does all of this make sense?  Basically what I’m suggesting is the OPPOSITE of black print on white paper whether it’s connected text or individual letters/sounds used for teaching phonics lessons.

Visual learners need visual and kinesthetic, hands-on, stimulation to help build the visual-auditory synaptic links that they need if they are going to read in an auditory way.  Things like:

  • colorful mnemonic pictures that help make the connection between the letter shapes and the sounds they make,
  • phonics lessons that are systematic, sequential and explicit in their instruction so that kids get modeling, practice and review of all they are learning,
  • pictures embedded into sight words for easy, fun and meaningful memorization,
  • cartoons and skits for strategy use and sound review that are filled with fun and humor,
  • spelling strategies that are supported with visual memory…word parts such as vowel combinations (/oo/, /ea/, /ue/), prefixes and suffixes such as /ed/ and /ing/ written in different colors to help visual learners see the separate parts of words and how words are basically built,
  • spelling games with physical movement; clapping the letters and saying them aloud for each word,
  • segmenting words and counting the sounds prior to spelling along with teaching kids to write words in several different ways and to then really look at those words and to ask themselves “which one looks right?”   ie; bowt or boat… treet or treat?
  • And here’s a great spelling strategy video from one of my FAVORITE, FUN, hands-on teachers; Mr. Smith!

Most importantly, visual learners need instructors who understand the way they learn.  They also need time for their literacy skills to develop. Most aren’t quite ready for the left-brained, auditory-sequential expectations that school places upon them until they are in the upper elementary grades.  It eventually comes together for the majority but the danger is in the loss of confidence due to a lack of understanding or a mis-understanding of the way these kids learn.  When this learning style is not understood these kids begin to feel like something is wrong with them and they internalize all kinds of negative thoughts and emotions centered around being “not smart” and not good enough… I see this all too often and it breaks my heart.

If you’re an educator I hope this post brings some awareness to your own understanding and will in turn positively effect your instructional practice and perspective of the students you teach.  Brainstorm accommodations that might best support the individual needs of your v/s students. Check the resources page of this blog for recommended reading.

And if you’re the parent of a brilliant, magnificent, right-brained child then I urge you to do some research. Gain some level of understanding around how your child learns best and BE the advocate they need… because they WILL need you until these left brained/auditory-sequential skills are integrated when they are a bit older.

Let’s be sure these amazing kids know how awesome they are and that they have a very special purpose here on this planet!  As Daniel H. Pink describes in his amazing book; A Whole New Mind, they are the ones who will continue to support our shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.  We need their vision, creativity and brilliance to evolve as a whole!

If your child is a visual-spatial learner and you’d like some support, please reach out to me, I’m here to help!

References:

Cindy Gaddis; http://www.therightsideofnormal.com/

Dr. Linda K. Silverman;  www.visualspatial.org

Daniel H. Pink; http://www.danpink.com/books/whole-new-mind/

Mr. Smith aka: the Teacher Tipster: Youtube

Pressure to Perform?

Teach1

Each year, as we glide out of winter and begin to move into spring the pressure seems to mount in terms of student expectations for progress in school.  This is especially true for kids who are performing below grade level in any or all subject areas.  If you’ve read any of the posts on this blog or if you’ve done your own research and study on the differences in learning styles then you already know how important it is that these expectations be adjusted for our amazing right-brained learners.

There is a natural process of learning development for right-brained and left-brained children that matters when we set expectations for progress, especially in the early elementary years.  Children move through Learning Stages and by the time they are into early adolescence, integration ultimately takes place because the established dominant brain preference increasingly integrates the opposite brain specialties so the learner becomes competent in more subjects.  So it WILL happen!  Most importantly, if they’ve had a positive experience overall in their educational career up until that point, they will be successful as they move through the secondary grade levels.

Mirror-right-left

 

Because the left and right hemispheres of the brain are mirror images of each other, each specializing in something different, it makes sense that the educational paths for left- and right-brained learners are opposites of each other. The time frame that schools utilize in teaching various subjects aligns with the left-brained learner stages of learning. My experience has shown that right-brained learners acquire subject matter in a different learning pattern than their left-brained counterparts.

In her amazing book titled, The Right Side of Normal, Cindy Gaddis has identified the time frames of three stages of learning, depicted in the charts below.

stagechart

If you’re the parent of a right-brained child please know that there’s nothing “wrong” with them… they just learn differently than they’re most likely being taught.  Schools traditionally teach in a more left-brained structure which obviously supports a left-brained learning style.  And if you’re not sure where your child falls on the learning style spectrum I invite you to review the “Learning Style Questionnaire” I’ve posted on this blog.  I also encourage you to read: Is Your Child A Right-Brained Learner?.

Take some time to reflect…. How do your children learn? What languages do they use to express themselves and their understandings? Do they like to represent their ideas through building and drawing? Or are they logical and deliberate; creating lists, following steps, practicing their handwriting and creating plans? Maybe they express themselves through writing, or through music and dance?

Maybe they need to move their whole bodies; and so find sitting still difficult, preferring instead to create bold strokes with a paintbrush or delve their fingers deep into a lump of clay or mud! Or maybe, instead of completing writing practice sheets, they prefer to label drawings and write letters, or take on a more sensory approach; writing letters and words with water.

And speaking as an educator to other educators, we need to take time to really observe the children we teach; learn about how they learn, and engage in a continual dialogue of reflection so we can teach so they can learn. If that means changing our entire style of teaching, then so be it! It’s their learning after all.

 YOU are your child’s greatest advocate!  It is imperative that you know how your child learns best and ASK that appropriate accommodations be made to support your brilliant child as they progress through their school career.  I also encourage you to read the posts I’ve written here on this blog as they will give you information as to how your child learns best as well as what you should expect from your child in terms of progress through the early years and how you can be empowered to advocate for what’s best for them.

I’m working diligently to reeducate and help educators understand these learning style differences and I hope you’ll join me in this effort.  In the end, I’m here for YOU.  I offer tutoring/intervention services to support kids who learn differently and I LOVE what I do!   I will advocate for you and your child as well, so never hesitate to reach out for my help and support.

Why I Do What I Do…

We’re well into January 2016, a brand new year withHappy unlimited possibilities for all of us.  I’ve been busy… you’ve most likely been busy… life is busy for us all.  But sometimes we have circumstances that occur that cause our lives to be placed on “pause” whether we like it or not.  I’ve been dealing with life on pause myself these last few weeks as my father came close to death but ultimately pulled through, thank God.  I’ve had a bit of extra time to contemplate life and death and purpose.

That time for deep contemplation brought much realization…

I haven’t posted anything here in a while because I’ve been “busy”… I feel the need to apologize for that because writing blog posts is the way I stay in touch with parents, so forgive me.  I also realized that I don’t think I’ve shared with you WHY I do this work that I do… with YOUR children… and I feel like it’s important for you to know why.

I chose to tutor kids because I LOVE it… teaching is my gift. I love kids (I love YOUR kids!), I love teaching and by tutoring I get to do all that and SERVE with PURPOSE.  When I left my school improvement consulting job of almost 20 years (!) I did so because I felt I was living out of personal integrity, I was not working/living authentically due to the fact that I was required to support teachers in their efforts to help kids in ways that I don’t agree with (Public School System) for teachers AND kids!  So I made the very scary choice to “jump”, to take a risk and follow my heart and it’s been the absolute BEST decision I’ve EVER made!

My weekdays consist of working with YOUR precious kids… helping them to realize the “magic” that they are, supporting them as they gain strength in abilities that they didn’t know they had.  I get to show them how magnificent they are, how special they are and how MUCH they can accomplish when they are aware of some simple tools and learn how to use them.  I have the privilege of watching YOUR kids wake up to who they are… to see their eyes sparkle when they meet a personal goal and make leaps and bounds in regards to progress… Most of the kids I work with struggle with reading.  Words can’t describe the feelings that well up in me when I see the “light” come on for your kids… when they “crack the code” and it all comes bubbling forth.  They look at me for reassurance, almost like they don’t believe that they’re actually making progress and “doing it”… they’ve gotten so used to feeling less than, so when the progress DOES begin to happen they second guess it.  But the ball keeps rolling and they continue to get stronger and stronger and then they begin to truly believe in themselves! And NOTHING MAKES ME HAPPIER!!!

I LOVE how I get to serve YOUR kids each day… I used to pray to have a career that would make me want to jump out of bed each morning and that prayer has been answered.  I feel richly blessed. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for entrusting me to support and empower your little ones.  I’m grateful and honored beyond words.

I do what I do because it’s my way to serve with purpose.  It’s my way to use the gifts I’ve been given in a way that makes a BIG difference in the world.  It’s NOT just a means to earning a living… it’s NOT just a job to pay the bills… it’s a blessing that keeps on giving and one that changes lives forever.  How does it get any better than that?  How lucky am I?

Thank you… ❤

The Overdiagnosis of ADHD

Do you suspect or has your child been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD?ADHD kid-discipline

I’m extremely passionate about this subject because I work with many children who exhibit symptoms of ADD/ADHD, and secondly, there is SO MUCH info to report.  Therefore I’ll keep it brief and do my best to lead you to do your own independent research and study.

The latest statistics report that there are close to 7 million children receiving special education services in the United States.  That’s 7,000,000!!!  I realize that figure encompasses a large number of varying exceptionalities.  However, as of May 2015  the Centers For Disease Control  has reported that  1 in 10 children are being diagnosed with ADHD.  Symptoms of the “disease” include: squirming or fidgeting, difficulty getting along with others, talking too much, daydreaming a lot, often forgetting or losing things, taking unnecessary risks, making careless mistakes, and having a hard time resisting temptation.

Interesting…

With all but 20 minutes of recess (if kids are fortunate enough to have even that…) per day and with the rigorous standards currently in place and expected to be met, it’s no wonder our kids are reacting the way they are.  I would be doing the exact same thing if I had to sit at a desk for most of the day and endure the “learning” of the standards via the current structure in most of our public schools today.  With little to no recess time, most special classes such as Art, Music and PE dramatically reduced or in some cases non-existent… what’s a kid who learns best via movement (Kinesthetic) to do?  What about our creative right-brained kids who have brilliant visual-spatial abilities but who struggle with the left-brained; sequential, part to whole process for learning in school?  We’re quick to diagnose them, put them on medication and then they must suffer confusing short and long term side effects such as:

  • Sleep problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Delayed growth
  • Headaches and stomachaches
  • Rebound (irritability when the medication wears off)
  • Tics
  • Moodiness and irritability

To only name a few…

Reduced confidence and lack of self-esteem are the most serious in my opinion because if left unaddressed they can negatively affect a child for the rest of their life!

On top of all previously mentioned potential causes for ADHD-like symptoms, we must include, emotional, mental and social issues including POVERTY which is not being well-addressed in our country.  Lack of exercise and too much TV and video game time is another contributor, and let’s not forget about how good nutrition factors in.

There are literally mountains of information available on the connection between ADHD and nutrition so I won’t go into a lot of detail other than to say, nutrition matters!  The amounts of sugar, chemicals, dyes, preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides (just to name a few) added to our food sources (processed as well as whole foods) have an enormous effect on little bodies… We can be more aware and teach our kids to make better choices when they aren’t with us.  This summer I’ve encountered several situations where kids came to me for their sessions just after consuming large quantities of sugar.  One little girl proudly announced to me that she had just been to the donut shop where she’d eaten two big, yummy donuts!  I didn’t say much about it other than, “Oh, wow…” and let it go.  But about 15 minutes into our session she was caving and fast.  I asked her how she was feeling and she said, “Not so good… my tummy hurts and my head is buzzing.”  We talked about what sugar can do to our brains and afterward we made a deal to which she readily agreed that she would have no sugar before our sessions.  I laugh when I tell this story because it’s funny that the kids notice the detrimental effects of sugar on their own bodies and express their new knowledge in such humorous ways but what’s NOT funny is the impact that the sugar has on them physically.  Upon her drop-off at the next session this little girl’s mother proudly announced that her daughter refused ANY sugar that morning and afternoon so that she could be sugar-free for our session!  How adorable was that!  But more importantly, it’s extremely POWERFUL for that child and she will now be armed and ready to make better choices in her future.  I could share several more similar stories but the picture is pretty clear.  Nutrition matters!

In the next post we’ll address some effective ways to address the symptoms of ADD and ADHD.

 

Broken Hearts… No More

Broken Heart

One of the MOST common and consistent issues I encounter as I work with kids who struggle academically, and sometimes physically and socially, is their own, self-created, sense of “failure”.  Once they realize how much I not only understand their plight, but also genuinely care for them, they begin to open up and fully trust me.  This typically creates conversations that are centered around how they feel about themselves and the feeling expressed most often is that of being “not smart”.  They actually say that they think they aren’t smart enough to do well in school.

I’m never surprised but it ALWAYS breaks my heart…

This sense of  not being “smart” is rooted in shame and it’s NOT their fault!  We all learn differently. Some of us are hands-on, kinesthetic learners, while others are more visual, and still others are more auditory in their learning style.  Our traditional US school setting functions in a way that benefits kids who are naturally more auditory and sequential (left-brained) in the way they process and learn new information, which  leaves about 60-70% of kids on one end of the spectrum, feeling challenged at the very least, to the other end feeling like there’s literally something wrong with them.  As evolving, developing, brilliant little beings, children need to be taught in a manner that utilizes their natural learning style, or mode of strength, in order for them to thrive.  Many teachers are aware and know how to do this but unfortunately, not enough…you simply can’t teach what you don’t know.  We’re definitely focused on the WRONG thing in education these days but that’s a topic for another post…!

So then, what can be done?

Well, this is where the FUN begins… we must SHOW them, PROVE to them that they have special gifts and that they CAN succeed.  These kids must be given the opportunity to recognize their gifts as well as their areas of struggle.  Don’t you find it a bit odd that we expect kids to excel in every subject?  If anything less than a B (sometimes even an A!) shows up on a quarterly report card the panic starts to set in.  But as adults; parents, teachers, administrators and the like, we tend to understand that people chose different career paths based upon personal gifts; strengths, and passions and therefore most likely wouldn’t choose a line of work at which we would fail or dislike (although it happens, sadly).  So why, when it comes to kids, do we expect high marks in every subject?

As a teacher and supporter of little ones, who really have no voice in the matter, I advocate that confidence is the foundational underpinning for student success in all areas of life, with NO exceptions!  I have lots of tricks up my sleeve so my work with kids is centered around teaching and practicing these strategies so that they become empowered as they move toward independence and success.  As I regularly keep parents posted via email, on the progress their kids are making, I find myself referring quite often to the level of increased confidence I see in their children…  I realize that I’m paid to increase educational achievement in the students with whom I work and I’m surely capable of making that happen, but the other, equally critical, side of the academic coin in the formula for success is CONFIDENCE!  And when kids become intrinsically confident there’s no stopping them!

Our children know when we are worried… they can sense when we think something might be a little “off”. Awareness is the first step… we must be aware of the effect our concern has.  If you have concerns about your child I highly recommend doing some independent research, find support, be proactive, get the help your child needs but counter your concern with the intention that all will be well… BELIEVE that although your child may have some current challenges, that ALL WILL be WELL.  Become the advocate your child needs so that he or she is not misunderstood as they take their educational journey… so that they do not lose their confidence!

You’ll find a tab in the menu section of my website titled “Learning Style Questionnaire”, which includes a series of 20 simple yes/no questions that will give you a foundation for beginning to understand the way your child learns best.  You are your child’s greatest advocate and knowing how they learn best will make all of the difference in their future.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch…

Kelly xo

Is Your Child A Right-Brained Learner?

If your child is struggling in school there may be a very valid reason…    Left-Right-Whole Brain

A solid 90% of the students I work with are right-brained learners (dyslexics, ADD/ADHD, visual-spatial, etc) and they are BRILLIANT!  But all of these kids are struggling in school.  Once I’ve determined that a child has a right-brained processing preference for learning, I work to help parents shift their perspectives around what’s considered “normal” as far as learning is concerned. Performance in school (no matter the grade level) tends to be the measure we use to define “normal” these days.

As we assess and view our children through the lens of our schools we ultimately dishonor the right-brained dominant learner because “school” and it’s structure and teaching processes tend to support left-brained learning styles and developmental time-frames for learning.

I find it fascinating but not surprising that 30% of children are heavily right-brain (visual-spatial) dominant and 30% more children are moderately so.  That totals 60% of our students who prefer a right-brained learning style while our schools are set up for left-brained learners… We don’t know this stuff, it’s not talked about or reported so it’s something that most of us are unaware of until we are faced with the confusion that accompanies the “in-school” struggles of a smart child whom we LOVE!

So, what are the actual differences between the right-brained and left-brained learning style or preference? Let’s explore…

The differences between right hemispheric and left hemispheric processors boils down to more than right-brainers thinking mostly in pictures and left-brainers thinking in words.  While these are accurate statements, there are far more important distinctions to make between these two learning styles.  Left-brained people think sequentially, in steps, as they learn from part-to-whole…  while right-brained people come to learning conclusions intuitively and in a more whole-to-part process.  That’s why phonics works so well with left-brained kids during the Foundation Stage (5-7) of development, while right-brained kids learn by sight (whole words through memorization) initially during this stage and phonetically a bit later (8-10 years).

Left-brained people currently run and control our schools therefore linear and sequential processing saturates pretty much everything in education.  This is evidenced by required high-stakes standardized assessments, required note taking, “showing work” in math calculations, reading readiness expectations for the end of Kindergarten and at the very latest, by the end of first grade and the slow decline of integrated arts in our school curriculum. The current system values the speed at which a child reads and is able to respond to questions almost more so than if they got the answers correct…  Left-brained learners LOVE process…they enjoy being a cog in the wheel, a part of the larger whole, and oftentimes make ideal employees who tend to be meticulous and detail oriented but may struggle to see the big picture.

Right-brained learners are quite the contrary.  They thrive on visualization and starting with the “whole” in mind… they have to see the big picture before they can break it down into smaller parts.  Because of this they tend to go directly to the answer and although they may use a series of steps to get there they do so at such speed that the visual, right-brained, learner is unaware and therefore unable to retrace their steps to explain in detail how they arrived at their conclusion.  I see this time and time again with the kiddos I work with…

Another major difference between the two learning styles is the fact that right-brained learners have a strong need to see the relevance for what they are asked to learn or do, otherwise they cannot learn it!  Left-brained learners trust the process… they trust in the curriculum and rely heavily on the structure of it.  They may not understand why they are being asked to do something and may not ask too many questions about the subjects’ relevancy, they just do what’s asked because it’s expected of them…  Left-brained workers thrived throughout the Industrial Age.  They made wonderful assembly line employees, farmers, and factory workers.  They did well at anything that required repetition.

Right-brained learners struggle with repetition.  They find it boring and pointless…oftentimes this includes homework, showing steps in math equations, and/or writing organized linear papers.  Right-brained learners may do well at creative writing or doing advanced math in their heads but this way of processing is not valued by our present day educational system, in fact even I had to do some of my own processing around this concept.  It was quite a paradigm shift for me and forced me to recognize how brainwashed I had become in regards to “the way” students learn.  As if there is only one, best way or process.  Because this right-brained, out-of-the-box way of learning and processing information tends not to be valued, right-brained kids may grow up feeling stupid and shamed (I see this all the time!) simply because their learning style is not honored and recognized in most schools.

This is already a problem of epidemic proportion… (there are 7 million kids receiving special education services and most are simply in need of a different approach to learning!) and will continue to grow as we  welcome and “create” more and more right-brained learners into our world.  As technology continues to (positively) affect the process of brain development and wiring, more and more students will need new and creative teaching styles to meet their own creative learning styles.  If we continue to ignore this reality we will have more students growing to hate learning and school as well as more parents who choose to opt out of sending their children to traditional schools, those who prefer alternative options such as home schooling and online, experiential learning.

It’s not hard to see the writing on the wall…  and I ask myself every day. “What can I do to make a difference?”

Although much time and effort has been used to develop a valid assessment to determine learning style preference in children, none has been created to date.  However the BEST way to determine is via observation of your child’s creative outlet preferences.  And in the meantime, take a look at this short questionnaire as an alternative measure.

References:

Cindy Gaddis; http://www.therightsideofnormal.com/

Dr. Linda K. Silverman;  www.visualspatial.org

 

Gratitude

Eat Pie Drink WineAt the risk of sounding cliche’ on this rainy and chilly Thanksgiving Eve, I’m full of gratitude for all of the many blessings in my life.  I have the most amazing and supportive friends, my health is top notch, I’m doing work that I absolutely love and I get to sleep in my own bed every night rather than traveling the country and sleeping in strange hotels…  that was all great while it lasted but it’s time to be HOME now.

I’m learning how to live more simply, to love more freely and to give more from my heart.  I’m blessed to have two sisters who are my very best friends, a brother who lives far away in proximity but remains close in my heart, three nieces and a nephew who bring me so much joy and laughter and a father who couldn’t be more loving and supportive of me and all that I choose to do in my life.  I love you all.

I’m especially grateful to the children, parents, and schools who have put their trust in me to do the work I do from the bottom of my heart to make a difference in the lives of many!  How blessed and lucky am I?  Thank you for the opportunity to do what I do in order to make a difference for you.

I’m beyond grateful for these (and more) many blessings and especially those to come as we say goodbye to 2014 and welcome the new year in with arms wide open.  I am excited and grateful for the blessings to come.

So, as you gather, this Thanksgiving, with family and friends, to eat, drink and be merry, what are you grateful for?

I wish everyone a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving holiday.