Trying to help children who learn differently – both to you, as a parent, and to the average child in their class – can be an enormous heartache and source of frustration for both parents and teachers, not to mention their children. My heart goes out to all those parents I meet who have no idea how and why their children are struggling so much and who have not even heard of “mental imagery.”
As parents strive to do the very best for their children, they encounter various questions on social media such as:
“I am new to dyslexia; what do I do now?”
“My child is struggling; at what age should I press for a diagnosis?”
“I can see my child facing the same challenges I did, and I feel so guilty.”
“Whom do I need to contact to make some real progress?”
To those, I say: “Learning differently doesn’t mean you have learning difficulties. We can empower you with new knowledge and skills.”
Let’s assume just for a moment that there is nothing wrong with these students; there is no condition to assess, no “deficit” to find; only to discover their neurodivergent strengths and how best to use them. Perhaps the questions we should be asking are: How we can best teach a neurodivergent population? Or: How can we change the way we teach to include our brightest children? These questions were first poised in 1911 by Hans Asperger who “instead of seeing the children in his care as flawed, broken, or sick, believed they were suffering from neglect by a culture that had failed to provide them with the teaching methods suited to their individual style of learning. He had an uncanny knack for spotting signs of potential in every boy or girl, no matter how difficult or rebellious they were alleged to be.” We must urgently address this fundamental question that has largely been overlooked, since that time. We need vital help from students, parents and teachers to bring about change.
Working as a family is essential to success. You will learn how you can best investigate your children’s skills even before they go to school and indeed before they learn to talk. Curiosity encourages the development of a healthy, mutual learning environment where students feel empowered to grow. Moreover, this allows whole families to learn and grow together. When students learn a new strategy, they have to practice to become an expert. Any new skill you are developing requires practice. In some instances, however, young people may choose not to do this for a variety of reasons. Although they do not want to fail again, they may also not want to let down or show up friends or other family members, who share the same challenge. When working with students, I ask them to identify who else they can now teach, to reinforce the learning and encourage people to help each other.
The ability to successfully learn new skills is fundamental to the existence of every living creature. As we grow up, we continually acquire new talents naturally, often with little education. Parents of these neurodivergent students often marvel at how their child knows about things nobody has taught them. However, their natural capabilities can pull them in a different direction where traditional learning poses a much tougher challenge. When neurodivergent students don’t naturally acquire these required skills and conventions, the world becomes more confusing, and they may often be identified as being “learning disabled.” I have lost count of how many parents, who, after a short explanation of mental imagery, exclaim: “This makes so much sense”.
This is an extract from “The Elephants in the Classroom: uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning“. To find out more, order your own copy here, or more than 10 copies here or on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
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