Does My Child Have Learning Difficulties?

I recently read the article, Why Is My Smart Child Struggling In School, featured in Mommy Magazine’s March/April publication written by Roxanne Jorgensen.  She reached out to two experts from the Center for Growth and Development: Kate McPhillips, MOT, OTR and Karen West, MS, CCC-SLP.  These ladies have top-notch credentials and years of specialized training, support, and services for children and their families.  I got a lot from the article and hopefully you will too.  I wanted to share some of it, thus I have quoted/summarized a good chunk of the article.

“To help parents better understand when a child may be struggling a little more than normal for his/her age, Kate broke down how the brain works into four Learning Gates:

1. Sensory Motor Processing-ability to receive information via the five senses and appropriately adapt to the stimulus

2. Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor-including writing ability

3. Auditory Processing-registering what is heard and filtering out extraneous sound

4. Regulation of Focus and Attention-ability to stay on-task

The functions of the brain are also divided into five systems: tactile (touch), vestibular (tells us where our body parts are in space and is largely responsible for coordination and balance), proprioceptive (regulates subconscious activities like breathing and handles unconscious information from our muscles and joints about our movements), visual (processes what we see and is also partially dependent on the vestibular system), and auditor (processes information gathered through the ears).

The tactile system handles touch.  Some signs that this system could use strengthening include but are not limited to: not wanting to get hands dirty, wet, etc.; not wanting to be touched or hugged; inability to handle pencils or eating utensils.  Some therapeutic tactile exercises are making mud pies, painting, using scissors, playing with small objects like Legos, puzzles, and Play-Doh, musical instruments, and even just washing and drying hands.

The vestibular system tells us where our body parts are in space and is largely responsible for coordination and balance.  Helpful excersises include “spinning” activities like spinning or running in circles, riding the merry-go-round, riding a tire-swing in a circular motion, as well as jumping on a trampoline, balancing on a balance beam, or climbing and sliding activities.

The proprioceptive system regulates subconscious activities like breathing and handles unconscious information from our muscles and joints about our movements.  Indicators that someone might need a little proprioceptive boost would be draping themselves all over friends, parents, and furniture.  Any “heavy lifting” activity helps.  Some excersises include: playing horsey, pushing and pulling wagons, obstacle courses or tunnels, wheelbarrow walking, stretching, hammering, etc.

The visual system processes what we see and is also partially dependent on the vestibular system.  Visual games include: board games, flashlight tag, taking photos with a camera, blowing bubbles and whistles, and drawing chalk circles with both hands.

The auditory system processes information gathered through the ears.  Beneficial excercises include: dancing/drawing/humming/beating instruments to music, pleasing a kazoo, making up rhymes, jumping rope while chanting, etc.

Using some of the games/activities listed above at home may be enough to help your family bring balance to some minor challenges.  Those who are struggling to a greater degree would receive much greater benefit from outpatient therapy at programs such as the Center for Growth and Development.”

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One thought on “Does My Child Have Learning Difficulties?

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