So How Do We Get There?
While I will always recommend that parents seek out private educational therapy for their consistently struggling learners, I know this isn’t always an option. That’s where you come in.
First, let’s recognize that processing skills and academic skills are not the same. Processing skill development sets the foundation for academic learning.
Trained educational therapists do not focus on a child’s area of academic weakness, then practice the same activities over and over again. When the trouble lies in weak, underdeveloped processing skills, repetition only increases a child’s frustration level. Students fail, again and again, reaffirming their deep feelings of inadequacy. Instead, educational therapists dig deeper to uncover the specific processing deficits at the root of the problem. Through strategic cognitive strength training, educational therapists maximize students’ ability to learn. Even without academic intervention, cognitive intervention naturally translates to better performance in the classroom. The process, if targeted and consistent, can take anywhere from a few short months to approximately two years.
What Can Teachers Do?
If one-on-one educational therapy is off the table (and even if it isn’t), then I believe one of the best things we can do for ALL students is to learn everything we can about processing skills – what they are, signs of trouble, and how to intervene.
After training educators how to identify and strengthen processing skill deficits, I was a little surprised by how grateful the teaching credential students were for the knowledge. No one was covering this in their credential programs.
The classroom teachers, even the initial skeptics, saw the profound impact of simple cognitive strength training activities on their previously difficult-to-reach students. Some even said that their new understanding completely changed the way they teach.
Understanding Processing Skills
In a nutshell, processing skills involve the way we take in information through our senses, then interpret the information received. Typically, by the time children enter kindergarten they have developed strong enough processing skills to learn their ABCs and beyond with ease and confidence. Without a strong foundation in place, however, students may learn to develop compensating skills in an effort to hide any weaknesses. This strategy tends to work for a little while. Then, right around the third grade or so, learning gaps grow larger and larger, becoming much more difficult to hide.
- Visual Tracking
Does your student skip lines while reading or read words out of order, perhaps words that are pulled randomly from different lines on the page? Does he reverse words, reading “saw” instead of “was,” for example? This could point to a potential visual tracking issue.
- Visual Memory
This challenge shows up in all sorts of ways, from copying work from the board only one letter at a time to spelling trouble to difficulty learning sight words, poor reading comprehension, and more.
- Auditory Memory
Is your student looking to her classmates to learn which page she should turn to? Does she have trouble following spoken directions? Don’t assume she’s being defiant. She may only be able to remember two instructions at a time, such as, “Take out your pencils and math workbooks.” She may have met her threshold when you also instructed her to “turn to page 17.”
- Visual Discrimination
Challenges with visual discrimination may show up as common letter reversals and letter identification confusion. Distinguishing the differences between letters b, p, q, and d, for instance, may be difficult for students who struggle with this skill.
- Spatial Awareness
This pertains not only to our physical body in space, understanding left from right, and being able to read a map, but it also can impact writing. Rather than writing in a straight line, do any of your students write in a slant that seems to trail dramatically down the page? Do they make errors in math equations because they don’t line the numbers up correctly? Strengthening spatial awareness may help.
Please recognize that students may demonstrate the tendencies described above for multiple reasons. As you learn more about what those reasons might be, and how to help (don’t worry, I’ll get to that part), focusing on underlying processing skills puts you in a strong position to help your struggling (and non-struggling) learners.
Doing so helps you provide your students with more than a temporary fix. You’ll go beyond merely helping them understand one academic concept at a time. With your help and understanding, your students will develop learning skills that last a lifetime.
Want even better news?
Cherice designs Learning Ability Boosters for students in K-6. Her educational therapy experience specializing in dyslexia remediation techniques informs all of her designs, which are just as useful for gifted students as they are for struggling learners. Find her specialty materials at Teachers Pay Teachers, plus plenty of tips and fun freebies at Inner Pieces Gallery.