5 Ways an Educational Therapist Can Help Your Child
Are you concerned because your child…
- Has an individual learning style that schools and tutors don’t understand
- Lacks the underlying academic skills to keep up with the rest of the class
- Has weak basic learning skills such as memory and attention that are getting in the way of good grades
- Hasn’t learned how to manage school by using the best study strategies, time management approaches and strategies for staying in charge of his or her emotions during tests
- Says things such as “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never learn this” or “I’m so stupid”
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your child may have complicated learning needs that require specialized teaching approaches.
OVERVIEW VIDEO – Brief Introduction To Dr. Miller’s System
First of all, everybody learns their own way. For most kids, they are able to learn the way our schools teach. But some students don’t easily learn the way our schools expect them to. And then kids begin to fall behind and fail.
Once they fall behind, they don’t learn the academic skills they need to keep up. Now they have the problem of being behind in basic skills. Without basic skills they can’t move forward. This is the second problem they face.
Students with complicated learning needs usually have one or more weak learning skills such as memory, attention or auditory processing problems, and this often is a key component in whether or they make progress.
Many students need to learn how to manage their learning and how to play the game of school to win. They have to learn the best study approaches and what to give priority to in their learning. Especially for middle school and high school students, this challenge can sink them academically.
When kids want to learn, when they try to learn, and when they can’t learn, they lose hope. They begin to believe they are stupid and they stop trying. Kids who have this problem don’t work very hard to be good learners and good students because they figure it’s a waste of time; they figure they can never learn. In my opinion, this is the biggest challenge they face!
In order for kids with complicated learning needs to be successful, they need to have all five of these problems addressed. They need to be taught in a way that fits their learning style—not just the same old approach that is used for other kids. They need to catch up on basic skills they missed because they learn differently. They need to build the core learning skills such as attention and memory that students need to be successful. They need to learn how to set priorities, manage their time and study to remember. And most importantly, they need to believe in themselves again so they can play the game of school to win.
VIDEO 1 – Differentiated Instruction
If you’re the parent of a child with special learning needs such as dyslexia or learning disabilities, then you know that just because a teacher tries to teach, it doesn’t mean a child is going to learn. Unfortunately, schools and even tutors aren’t able to give students with complicated learning needs the kind of instruction that really benefits them. Everyone can learn, but not every approach is going to work for your child.
I’m sure if you are like the parents I work with, you’d be glad to find just ONE approach that would work for your child. The good news is that every human brain is perfectly capable of learning, and your child’s brain is certainly no exception. If your child has been struggling and falling behind in basic skills such as reading, writing or math, there is hope, because your child can learn these skills.
What has been missing for your child is the correct teaching approach. School teachers are well-meaning and many of them are wonderful at teaching their subject. But if your child doesn’t naturally learn the way his or her teacher teaches, he’s falling behind. And if this has been the pattern for years, your child is at risk for failing.
Even tutors when they work one-to-one with a student use the same approach without changing it any way. It’s no wonder your child isn’t making progress. Your child needs a teaching approach that takes his or her unique and special gifts and interests into account. Your child needs a teaching approach that capitalizes on what he does well.
So you may be asking yourself, if these approaches exist, why don’t teachers and tutors use them? The answer is actually pretty simple, a person has to have advanced training in educational psychology to learn these strategies, and school districts don’t require this kind of advanced training to get a teaching certificate, so teachers don’t know them. And tutors often have far less skills than a classroom teacher, so they aren’t going to have this training either. Educational psychologists have a name for this approach of teaching the way a student’s brain learns best. They call it Differentiated Instruction. Using differentiated instruction is one of the five key factors that I use to get the great results I get for students with complicated learning needs such as learning disabilities and autism.
A good example of how I use differentiated instruction is the spelling approach I use with one of my third grade girls, Ashley. As soon as we started using this approach, her spelling skills improved dramatically. I put together a program that is unique and personalized just for Ashley’s talents and interests, and that’s why it works. It avoids all the areas she isn’t strong in, and accentuates all the areas in which she learns well.
Just to give you a flavor of what I put together, I wanted to capitalize on the young child’s love of fantasy and find something that really spoke to the little girl in Ashley, so I went to a craft store and bought some colored jewels. When we use them for spelling instruction, each jewel represents a different letter in the word. I also knew that Ashley had strong visual skills but had an auditory processing problem, so I knew this very flashy visual approach was going to work for her, particularly because it really brought in the fantasy and “little girl” factors that interested and delighted her. Then I ramped it up by using my educational psychology training to put in just the right kind of repetition and other procedures to get the spelling patterns to stick in her memory. What I created is unique and personal and is designed just for her particular blend of talents and interests, so it works with her brain rather than against it.
The secret to coming up with differentiated instruction that works is to understand how the brain processes information and how to work with its natural tendencies rather than fighting against it. Teachers and even tutors use methods that are easy to implement. I put in more thought, more understanding and a whole lot more creativity and style to develop a method for your child that really makes a difference.
VIDEO 2 – Bring Academic Skills Up To Grade Level
Students with learning issues such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder and autism often fall behind in school because they don’t learn the way teachers teach. That means they have gaps in what they know and can do.
Until these gaps are identified and corrected, your child is going be at a disadvantage. The skills your child learns early on are the foundation of the learning in later years. It’s very much like the foundation of a house. When the foundation is weak, the building is apt to fall down.
It’s just like that with academic skills. If your child has lots of gaps in his or her knowledge or skills, he’s not going to be successful in school until he learns the basics.
A good example of how finding and filling in the knowledge gaps benefits students is the program I developed for Nick. When I first started working with Nick, he was in the fifth grade but he was only reading on the second grade level. He had difficulty identifying words, what’s called “word attack” skills, and he also had comprehension problems. In order for his reading to start moving forward and for Nick to catch up and begin reading on his grade level we needed to start at the point where his reading had stalled and teach him the basics that were taught in the second, third and fourth grade. Unless all of those missing skills were taught, Nick would be haunted with gaps in his reading and it would slow down his growth and limit how much he could learn.
But there’s another important aspect to working with students to fill in their knowledge and skill gaps and that is the fact that they didn’t learn the skills when they were first taught because they learn differently than students without learning challenges. That means that the teaching approach I use has to match the student’s strengths rather than bringing out his or her weaknesses. This kind of different teaching approach is called “differentiated instruction” and it is another key to helping students with learning challenges move ahead.
I’ve made a video explaining differentiated instruction and I encourage you to go to my website and take a look. You can find it here http://MillerEducationalExcellence.com/educational-therapist-los-angeles. It’s this combination of filling in the gaps by using teaching methods that actually work for your child that gets your child moving forward and catching up with the subjects that have been so challenging for him or her.
VIDEO 3 – Improve Weak Learning Skills
Students with special needs such as auditory processing problems, dyslexia, math disability and memory problems have more trouble learning than other students. The good news is that all of these abilities can be trained and improved greatly given specialized teaching approaches. This kind of training is referred to as process training or remediation because it involves directly stimulating the weak skills to improve.
For example, auditory processing, which is the ability of the brain to make sense of the sounds coming in through our ears, is a critical skill when it comes to being good at listening, reading and spelling. For students who have auditory processing problems, I include in my program instruction that helps them deal more effectively with speech sounds. This training improves their reading, spelling and listening skills.
For kids who have a math disability, I include training in rapidly and efficiently dealing with numeric information. Research studies have shown that students with math disabilities have difficulty memorizing and recalling math facts. Training does improve this ability and that makes it easier for kids with a math disability to learn more advanced math topics.
Memory problems are another area that I see frequently with my students. My feeling is that teaching kids memory strategies is one of the key components to a successful educational therapy program. You might have heard the saying that “there’s no such thing as a bad memory, just an untrained memory.” I agree with this statement to a large extent. Some students do have a lot of trouble with memory, but when they are given good methods and training, their memories improve.
The final skill I want to mention is attention. Attention is actually a very complex ability that humans possess. Many people aren’t aware that there are actually at least 5 types of attention. All of these types of attention need to develop in order for a student to be successful. For example, students with attention deficit disorder often have trouble with sustained attention. Just like the name suggests, sustained attention is the ability to direct your attention for a sustained period of time toward a task. My training programs give students practice in a variety of activities that develop their sustained attention skills.
The program I developed for my student Kristen is a good example of remedial training in attention. Kristen has attention deficit disorder so it has been very hard for her in several aspects of attention. She has difficulty sustaining her attention, she easily gets distracted, and she misses critical details. The training program I’ve designed for Kristen gives her practice in all of these important attentional skills. Kristen’s attention skills have improved quite a lot. She is able to catch most of her math errors since we began our training program. She also is able to read for longer periods of time and pay better attention in class.
She has been able to achieve these results because my program includes not only the remedial training in attention, but also the other four vital components that turn failure into success for students with complicated needs. If you haven’t seen my videos on the other four parts of my system, I encourage you to do so.
Your child doesn’t have to live in confusion and sadness. Your child can learn and can succeed in school. When you’re ready to get started transforming your child’s life, visit my website at http://MillerEducationalExcellence.com/educational-therapy-programs . You’ll find all the information you need to get started right away. Thanks, and I’ll see you there!
VIDEO 4 – Teach Academic Management Skills
Being successful in school these days is even harder than it has ever been. Students are asked to do more and there is a real pressure for students to be in advanced classes. Kids with special learning needs such as attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities want to take these advanced courses too and be successful.
Some of the things students need to learn to do effectively are manage their time, identify and eliminate distractions, and truly know whether or not they are mastering the subjects they are studying.
These skills are examples of the academic management skills that kids with complicated learning needs must master. Teaching students academic management skills is one of the five important parts of my system for helping them transform their lives and be successful in school.
In the 25 years I’ve been giving students the tools they need to be successful in school, I’ve noticed that few of them haven’t learned the techniques they need to really master their subjects. They often think all they need to do is complete the homework that’s assigned and that’s enough to carry them through. Even when they realize they need to study, most of them don’t know what the effective study strategies are.
When students first come to me, they generally are using ineffective strategies and getting low grades. What they need from me is to be taught what I call “deep processing” strategies. These are the strategies that successful students use to get material to “stick” so they don’t forget it. Using deep processing strategies also teaches kids how to make connections between information so their comprehension and appreciation for the subject go up too.
I also mentioned time management. Students with learning challenges often don’t have an accurate awareness of how long they are spending on their learning activities and how much time they should be spending. They often do every assignment with the same level of attention, whether that’s to rush through it or to meticulously do every tiny thing, or something in between. They don’t know how to identify which activities are worth more of their time and which activities should be done more quickly. Learning this kind of prioritization is key to being a learner who is in charge of your learning.
Many of the academic management skills I’ve mentioned are also called executive skills or executive functions, so you may have heard that term before. The term executive skills just draws our attention to the fact that we are in charge of our lives and when students learn how to make good decisions about their academic behavior, they get the great outcomes they are looking for.
Another really important academic management or executive skill is getting your emotions under control. I know many of my students have test anxiety or math anxiety. I see this problem repeatedly with my clients and I’ve developed many approaches to help students control their anxiety around academics. One of the most helpful things I’ve discovered is when I teach students strategies to master their emotions, they realize that they can learn to control their reactions. Once they realize I’ve got lots of techniques to share with them and we are going to find the ones that help them, they begin that process of getting in charge or their emotions rather than being held captive by them. And believe me, when people feel they are in control in their lives, that’s when things really start to change.
If your child needs help learning academic management skills and you’re ready to get started, go to my website at http://MillerEducationalExcellence.com/educational-therapy-programs and click on the Getting Started page. You’ll have all the information you need to get started right away. See you soon!
VIDEO 5 – Defeat Learned Helplessness
Learners with special needs have experienced much more failure and disappointment than other learners. They often suffer from learned helplessness which is the incorrect belief that they are “stupid” and “can’t learn.” If your child is having trouble in school he or she may have already developed learned helplessness or is at risk for developing it.
In my opinion, learned helplessness is the biggest obstacle students with complicated learning needs such as learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder have to deal with and that’s because when a child’s belief in themselves is damaged, their motivation is destroyed too.
Think about a time when you had something to accomplish but you felt you weren’t good enough in some way to do a good job. Maybe it was some creative project you thought sounded interesting or a task someone asked you to do for them. Ask yourself what happened when you convinced yourself that you weren’t going to do a very good job. If you’re like most people, either you didn’t even try to do it, or if you couldn’t get out of doing it, you just did the minimum to get by or maybe you even got somebody else to do it for you!
Well, unfortunately for your child, getting somebody else to do their school learning for them isn’t an option, so when your child thinks he or she can’t do a good job in school, he either doesn’t even try, or just does the minimum to get it over with so he can make the pain of feeling like a loser go away. In either case, he’s not doing very well in school and he’s not learning much.
Students with complicated learning needs fail a lot and when they try and try, and fail and fail, they see this as evidence that they can’t learn and they can never be successful. So what happens over time is that they quit trying or give school work a half-hearted effort. Without even knowing what’s happening, they unconsciously begin to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors such as “tuning out” avoiding work, or procrastinating. Kids who develop learned helplessness are caught in an endless cycle of failure.
Kids who feel helpless with their learning need a new start. They need teaching methods that capitalize on their strengths rather than their weaknesses. They need to have their weak skills improved. They need to be taught the facts and skills they’ve missed out on up until now. They need to learn how to take charge and stay in charge of their learning. Until they begin their journey down this new path, they are going to have learned helplessness standing in their way. And as long as learned helplessness is blocking the road to success, your child is going to feel like a loser.
It’s only when students believe they can succeed, that they begin to try.
It’s only when they believe they can learn, that they begin to study.
It’s only when they believe they can have a successful life that they start making the powerful choices that are going to make them successful.
You know that old saying, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re always right.” Well nothing is truer for kids with special learning needs.
When you’re ready to show your child that he or she can learn, go to my website at http://MillerEducationalExcellence.com/educational-therapy-programs. You’ll have all the information you need to get started right away. I hope to see you soon!
Dr. Kari Miller, PhD