When In Doubt- Check It Out!

I want to help my child: "BUT HOW?" The family has determined either through consistent poor grades, teacher conferences, and/or neuropsychological and academic testing that the student has learning disabilities. In order for students to be successful in academics, there are certain skills that must be acquired. There are definite questions and defining skills that a parent/guardian can investigate with their child to determine if the child owns these skills or not.

There are specifically six academic/life skills that can adversely affect the performance of your child in school, sports and life, if they are not strong or do not exist at all. These are the skills and questions you can ask your child:

1. Internal Directions- Can your child hold up their non-dominant hand when verbally asked by you to do so? Simply stand facing your child and ask your child to lift their non dominant hand up in the air, with your hands behind your back. Keeping your hands behind your back will remind you not to cue your child. If your child hesitates, or completely cannot show you the correct hand, then they are probably having trouble with directional language in class, in sports and in life circumstances. You may help your child by teaching them quite simply, "that their right hand is their polite hand". This gives them a concrete 'hook' to hang on to when they need to remember which their right hand versus their left hand is. You can do exercises with your child having them do an example of "touch your right hand to your left foot", and so on. You can then show them where the left side of the board is and that we read from left to right in American English. You can demonstrate right and left directional language in relationship to sports, mapping, drawing, driving a car, etc. Check out on the web, www.braingym.org , this is a great resource.

2. Auditory Skill-When you verbally ask your child a question, do the words you speak, make a movie in their head of the question being asked? Another words, does the words your child hears, seemed to go in one ear and out the other? How to help this problem is to say a word to your child, for example "shoe". Ask your child "does the word, 'shoe' make a picture in your head? In order to picture something or an idea it is necessary to image it. The thing needs to have shape, color, size and dimension in order 'to see' in ones mind's eye.

3. Reading Memory- Does your child make pictures in their head when they read a printed page? Is the child able to image the printed word when they look away from the printed page and do they make a movie of the sentences and paragraphs of what they have read? The words that they read need to pop out and become three-dimensional in their mind. This problem defines reading comprehension issues. Write the word 'dog' on any surface, paper or a wipe able board; do not say the word for them, because you will cue them verbally by accident. Ask the child what do you see when you look at this word? Can they see, actually remember the printed word when they look away? Can they put size, shape, and color to this thing? Check out on the web: Nanci Bell's book, "Visualizing and Verbalizing for Reading and Language Comprehension".

4. Verbal Expression- When your child speaks do the words that they speak make a picture in their head? Does your child tend to ramble and jump around in their conversations? Another words, you can help them to image the words they speak by repeating what they just said to you, but do not do this in a condescending tone. You do not in any way want to hurt your child. Simply, repeat gently the words they said to you, and if they do not pick up on this cue, say "your words do not make a clear picture in my head". "Angel, could you please give me a title of what you're talking about." This helps the child hone in on the point they are trying to convey to you.

5. Phonemic Awareness-Can your child define what vowels and consonants are and tell you the sounds that these letters make? There are 26 letters in the alphabet, can your child look at each and every letter and tell you the letter names? If not, this can relate back to point one of directional language, specifically the letters of 'b' and'd'. Go to the pronunciation guide in any American English dictionary for the correct sounds these letters create. The most common area of difficulty is the vowel sounds. The short vowel sounds should be practiced and the spelling rules starting with the magic-e rule and so on. Two resources are the Lindamood Phonemic Awareness Program and the book "Complete Learning Disabilities Handbook" by Joan M. Harwell.

6. Written Expression-Can your child form a complete sentence or do they have knowledge of what constitutes a complete thought, sentence parts? Another words, does your child understand that a complete sentence must have a capital letter, a noun(subject), a verb(predicate) and a punctuation mark. From this basic fact comes the next question, can your child produce a paragraph? Tell your child that all authors are artists and that author's create pictures, too; but they do not use crayons or paint they use words instead, like nouns, verbs and adjectives. Adjectives give shape, size, color and dimension to the thing or idea that is being expressed. Have your child draw a picture or sketch of the story they are trying to tell or the subject they are trying to write about. Have your child now give this picture a title. A good writing formula is, first, give a title to what you want to say. Good titles are usually only seven words or less, which guides the writer to get to the point of what they want to say, the theme or thesis statement. It frames the picture if you will. Second use the 'five W's and H approach'. This will give your child six sentences to write in a snap. They answer the questions of the what, who, where, when, why and how, about their title and picture.

Hopefully, these six skills will help your child feel more successful in academics, sports and life, and knowledge of these issues will help you be a more informed and stronger advocate for your child. Peace to you and the child you love and treasure so dearly.