Oh the Difference it Makes When You Speak Their Language!
Neurodiversity across the Learning Spectrum explains why around 60% of children are failing to thrive in school, many of whom are also struggling to learn to read. We can no longer afford to teach as though all children were wired the same for learning! When we forget to consider the diversity in the natural wiring of children, it is no wonder there are problems! Conversely when we focus on discovering and then providing what is missing for those children, we will find that making simple changes results in enormous gains. There’s nothing like it, really, when you are there to see the lights turn on!
I was to teach 2nd grade. The school was square in the middle of an at risk population in which shootings and school lockdowns were common. As I welcomed my new class I noticed Robert right away. He was bigger than the other kids. I dug out the notes from his previous teacher and found Robert had failed 1st grade twice, and administration decided to promote him anyway. His teacher ended her note by saying, "Just give him crayons and a coloring book."
Robert had the distinction of owning the most labels of any child in the whole failing school. He couldn't even write his letters, and of course he couldn't read anything. I was determined to do everything I could for Robert. During "rug time" every morning, I sat on a low kindergarten chair and the whole class sat in front of me, with Robert right by my knee. During that first 30-45 minutes, I worked with the class all together on learning words, their structure, and the patterns that appear in our language. (My next blog will detail what we did.)
By November, at Robert's IEP meeting, I joined the group of 8 adults around the table to evaluate Robert's progress. The children had just been tested, and scores were in. Robert was at grade level in reading. You could have heard a pin drop. Their concern was that they had just written an IEP in August, and now in November they couldn't face having to say, "Just kidding," so they decided his IEP needed to stay active in case he slid back at some point. They did agree to leave him in my room rather than pulling him out for special services.
Resources That Meet the Needs of the 60%
My experience with Robert and hundreds of other children like him inspired me to design products that would speak directly to their neurodiverse learning styles. The children who are failing to thrive are those who think in pictures, who don’t naturally work with symbols, who need to understand the goal and work out steps for themselves, who learn from whole to part, who learn visually and with their bodies, who need all details to link together, and who need relevance. It was a matter of incorporating elements that met the needs of the 60% into every resource.
I understand how busy teachers are, and that is why we offer products that can be taught immediately, without any training. The products are supplemental, so they can be used in conjunction with any other curriculum to reach your neurodiverse learners. Follow along as next week we will dive deep into how and why our methodology works!
Read more about neurodiversity