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Teaching Students about Their Learning Strengths and Weaknesses

by Michelle Garcia Winner, Social Thinking

Over the years, I have observed so many students get upset by the fact they had “autism” or “Asperger syndrome” or “ADHD.” While they could verbalize these terms aloud, they still didn’t seem to understand what their learning challenges actually were.

I have also observed many adults explaining to students that the reason they were having difficulty socializing, studying, and learning was because they had “autism” or “Asperger’s syndrome”, or “ADHD.” I thought this was a really abstract way of explaining to students with limited abstract thinking how best to understand their own learning challenges. I also have observed that many of our smart but socially not-in-step students were using their label as an excuse for not working at learning new ideas; they interpreted the fact that they had a diagnostic label as a reason to not continue to learn.

I have also been inspired by the writings of other professionals who describe learning abilities and challenges within a framework of “multiple intelligences” (see Howard Gardner). Essentially this means that each of us have different types of intelligences and we each have our strengths and weaknesses with regard to our own brain’s design.

Strengths and Weakness Lesson

The lesson I developed is about teaching our students and adults how to understand their social learning challenges in the context of their overall abilities and then how they can use their strengths to learn more strategies related to their weaknesses. I have done this lesson with students as young as eight years old and as old as they come.

The lesson is very simple. To save explaining it all with words, see the chart below.

Strength and Weakness Graph

Here are some basic things I do as I develop this type of chart with the student:

  1. Each chart is completely personalized for the person I am developing it with. It is not about recording test scores that purport to show competencies. The chart is about how the student perceives his or her own strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, you create the chart using any areas that are individualized to the student.
  2. To determine the ideas/areas to post on the chart, take time to talk to students and listen to what they enjoy doing and what they feel they do well.
  3. Always start by graphing out their strengths. It is good to show many perceived strengths. Again, strengths are not about listing academic tasks exclusively. If a student says she is really good at playing a specific computer game or Legos then we make that a category and talk about what number to give it on the chart.
  4. It is also important to find some areas where students perceive they are just OK – their skills are not good or bad. They perceive themselves to be similar to the average person in that area of functioning, or a “5” on the scale. With kids, you can use language such as:
    • “First tell me what you think you are really good at compared to other kids you know.” After you and the student have listed three to five areas on the chart then say,
    • “Now tell me something you are just OK at – you’re like most other kids during playing or learning.”
    • “Now tell me some things that your brain doesn’t make easy for you…things you have noticed most other people can learn easier than you.”
    • Who talks a lot in your class?
    • Who doesn’t tend to do their homework?
    • Who is really good in math?
    • Who is super friendly?
    • Who is mean?If students aren’t used to thinking about how they function compared to others, I will shift gears to explore the idea that we all think about what others around us are doing. At this point, I will ask the student to tell me things like:

    By having this discussion, you help them notice that they are aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses. This often helps them put their own abilities in perspective.

  5. If students can’t answer the questions, I go back and suggest ideas similar to my earlier conversation with them. Ultimately I am doing this to help them put their learning challenges in context. Our students with social emotional learning challenges are usually not good at spontaneously describing what they don’t do well; this is not something people usually talk about. Some ideas I ask them to consider include:
    • How do you do with keeping track of your homework assignments and doing the homework?
    • How do you do with writing paragraphs or reports (writing short responses on paper may have been a strength, while writing longer information is often a challenge)
    • How do you do making guesses about what you are reading?
    • How do you do with playing in a group?
    • How do you do with getting into a group?
    • How do you do talking to other kids?
    • Or I may just ask them about their “social skills”

    It’s important not to overwhelm students when discussing things that are harder for them to do. This is uncomfortable for most of us! Choose some main idea to explore based on what concerns exist with a particular student. At this point, students are usually willing to list these as weaknesses compared to the other areas on the chart.

  6. What to do if students rate a weakness as a perceived strength?I routinely make a chart of my brain’s strengths and weaknesses so they experience their teacher/leader admitting to weaknesses. Then, I’ll write the area they mentioned as a strength on the chart and pause there to discuss it more in the context of the others’ strengths. More often than not, students decide it should be listed as a lower number on the scale. However, I have worked with students who are genuinely afraid to list something as a weakness. In those cases I reassure them that everyone has weaknesses, including me. On rare occasions, I have said to a student, “Actually, this is an area that you are not as good at and this is why you are here today.” Then I lower the ranking on that social area on the scale compared to the other areas listed, while explaining that it is expected and OK that people have learning weaknesses.
  7. If you are familiar with the teachings of Social Thinking® you will also be able to explain how socially-based learning weaknesses (organizational skills, written expression, social relationships, reading comprehension, etc.) are all related. Making this connection with our students helps them see how they don’t have all that many weaknesses. Instead, there is a weak root system that leads to different areas of weakness. (For more information on this please read about the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking in the book Inside Out: What Makes Persons with Social Cognitive Deficits TickThis concept is also the focus of the article, Social Thinking – Social Learning Tree.”)
  8. You will find your students are usually pretty honest about themselves. It is often amazing how they are willing to talk about the fact they have strengths and weaknesses when it’s presented this way. When they have strengths in language and learning facts, we can then explain how these abilities will help them learn more information in the areas where learning is not as easy or natural to them.
  9. Once the chart is completed, I then go on to talk about what it means to have a learning disability: that the student has relative learning weaknesses compared to their strengths or even the “OK” areas of learning. Remarkably, many of our students don’t understand what learning disabilities or differences are, so they react to their weaknesses with anger rather than understanding they can usually use some of their learning strengths to help them in their weaker areas. I have worked through anger about learning differences much more successfully using this scale.
  10. You will find that your students/adults are much more willing to discuss how they learn, what they are good at, and what they are not so astute at learning in this context, compared to simply talking to them about the fact they have ASD, AS, ADHD, etc.
  11. Once you’ve reached this point with students, the next step is to discuss specific things they can work at learning to boost their area of weakness to a higher number on the scale. I also explain that they likely will never get their weak area as high as their strong areas, because their strengths are what their brain is naturally good at learning. But they can improve how they do in their weaker areas as long as they work at learning!

Once you make the chart you can refer back to it session after session. It is also a helpful tool when explaining to parents/caregivers what our students’ labels really mean in terms of their learning abilities.

A note on language: The language-based explanation, “Your brain doesn’t make this easy for you,” helps many of our students put their challenges in context. Make sure you regularly point out when they are doing things their brains do make easy for them, and not only talk about their areas of weakness or areas that need improving.

Final, final note: The “art” of teaching is critical in this lesson. Stay in step with your students emotionally while you go through this lesson. Spend some significant time talking about what they are good at and pretty good at, rather than rush to their weaknesses and then spend all your time on this area. Remember, our students are often really talented when we are not demanding they participate in socially-based situations. Take time to celebrate the many things they do well to give them the strength to talk about what they don’t do as well.

Source: https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=Teaching+Students+about+Their+Learning+Strengths+and+Weaknesses&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article_teachingstudentsabout

[My note: Social Thinking is a terrific resource for families and professionals dealing with children who have socializing challenges.]

for Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and spelling help in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

Thanksgiving: ADHD Tips

By Lexi Walters Wright at Understood.org

[Reading tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Interrupted Schedules

If your family is traveling for Thanksgiving, your child may be sleeping in a strange place and following an unfamiliar schedule. Even if you’re hosting, your family’s routines may be disrupted. That’s rough for kids with ADHD.

DO This: Stick to your child’s routines as much as possible. Try to arrange travel or guest schedules so that he eats and sleeps when he usually does. And prepare your child in advance for any disruptions you foresee. Give him an overview of what will be happening beforehand, and then remind him at each stage what’s coming next.

Waiting for the Meal

When the whole holiday is centered on a single meal, the hours beforehand can feel like eternity for children with attention issues. The anticipation may make them bored or cranky, which can lead to squabbles—or tantrums.

DO This: Before Thanksgiving, enlist relatives’ help to line up some morning activities. Could a grandparent or uncle take your child to the park? Might some older cousins set up a family game for the younger kids? Let the kids know in advance what’ll be happening when. This way dinner won’t be the only thing for them to look forward to.

Company Commotion

If your Thanksgiving involves a lot of people, your child may feel upset by the noise and activity. And kids with attention issues may get frustrated if they’ve settled down to read or work on a project and the hustle and bustle distracts them.

DO This: Whether you’re home or away, find your child an “out” spot. Agree on a place where he can go for a set period of time to be alone and listen to headphones, play a game on his phone, or read.

Preoccupied Parents!

Young kids with attention issues often need constant direction from adults. That’s hard when you’re trying to finish making Thanksgiving dinner and can’t stop to play with your child.

DO This: First, try to get as much as possible done before Thanksgiving Day. Make what you can in advance, buy the pies, go potluck for side dishes. That way, you can set aside time to check in periodically with your child. And delegate. Is there a relative who’d be happy to oversee your child for the morning? Give him coloring books, art supplies, puzzles or a new DVD so he can keep your child occupied while you’re busy.

Take Turns Talking

Kids with attention issues may talk nonstop before, during and after dinner, annoying guests. If your child is impulsive, he may interrupt family members’ stories to tell his own. If a grandparent challenges him, he might say something rude.

DO This: Before Thanksgiving, role-play appropriate ways your child might start, join and end conversations with guests. Consider coming up with a code phrase or signal you can use to clue him in if he starts taking over the conversation.

Sitting Still through the Long Meal

Lengthy holiday meals are especially tricky for children with attention issues, who may find it hard to sit through “grace,” let alone a multi-course meal. Add unfamiliar foods and grown-up discussions, and you’ve got the makings for a meltdown.

DO This: Relax your expectations. Thanksgiving isn’t the day to expect perfect behavior, so seat him at the kids’ table. He’ll do best with some parameters, such as not interrupting the adults. But let him wander between courses. If he’s a teen, see if he wants to be “in charge” of keeping dinner fun for the younger guests.

~thx Understood.org

https://www.understood.org/en/family/events-outings/holidays-celebrations/common-thanksgiving-challenges-for-kids-with-attention-issues?view=slideview

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Central Ohio Free Parent Seminar on Writing Problems

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Marburn Academy in Columbus is inviting parents to a free seminar on “Getting It Down On Paper: The Solutions to Student Writing Problems.”

  • Date: Tuesday March 6
  • Time: 7:00-9:00 pm
  • Marburn Academy: 1860 Walden Dr, Columbus OH 43229
  • Reservations required: bdavidson@marburnacademy.org
  • Or phone 614-433-0822

Often students with learning differences have no trouble coming up with creative ideas, but they may struggle with expressing those ideas in writing.

Parents of children who wrestle with writing will find that this seminar offers  insight into the reasons why some children learn to write easily and others don’t.  They will be hearing about practical answers for remediation.

Earl Oremus, Headmaster of Marburn Academy, is a nationally recognized speaker on education, learning and learning differences. 

Oremus will explain why some children learn differently, why it is so important for teaching methods to match each child’s learning needs, and what works best when writing is being taught.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ It’s Not Too Early: Marburn’s Summer Program

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Central Ohio’s Marburn Academy in Columbus is the premier school here for bright students who learn differently.

 In addition to its regular school year, Marburn offers a rich group of summer programs to choose from.

Marburn’s Summer Language Program: July 2-31 2012

This exceptional language program is designed for students who need to improve their reading and writing skills.  It has produced dramatic results in helping hundreds of dyslexic students discover the joy of becoming successful readers and writers.

The daily language curriculum includes:

  • A one-to-one language tutorial , using the Orton-Gillingham approach to provide multisensory instruction in linguistic concepts for reading and spelling.
  • Visualizing and Verbalizing  and Making Meaning curricula for improving comprehension, retention and vocabulary.
  • Composition: using computers to build fluency and improve creative use of language.
  • Computer lab work, featuring keyboarding instruction and practice, computer art, desktop publishing of written compositions, and structured practice of reading and spelling skills.  Students use the Lexia Learning fluency software.

The language Program is open to students between the ages of 7-12.  July 2-31, 2012.  Times: 8:45 am to 12:15 pm.  Fee: $1800

Marburn’s Summer  Mathematics Program: July 2-31, 2012

Learning mathematics should be fun, but students who struggle with basic facts or operations often don’t see it that way. 

Marburn’s mathematics program was created to make learning active and enjoyable.  It cultivates the mathematician within every kid.  Students benefit from this program. because mathematics is taught in a social context, with hands-on experiential activities.

Students will

  • Use manipulatives and high interest activities to develop number sense, understanding of operations, and to learn basic facts.
  • Work cooperatively to test ideas and theories for deeper understanding.
  • Use computer programs to practice individualized skills and build fluency.
  • Learn strategies and shortcuts that make problem solving manageable.

The Math Program is open to children in grades 3 through 8.  Dates: July 2-31, 2012, weekdays.  Time: 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.  Fee: $1300.

Marburn’s Summer Written Expression Program: July 2-31, 2012

This structured and sequentially presented program makes use of laptop computers, short engaging assignments, and a focused revision process. Through these methods students improve writing fluency, passage unity, word choice, and craftsmanship. 

Students experience success using writing as a tool to communicate their thoughts.  They become more enthusiastic writers.

The Written Expression Program includes:

  • Creating a positive feeling toward writing by completing a variety of short poems; they will publish finished pieces.
  • Encouraging creative word choice with group interaction and brainstorming to discover lively and precise language.
  • Building and documenting fluency so words flow easily.
  • Using an incremental revision process so  students progress toward confidence and independence .

NOTE: This class is designed for successful readers who continue to struggle with forming ideas and age-appropriate written expression.

The Written Expression Program is open to children in grades 6 through 8.  Dates: July 2-31, 2012, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Time: 1:00 pm t0 4:00 pm.  Fee: $1,000. 

Marburn’s  Summer Phonemic Awareness Program: July 2-31, 2012

“Phonemic awareness” involves the ability to hear and identify the separate sounds and syllabic units that make up our words.  This skill is now universally recognized as the single most important precursor skill for reading success.

For the youngest students who have low skills in identifying the sounds that make up our language, this highly enjoyable activity-based class is designed to improve phonemic awareness.

Marburn’s Written Expression Program includes:

  • Rhyming.
  • Syllabication.
  • Auditory perception and discrimination.
  • Fluency practice on the computer.

The Phonemic Awareness Program dates are: July 2-31, 2012, weekdays.  Time: 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.  Fee: $700. 

Marburn Academy is located at 1860 Walden Drive, Columbus OH 43229.  Telephone 614-433-0822, ext. 107.

Marburn is a non-profit, independent and state-accredited school for children with learning disabilities.  The Academy admits students without regard to race, color, creed or national origin.

Marburn Academy is  an AOGPE accredited school.  AOGPE is the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitionaers and Educators, which assures superior quality O-G language education. 

Marburn  Academy’s programs have received national recognition for excellence and innovation in education for non-traditional learners.

Minimum enrollment levels are necessary, and Marburn Academy reserves the right to cancel classes in which minimum enrollment is not achieved

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Central Ohio Dyslexia Conference March 2 in Dublin

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REGISTER EARLY for Central Ohio IDA Conference

COBIDA Annual Spring Conference
Friday March 2
OCLC Conference Center, 6600 Kilgour Place, Dublin OH 43017.

(Members $85 until February 20.) Non-members welcome. Information and registration at http://www.cobida.org/.

PARENT TRACK: Expert Panel on Advocacy Matters: Learning How to Become Your Child’s Strongest Advocate.

PROFESSIONAL TRACK: Writing Matters: Developing Writing Skills in Students Who Struggle. William Van Cleve MA

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ OH Legislature Passes Dyslexia House Bill 96!

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House Bill 96 clarifies the definition of learning disabilities in the Ohio Revised Code to specifically include dyslexia.

 House Bill 96 also creates a pilot project at the Ohio Department of Education including one urban, one suburban, and one rural school district to forge a partnership with the local library system to provide early screening and intervention services for children. Existing funds within the Ohio Department of Education will be used to pay for these screenings, and the inclusion of libraries will help ease the financial burden on school districts.
 
Next Steps:
House Bill 96 goes to OH Governor John Kasich for his signature.
 
Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH  614-579-6021  or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Central Ohio: ADHD Parent Training to Begin in January

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Parent Training on ADHD is coming to Marburn Academy, central Ohio’s premier school for children with learning challenges!

The nationally recognized CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders) Parent-to-Parent Training program will begin this January.

The sessions will be led by Christine Kotik, a CHADD certified teacher and a Marburn Middle Division teacher.

Marburn Head of School Earl B. Oremus, an expert on ADHD will assist. If you have been looking for a reliable source of information to help you become a better manager of your child’s ADHD, this program might be for you. Go to www.marburnacademy.org to find detailed information and to register.

 Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com