Finding Learning Styles and Differences

Learning differences can be something as simple as trying to figure out what type of learning method works best for your son. If he has a learning disorder, you will have to take special care to tailor his study methods to deal with it; the first step is having the disorder properly diagnosed. Many learning differences aren't discovered until middle school. Since you know your son the best, you might be the first to realize that he learns differently from his siblings or peers.

Pinpointing Differences

Everyone has a way that he or she learns best. Most people fall into one of three categories:

  • Visual Learner: Learns by seeing. Videos, posters, books, and physical demonstrations are useful tools.

  • Auditory Learner: Learns by hearing material or information. Lectures and listening to a recording are primary tools.

  • Tactile Learner: Learns by physically experiencing the material. Role-playing, touching, and experimenting are sound methods.

Each of these learning styles processes material in a distinct way. It can be hard for teachers to gear lessons toward all three types of learners. If you know your son is one type of learner, a quick call or e-mail to his teacher can help both of you to brainstorm the best way for him to learn. This also shows the teacher that you are paying attention and are interested. If addressing learning styles doesn't seem to help, then there may be more going on than a simple teacher/pupil mismatch. There are some signs to watch for in your son, such as:

  • A slow pace when working

  • Inattention to details

  • Poor organizational skills

  • Inability to understand what he has just read

  • Poor memorization skills

  • Inability to understand the abstract

  • Inability to adapt to change

  • Difficulty with understanding directions

  • Making careless mistakes

  • Avoidance or dislike of schoolwork

Thriving with a Learning Disability

According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 5 percent of all students enrolled in public schools have a learning disability. A learning disability is not the result of poor parenting or other environmental concerns. It is also not the same as mental retardation. There are many types of learning disabilities, including dysgraphia (writing disorder), dyslexia (reading disorder), dyscalculia (mathematical disorder), dyspraxia (motor coordination disorder), and apraxia (motor speech disorder). Attention deficit disorder (ADD) can also affect your son's learning. This may also come with the symptom of hyperactivity, known as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

Essential

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) is a great resource for all ages. Its Web site (www.ncld.org) not only provides information on the diagnosis but on testing and treatment for all ages and all learning disabilities.

If you think your son has a learning disability, seek professional testing from your health care practitioner. This may include conversations and assessments by you, his teachers, and health care professionals. Diagnosing a learning disability is the first step to treating it. This may include therapy, life adaptations, or potentially medications. Sometimes a combination of all these methods is what your son needs.

How to Talk to Teachers

Talking to teachers and other school officials is an important task of parenting. Sometimes it can be difficult to get over the feeling of uneasiness that comes with sitting in the principal's office, even as the parent.

Parental Involvement

Studies show that students whose parents are involved tend to earn higher grades. This does not necessarily mean baking cookies and attending PTA meetings, though.

Many parents wait until issues arise to get involved. If you operate this way, you won't have an established relationship with your son's teachers when you need it. If you meet your son's teachers at conferences or from being involved at school, it will be easier to deal with problems if they come up. It also shows the teacher that you really care, and teachers may come to you earlier in the process.

What to Say to a Teacher

While it is imperative that your son learn to handle the daily discussions with his teachers, there is a time and a place for parental involvement. Sometimes your advice and guidance are all your son needs to talk to a teacher. This is a great time to try role-playing as a way to help your son.

Question

Can I send notes to my son's teacher?

E-mail works perfectly for this type of communication, and you don't have to rely on your son as the delivery person. Tell the teacher who you are and that you want to help in any situation, good or bad. Ask how the teacher prefers to communicate and then do your best to stick with that method.

Your son may encounter a situation that requires parental involvement. This might be because the teacher is not listening to your son or because your son is unable to convey his concerns to the teacher. Call or e-mail the teacher to find a time that is mutually agreeable for you and the teacher to meet. Remember you only know your son's half of the story. Be inquisitive and not combative. Show the teacher that you want to find a solution. Bring your son in whenever possible.

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