by Victoria Brewster, MSW
Learning disabilities are an area that needs more attention. After reading many books on neuroscience and particularly those that focus on issues related to deficits in the brains’ function, it seems that many children and adults that have been diagnosed as ADHD, trouble makers, and socially inadequate, are actually individuals that have undiagnosed learning disabilities.
Imagine being either a child or an adult who cannot read because of symbol recognition deficits, suffering from a motor symbol sequencing deficit, verbal reasoning deficit, a symbol relations problem or a kinesthetic deficit as in one who is clumsy or klutzy, not able to move their body in a certain way or lacking a range of motion. Kinesthetic perception problems have to do with being aware of your body and its position. All are types of neurological or cognitive deficits that can be improved with the right program/training and research is proving this.
The book, “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain” is worth reading. “People with learning disabilities are often told, even reassured, that adaptive technology will allow them to get around the problem of reading and writing. While the compensatory software is marvelous, it’s not foolproof.” (pg. 125)
Take a look at the Arrowsmith School in either Toronto, Ontario or Peterborough, Ontario where both youth and adults go to focus on treatment and diagnosis of their learning disabilities, http://www.arrowsmithschool.org/
The Arrowsmith Program is founded on two lines of research, one of which established that different areas of the brain working together are responsible for complex mental activities, such as reading or writing, and that a weakness in one area can affect a number of different learning processes.
The other line of research investigated the principle of neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to physically change in response to stimulus and activity, to develop new neuronal/synaptic interconnections and thereby develop and adapt new functions and roles believed to be the physical mechanism of learning. Neuroplasticity refers to structural and functional changes in the brain that are brought about by training and experience.
The book is a good read, educational and an eye opener. More schools like this need to be available to those that can benefit or more training needs to occur for professionals in mainstream schools to focus these skills with students.
There are currently 35 Arrowsmith programs between the United States and Canada. Interested teachers go to Arrowsmith in Toronto in August of each year to be trained on the program and then go back to their own school environments to implement the techniques.