Inside a Learning Specialist's Practice, Part 2

As promised in my last blogpost, I am chronicling the first 4 visits I will have with Augie, a new student going into 2nd grade who was referred to me for academic help over the summer. In Part 1 of this series, I described how sad Augie seemed the first night I met him during the initial family consultation meeting. I wrote about how crippling it is for children when they fall behind and struggle in school and how important it is for them to feel relaxed and understood the first time they come with their family.

Well, the good news is that Augie arrived yesterday evening for his first individual session and did not appear sad at all. As a matter of fact, he shoo’d his dad and brother away and was eager to be on his own and get started. ‘Now this is a different boy’ I thought to myself. As the session wore on, I had a growing sense that Augie compares himself very unfavorably to his dad and brother, both of whom are traditional learners unlike him. His dad told me at the end of the session he was concerned that Augie couldn’t quickly add numbers in his head like his younger brother when they are in the car together. I recommended this dad hold off on doing this kind of math game in the car until I gave him the green light.

The reason for holding off, I explained, is that Augie is delayed in some basic math skills ONLY because he has not been taught math in a concrete, experiential manner. I reminded dad that Augie has the OptiKode Learning Style of an athlete and that these kinds of learner always need a very concrete, hands-on approach to math or they will NOT develop a strong math sense. I explained to dad that I had done some very concrete math tasks with Augie and he had performed beautifully. I had Augie counting forwards and backwards at random starting points on a number line BUT I made sure he used counting cubes and a picture puzzle with numbers. to do this. Augie had his whole body involved in the process and was 100% correct on everything. Dad was quite surprised to hear this since Augie’s classroom teacher had sent home a list of math skills Augie had NOT mastered. Nevertheless, he had just done these things flawlessly because I know how he learns best -kinesthetically.. I underscored for Augie’s dad that I would be doing all my math remediation work with him over the summer in the same active, kinesthetic way. Thankfully dad came on board and now understands that if Augie is going to develop a stable math foundation he needs to do so kinetically, His OptiKode prescribes this kind of active approach and in the first session this was confirmed.

Regarding his reading skills, the assessment I did showed that Augie was not far behind grade level in reading - this was good news. At the same time I did see that when he got to words that were hard to decode, Augie’s voice dropped to a whisper and he seemed nearly immobilized. Clearly this was pointing again to the kind of worry and anxiousness that I witnessed the first evening when the whole family was in my office. Augie’s OptiKode Learning Style also reveals that he is a very systematic learner, not just a kinesthetic learner, and will quickly progress when he is given a step-by-step program that will help him build needed skills in an efficient manner.

At the end of the session, Augie was eager to use the points he accumulated during our hour together and pick out his prize. It was abundantly clear that he had had a good, in large part because he was able to be active during the learning periods and the two short breaks he took. During the first short break we played a quick game of magnetic darts and he spent the other break on my indoor swing. Yes - kids love this swing; it’s the thing they notice the minute they walk in my office. Swinging help active learners reboot when their mind is tired and it also helps them develop core strength which many students are lacking due to the overuse of screens. Adequate core strength, which gets developed by running, climbing, jumping, and swinging develops a part of the brain which is responsible for focus and attention. Parents all know that limiting screen time is essential; getting you kids’ bodies in motion instead will ensure they have the focus they need to be happy, successful learners.

Augie left saying ‘i had fun’ and sporting a big smile on his face. One thing I have flagged and will continue to assess in the coming weeks is whether there are signs pointing to Augie having ADD/ADHD. I saw more distractibility and loss of focus in him than is normal and the intermittent sadness and sudden drop of confidence also are red flags for me. The first 4 sessions are times where I keep my radar up so I can pick up signs of learning disabilities that might be contributing to learning difficulty. The truth is at least half the students in my practice have one or more learning disabilities and it is essential to pick them up as early as possible. If I see signs, I have a list of different specialists I refer parents to. Every year, I initiate referrals with approximately 25% of my students. 95% of the time I am correct and a specialist I refer makes an official diagnosis. Though this can be hard for parents at first, early intervention makes a world of difference academically and psychologically to children.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where I will write more about the kinesthetic tools and strategies that I will be getting on board with Augie so that he can enjoy reading and build skills the kinesthetic way his OptiKode requires.