valentines day post smallLearning can stall for many reasons, or maybe it hasn’t even begun yet; here’s a list of 5 solutions to get you started.

Solution #1: Reduce the task size

What does it mean when your learner says–or shows through behavior–that “It’s too hard! I am not going to do this! No!”

It means that it’s too hard. Period. So then what? We default to Solution #1: Keep the task size small and manageable. This is crucial, and we often forget this simple aid to learning. Particularly where Down syndrome is in the mix, we have to steer clear of triggering that hidden syndrome, FOF Syndrome (a diagnosis I totally fabricated, based on experience.) It’s Fear of Failure Syndrome. 

You’ve all seen it: it’s that “I’m outta here” look we’re given when what we’re asking of the learner is, well, just too much. To help us understand how to get the task size to truly manageable, we move on to Solution #2.

Solution #2: Looking through your learner’s eyes

Get behind the vision of your child/teen/adult. How does the page you’re looking at look to them? Chances are it’s overwhelming; maybe cluttered, a huge field of text (to their eyes), no white space where the eyes and brain can rest for a second, and the type’s too small?DREAMING ABOUT READING 72 res

Change it. Re-create the page. Photocopy text at double the size; cut and paste; transform one page into several. Do what you need to do to make this task appear do-able. That is half the secret of teaching to our learners with DS. If they feel like they can manage it, they will. If it looks to them like they’ll fail for sure, they won’t even try.

Solution #3: . Keep the focus on topics of high interest to the learner

Those of you who have my book, “Whole Child Reading” know this already: We go in through the heart and teach to the brain. This “high interest” is the heart part. We use topics dear to the heart of the child to teach reading, for example. As much as possible, we engage the high interest of the learner. This is key. We now have information thanks to the new field of the Neurology of Learning; we understand how important engagement is to trigger those hot-shot neurotransmitters. Those are the MVPs that keep our learners learning: acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine…we need them on our team.

Solution #4: Frequency of repetition works miracles1295466799599190482heartstrings-1

I tutor learners with Down syndrome in reading. I see a student just once a week, and I can tell you in a minute whether anyone worked with that learner during the week…or not. When my son Jonathan (DS, now 33) was 5 and I was teaching him to read, I taught him virtually every day for 2 and 1/2 years. I was then thrilled–and surprised–to realize that I had worked myself out of a job; he was reading on his own.

We know from neurology that repetition and frequency creates magic in helping the brain retain information. Not only that, speed is important; using the Fast Flash method to teach any words by sight is proof of that. I have seen parents’ jaws drop with astonishment when their children quickly retain words through that method.

Solution #5: If it ain’t working, switch tracks

Remember that quote attributed to Albert Einstein? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Thanks, Al. If a particular modality isn’t helping your child to learn, pitch it and try something else. Don’t keep using the same broken tool. What works for one child with DS isn’t going to work for all. Keep looking until you find something that does work.

Okay, that’s enough for one day. These are just common sense solutions, but sometimes we’re so overwhelmed from trying to meet everyone’s needs, our common sense hides exhausted under the chaos. Hopefully these 5 guideposts will lead you out of a stall into success!

I know you can do this!GIRL IN PURPLE, THUIMBS UP


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  • Stephen

    Natalie, you are terrific!

  • Marie Iacono

    Natalie :: thank you thank you ! We were hoping to meet you in Orlando we see you moved 🙁 We live in New York our son is 32 and does a little reading! Your idea of reputation is wonderful l!! We saw an example of the simple repetitive type of little book you created .. but we can’t find Can you remind us so we can make this happen ! We have an idea to start slow and make the little books with big letters in either Costco or Walgreens they are very reasonable and we feel my son will take to them very well.. where Can I find your example of the book ? Thank you so much I️ know thanks to you we can make this dream come true for MICHAEL ! Sincerely, Marie

    • Natalie Hale

      Hi, Marie- I think you will find the information you’re looking for if you will go to my blog page and use the search box there; type in PERSONAL BOOKS. That will pull up all the articles I’ve written on the topic, with “how to” pictures. Give it a try! And I will be in Dallas in July for the 2018 NDSC conference; if you’re there, stop by my exhibitor’s book and ask me your questions! You can also sign up on this site for a “personal consult” on the top menu bar; that gives you an hour with me to talk over your son’s reading situation.

  • Marie Iacono

    Thank you for your warm wonderful heart! For caring and sharing this method of yours ..we will start slow thru repetition then I’ll let you can let us know when we are ready to expand and purchase your material .
    God bless you
    The Iacono family