5 SOLUTIONS FOR GETTING YOUR LEARNER “UNSTUCK”
Learning 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?
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 miracles
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!