Learning difficulties in children.
- Typical problems discussed by age.
- What causes these difficulties and what can be done.
Learning Difficulties in Children
The Cause of Common Problems & How Gemm Helps
Our cognitive and reading software helps learning difficulties in children, by targeting deep seated cognitive and language issues, using various learning mechanisms to affect change.
Elementary Age Learning Problems
Cannot follow multi-step instructions
The ability to take in and retain directions or instructions is a common learning difficulty for children that impacts classroom productivity and homework efficiency. Sometimes this is just "5-year-old-itis," but more often it is indicative of a processing or memory deficit that should be treated.
What's Going On: Following directions calls on many skills: accurate listening, vocabulary, focus, good working memory skills, and efficient processing to derive meaning from what is heard. Most often the heart of the issue is processing speed -- people are talking faster than your child can process. This can lead to all kinds of learning difficulties in children of all ages.
What Gemm Can Do: Processing skills are the prime focus of our Fast ForWord learning software. It speeds up processing in tiny incremental steps, the end goal being accurate processing at natural language speed. An improvement in following directions is often one of the first changes reported by clients.
Weak vocabulary and/or sentence construction
Delayed use of multiple syllable words and/or intangibles are symptoms of a vocabulary difficulty, as is mispronouncing of words, e.g., mazagine for magazine. This often coincides with an inability to form more complex sentences that use words like because or after to join ideas.
What's Going On: Weak auditory processing makes it hard to process words clearly enough to have the confidence to use them. Processing deficits also create inefficiency that distracts from absorbing sentence language structure, and all of its nuances, simply by listening and observing, as is the case with skilled learners who learn language structure with only minimal instruction. Imperfect language understanding leads to all kinds of learning difficulties in children, academic and social.
What Gemm Can Do: Our Fast ForWord program strengthens auditory processing to improve learning and reading skills. It is used by 5,000 Speech and Language Pathologists in North America, in many cases purely focused on these kinds of vocabulary and speech delays.
Speech and language program
Inattentive & drifts off in class
If your child is constantly unsure of homework assignments and/or unfamiliar with the homework content, it is likely that he/she is not engaged in class. Oftentimes this can be easily confirmed by asking your child's teacher.
What's Going On: If a teacher seems to your child to be talking too quickly, it will be hard to stay engaged because he/she is not keeping up -- meaning material is missed -- or listening is exhausting and so the tendency is to tune out. While this behavior is often diagnosed as an attention deficit disorder, most often it is an auditory processing disorder related learning difficulty that can be treated.
What Gemm Can Do: By improving processing, our software effectively slows the world down for a student, making classroom instruction less exhausting to take in, and more interesting. These gains in classroom performance are an important driver of the improved grades experienced by most Gemm students.
Helping attention deficit disorder
Does not participate -- in conversation or in class
While some children are quiet by nature, participation is an important aspect of learning. It builds confidence, it allows children to test their understanding and it promotes learning.
What's Going On: If a child cannot process at natural language speed, a lot is missed or not properly understood. This lack of certainty about what is being said leads to a probably wise decision not to participate. For outgoing children, wanting to participate, the challenge is a little different -- by the time they have processed what is being said and formulated a response/question, the moment has passed.
What Gemm Can Do: Our programs help participation by improving processing efficiency, slowing the world down for your child. More involvement in class and in conversation are amongst the early signs of change we hear from our clients.
Eroding confidence or self esteem
Healthy learning involves being open to new information and ideas, even when you know you may not understand it at first, i.e., healthy learners are risk takers. Taking a chance requires the confidence and self esteem to take failure in stride, confidence that many struggling learners do not possess.
What's Going On: There are a lot of factors that go into confidence and self-esteem -- most relate to learning, some not. While most children start life brimming with learning confidence, failure takes its toll. A key indicator of learning difficulties in children is learning risk-aversion. A combination of frustration that others seem to find it easier, the humiliation of not being able to get what your parents or teachers clearly think should be easy, and the disappointment and fatigue of living in a world where everything is coming a little too fast, gradually eats into a child's confidence reservoir. Being a risk averse learner is the natural outcome -- it's self defense.
What Gemm Can Do: One of the first changes many parents report from our learning software is improved confidence. This is because Fast ForWord slows the world down for the learner, making it a little more manageable. While it takes a few months for these changes to convert into academic achievement, the feeling for your child that the learning difficulties are eroding -- learning success now seems more possible can have a profound impact on self-esteem and confidence. And, of course, improved confidence in itself is a powerful driver of improved learning.
Many children with reading problems also have writing difficulties. In elementary age children this most often shows up in an unwillingness to write or a drawn out period where one sentence takes far too long.
What's Going On: Writing is a reading and language skill. If a child is not processing efficiently, he/she is not observing language structure -- how ideas are organized, how sentences are structured -- when listening or reading. If your child is not reading well, expecting any real progress in writing is premature and misplaced.
What Gemm Can Do: While we are not a writing program per se, we develop the building blocks for writing. First, we make processing more efficient so that your child has more capacity to absorb language and story telling skills naturally. Second, we build reading skills, so that this same process can occur while reading. Along the way we build spelling, grammar, sentence syntax and vocabulary skills -- confidence and dexterity in these fundamental skills will promote writing fluidity.
Middle School & Older
Slow worker -- too much time over homework
If your child is spending more than an hour on middle school homework or two hours on high school homework, chances are there is a study skills glitch. You can confirm this by checking with the school.
What's Going On: Homework independence is the nexus of learning difficulties for children at middle and high school in particular. It requires focus in class, good reading and writing skills, and attention stamina. By far the most common difficulty is slow and/or ineffective reading where questions are read and reread without understanding.
What Gemm Can Do: Homework efficiency and independence is a goal for most clients, and for Gemm. Our software improves engagement in the classroom, attention stamina at home, and reading efficiency -- automatic, efficient decoding for speedier reading, and much improved reading comprehension.
Reading programs for struggling readers
While some children struggle with grades from the outset, many only run into learning difficulty in middle or high school where the escalating complexity in content exposes flawed learning skills.
What's Going On: Clearly if reading is a challenge, grades are hard to maintain as it impacts absorption of material and test taking performance -- slow reading of questions, and misunderstood questions. While there are many other reasons for disappointing grades -- learning and behavioral -- a couple of non-reading related deficits standout: working memory issues that impact test taking, particularly multiple choice, and attention deficits that undermine study skills and test day effectiveness.
What Gemm Can Do: Fast ForWord is a reading program -- our most significant impact on grades comes from our impact on reading efficiency. However, working memory is another fundamental skill that has a heavy emphasis in our program, helping test scores, most notably in multiple choice questions.
Poor writing skills
Weak writing skills -- torturous effort, poor grammar and spelling, overly simple story telling or structure -- represent the final and most challenging hurdle to high school graduation.
What's Going On: Good writing skills, in most cases, develop only after a student has become a good reader, where he/she can read with metacognition, thinking critically about the text. This in turn requires sound reading fundamentals. Unfortunately, curricula content pressure and artificial grade level standards divert educators from these fundamentals too early in many cases, leaving learning problems unresolved. This leads to sub-par reading skills, and then to sub-par writing skills.
What Gemm Can Do: Just like reading proficiency, writing requires practice. Our program helps generate reading practice by helping to make reading easier and less exhausting. If your child is struggling with reading and writing, our advice would be to focus on the reading first. Improved reading efficiency will help your child better absorb how content is written, helping writing through natural child learning.
Dislikes school -- school problems
While most children don't mind the school environment, many claim it is boring or that they are not learning anything.
What's Going On: It is human nature to want to avoid things you are not good at. As the famous F.A.T. City videos identify, for many students school is overwhelming and filled with daily frustrations -- teachers talking too fast, tests too hard to read -- and humiliations -- being asked a question in class, having to read out loud. It does not help that many children with learning difficulties are stuck in "resource rooms" receiving extra instruction which in many cases is drill oriented, i.e., boring.
What Gemm Can Do: Children are born curious, with a love of learning. Our software works at a fundamental level to help learning difficulties in children by removing the impediments to learning and reading, and to slow the world down for children. If we can make processing efficient, learning is more natural for your child, and school can be fun again.