Learning Breakdowns

  • We at Learning Matters are indebted to late Dr. Mel Levine and his colleagues at the All Kinds of Minds Institute for synthesising decades of brain research and developing a comprehensive model for understanding how all children learn. Our approach to understanding and working with struggling learners directly stems from his philosophy.

    In contrast to prevailing views regarding learning disabilities, we at Learning Matters do not adhere to “deficit model” thinking. This means that while we are interested in what is difficult for a child, we are equally focused on developing a child’s strengths. Also, we prefer to describe behaviour rather than label children. Therefore, we tend not to use terms such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. We find labels to be stigmatising and rarely helpful in planning for a child’s education. Instead, when we encounter a child who is struggling with learning, we attempt to understand the child’s learning profile—his/her unique set of strengths and weaknesses across Dr. Levine’s identified eight neurodevelopmental functions. These are brain (i.e., “neuro”) functions that change over time (i.e., are “developmental”).

  • We also analyse the educational demands being placed on the child, recognising that both the child’s brain functioning and school-based demands will change over time. Thus, although a child may struggle in particular ways at particular times, the same child may perform very well at other times. For example, a child who struggles with remembering the sounds of letters and, therefore, reads dysfluently may otherwise have strong language skills (e.g., good vocabulary and comprehension skills). This child will struggle in the early grades, when reading decoding is emphasised. In contrast, the later grades will be easier, when reading comprehension is of greater concern. In all, we celebrate the child’s capacity to grow and change and promote healthy adjustment for life beyond school when the child will be allowed to function within his or her area of ability.

    Of course, learning difficulties occur on a continuum and certain learning problems are more pervasive and severe than others. Still, the majority of struggling students of average to above average intelligence are simply children with uneven learning profiles who can achieve once proper modifications are made to the curriculum. Accurate and timely help for such children enables them to develop necessary skills in reading, writing, and math, to maintain self-esteem and an optimistic outlook, and acquire a sense of mastery.

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