I hold as a fundamental belief that all Children want to learn and succeed in school, although they may eventually compensate for their learning struggles by appearing not to care. To a child to whom learning does not come naturally, he has to use so much mental effort to concentrate and learn during the school day that he cannot fathom the idea of having to continue at home in the form of homework. If you have ever taken an academic class in a foreign language, you might recollect the effort it takes to concentrate. One can spend only so much time in such a focused state before all attention is lost. I can remember such a time when I took a linguistics course at a university in Mexico where I was an exchange student learning Spanish. The class was so cognitively demanding that I could only concentrate for about 15-20 minutes, after which I was really not capturing the information. My brain was simply too tired.
Children who struggle are not able to keep up with their classmates in one or more areas, which can be as frustrating to the teacher as the student. Why do so many students struggle? Many experts who have carefully observed children with learning difficulties have noticed that most, if not all, of these children also have issues with motor and balance. They have come to realize that motor development and learning go hand in hand. I have found this to be true in my own practice. A couple of years ago, when I didn’t know what else to do, I simply put jump ropes in the hands of my 4th -6th grade students and not a one of them initially could jump rope. Now, I not only test my students for their developmental level in mathematics (see Appendix D for my developmental math assessment), but I check for a variety of markers of their motor development as well. I have been noticing that students with more severe learning problems also have more severe motor issues than others.
Learning difficulties are often neurologically based, and can also lead to behavior and emotional problems. Studies have indicated that more than 80% of prisoners had a serious learning problem as a child (Ratey, 2008). Allan Bermann found that visual perception was the disability that occurred most often in a group of delinquent children, followed by auditory memory and language deficit (Phelong, 1997). If we rather than just an academic or behavioral one, especially at a young age, how many of them could we save from a lifetime of struggle?
---From my book: Movement Makes Math Meaningful: Away from the Desk Math Lessons Aligned with the Common Core, Page 11
Lisa Ann de Garcia, MA, MEd.