As we can see in the visual to the right, learning develops in steps or phases, and academic knowledge is the culmination at the top. Successful learning in school is dependent upon strongly developed underlying processes. Although each of the processes, or rungs, are not learned in isolation, they do build on one another and weaknesses in the lower part of the ladder effect all the rungs above. Therefore, when trying to address issues in the higher levels, it is important to look more closely at the steps below to determine where more hidden weaknesses lie. Addressing these areas will support the development of the upper rungs, sometimes without ever directly doing interventions in those areas.
This means that there should not simply be one approach when helping your child. The school's typical response, especially in this day and age of high stakes testing, is to remediate by providing more instructional opportunities. This method works best when the deficit is that the child has missed educational opportunities for reasons such as a move, undiagnosed hearing loss that is now being corrected with hearing aides, or illness that may have kept the child out of school for an extended period of time. Sometimes the child has matured since the time of when initial learning took place and is now more developmentally ready to receive it.
Experienced teachers can attest that children who struggle usually have other identifiable characteristics, such as not being able to jump rope, having poor balance and coordination, no being able to sit still, constantly falling or crashing into walls, and having poor fine motor skills in writing and/or speech. Their learning struggles are deeper than needing more instruction. If this is the case, the intervention needs to go beyond simply providing more academic support.
Lisa Ann de Garcia, MA, MEd.