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Complex Learners: What to Look For

Friday, September 25, 2015

 

As parents and educators we understand that one size does not fit all. Your child might approach social situations slowly while someone else’s child jumps right in. One student learns best with verbal prompts while another does better with visual cues. Right out of the gate, children display preferences for how they take in and communicate information. Our brains are all “wired” differently.

But what happens when these differences are difficult to understand and interfere in a child’s ability to learn and negotiate his or her world?

Here are 5 areas where children’s behaviors may demonstrate underlying learning or sensory differences that create barriers to social and academic progress. Children who demonstrate difficulty in several or all of these areas may be complex learners, requiring strategic, individualized programs to support their engagement with learning.

Routines

Getting up and out of bed and ready to face the day is very challenging. Equally difficult may be a bedtime routine that allows for consistent and proper sleep. At the same time interruption of daily routine creates discomfort, anxiety and behavior issues. Transitions between one activity and the next, introducing new people and changing plans can all spark resistance and may even lead to “meltdowns.”

Friends

Children may not get invited to play dates or birthday parties, or may be frequently teased, even bullied. Not understanding the rules of games, talking too loudly or too quietly, misinterpreting social cues and exhibiting poor conflict resolution and coping strategies make it very hard to initiate and maintain friendships. Children may interrupt, display frustration, and generally “wear people down,” or they may retreat and become extremely shy and unresponsive.

Self-care

Bathing, combing hair, brushing teeth, and getting dressed create conflict and resistance. Children may be particularly bothered by the texture of a sweater, how certain socks feel, or a tag at the back of a shirt. They may be very sensitive to temperature, often feeling too hot or too cold. Children may also have an intense aversion to certain foods based on smell or texture, and be very picky eaters.

Organization

Initiating and completing tasks seems overwhelming, so there may be a lot of struggles with homework and household chores. Children may have very messy bedrooms, closets, and lockers. Following directions is problematic, and children have trouble remembering more than one direction at a time or remembering the order of a sequence of tasks. They may have trouble with focus, and get distracted by noise and visual information.

Academics

Reading, math and writing can all present significant challenges for complex learners. They may have trouble with specific concepts such as sounding out words, sequencing numbers, or understanding spelling rules. In addition there may be more general problems with retrieval and articulation of information. As a result, children may perform below grade level, or have gaps in their understanding and knowledge base.

Complex learners may be anxious, distractible, rigid, loud or shy, but they are also creative, clever, funny, passionate and persistent. Our work as parents and educators is to understand more about how they are “wired” and what supports will help them achieve their educational potential.

 

Anna Johnson is Head of School at The Wolf School in East Providence, a K-8 private special education school serving complex learners.  http://www.thewolfschool.org

This is part of an ongoing sponsored content series by GoLocal in partnership with The Wolf School.

 

Related Slideshow: 10 RI State Education Rankings

Prev Next

4th Grade Test Scores

Math

Rank: 26 out of 50

State Average Score: 241

National Average Score: 241

Reading

Rank: 18 out of 50

State Average Score: 223

National Average Score: 221

Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2013 Mathematics and Reading Assessments.

Prev Next

8th Grade Test Scores

Math

Rank: 27 out of 50

State Average Score: 284

National Average Score: 284

Reading

Rank: 25 out of 50

State Average Score: 267

National Average Score: 266

Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2013 Mathematics and Reading Assessments.

Prev Next

High School Dropout Rate

Rank: 10 out of 50

State Dropout Rate: 4.6%

National Average: 3.4%

Source: US Department of Education

Prev Next

High School Graduation Rate

Rank: 33 out of 50

State Graduation Rate: 76.4%

National Average: 78.2%

Source: US Department of Education

Prev Next

SAT Scores

Rank: 40 out of 50

State Combined Score Average: 1468

National Average: 1498

Source: College Board

Prev Next

High School AP Scores

Rank: 33 out of 50

State Percent of Class Scoring 3 or Higher on AP Exam: 14.6%

National Average: 20.1%

Source: College Board

Prev Next

Chance for Success

Rank: 21 out of 50

Grade: B-

National Average: C+

Source: Education Week Research Center

Note: Index that grades the nation and states on 13 indicators capturing the role that education plays as a person moves from childhood, through the K-12 system, and into college and the workforce.

Prev Next

K-12 Achievement Index

Rank: 27 out of 50

Grade: D+

National Average: C-

Source: Education Week Research Center

Note: Index that evaluates educational performance on 18 individual indicators that measure current achievement, improvements over time, and poverty-based disparities.

Prev Next

Per Pupil Expenditure

Rank: 5 out of 50

Amount Spent: $17,666

National Average: $10,938

Source: NEA Research, Estimates Database (2013)

Prev Next

Average Daily Attendance

Rank: 49 out of 50

State Average: 80.9%

National Average: 96.7%

Source: NEA Research, Estimates Database (2013)

Note: Figure reflects the aggregate attendance of a school during a reporting period divided by the number of days school is in session during this period.

 
 

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