Complex Learners: What to Look For
Friday, September 25, 2015
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is part of an ongoing sponsored content series by GoLocal in partnership with The Wolf School.
Related Slideshow: 10 RI State Education Rankings
4th Grade Test Scores
Rank: 26 out of 50
State Average Score: 241
National Average Score: 241
Rank: 18 out of 50
State Average Score: 223
National Average Score: 221
8th Grade Test Scores
Rank: 27 out of 50
State Average Score: 284
National Average Score: 284
Rank: 25 out of 50
State Average Score: 267
National Average Score: 266
Chance for Success
Rank: 21 out of 50
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.
Average Daily Attendance
Rank: 49 out of 50
State Average: 80.9%
National Average: 96.7%
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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