LEARNING PROBLEMS AND ATTENTION DEFICITS

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Robert J. Doman Jr.

Each year, more and more children are being identified as having a problem that

affects their ability to learn and pay attention.

The first phase of a parent’s exposure to their child’s “problem” generally begins

with school reports. “He’s not learning math facts.” “She doesn’t know her sounds.”

“Your child cannot sit still.” “She doesn’t pay attention.” “He can’t follow directions,”

etc. As a result of these problems, a child’s grades may be poor, but not necessarily.

Phase II of the parent’s immersion into the “problem” is the school’s evaluation of the

child who has been “identified.” Following an evaluation, the child is often labeled and

classified. Labels range from simple learning disabilities to dyslexia, hyperactivity,

attention deficit disorders, minimal brain dysfunction, perceptually impairment, and a

long list of labels depicting problems, deficits, and diseases. Labeling is part of a process

where evaluation identifies and classifies problems.

Classification is an administrative process by which the child is placed into a

category so as to receive state funding, and then be placed in an “appropriate” program or

class. The process often leaves parents confused and frustrated, wondering what

happened to the child that they thought was “normal” if not bright.

Problems associated with learning and attention are often cloaked in mystery.

Parents have difficulty discovering where the problem came from, what it really is, what

specifically is going to be done to eliminate the problem, if anything, and what the future

holds for their child.

Parents are rarely told that those learning problems and problems associated with

attention, regardless of what they are called, can be understood, treated, and eliminated.

Parents and their children need to know.

The first step in understanding such problems is to look at them in proper

perspective. Such problems are the reflection of neurological inefficiencies. Nearly

everyone has inefficiencies. Virtually every child who is evaluated is found to have

inefficiencies simply because humans are in continual development.

What are the inefficiencies? Neurological inefficiencies effect how our brains

receive, process, store, and utilize information. A specific inefficiency effects one or

more of these processes.

Identification of the specific inefficiency affecting the child begins with looking

at what the child’s brain is receiving. Are the eyes and ears communicating the proper

information to brain? Often, the major problems effecting vision include myopia (near-

sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), convergence problems (cross-eyed, amblyopia,

lazy eye, wall eyes) and astigmatism. These problems can usually be addressed and

treated or remedied. The major problems generally effecting hearing include

hypersensitivity to sound, hearing losses, frequency losses, or inconsistent hearing

resulting from fluid or pressure within the ears. As with visual problems, problems with

hearing are treatable if identified. One of the great breakthroughs for auditory problems

has been the development of The Listening Program. The National Association for Child

Development and Advanced Brain Technologies created The Listening Program to

promote development through active and passive listening.

If the child does not have a problem receiving information (the eyes and ears

work properly), the next step is to evaluate how the child processes information. We

relate processing to short-term memory as reflected in visual and auditory digit spans. To

be processing appropriately, a 3-year-old should have a visual and auditory digit span of

3, a 4-year-old should have a visual and auditory digit span of 4, a 5-year-old a span of 5,

a 6-year-old a span of 6, and a 7- year-old a span of 7. Seven digits are considered normal

at 7 years, 10 years, 20 years, etc. Processing issues can be addressed by providing the

child with good quality auditory and/or visual input, or more specifically, through the use

of specific software such as Brain Builder and Project + 2.

Following the identification and treatment of problems associated with receiving

and processing information, the child’s storage of information needs to be looked at. We

relate storage to long-term memory. Storage problems are reflections of neurological

dysorganization, specifically dysorganization of the cortex. Cortical dysorganization

creates, or is a reflection of, a laterality problem. Failure to organize the cortex and

establish laterality can result in storage problems, language issues, and emotionality

Remediation of laterality problems requires identification of any dysorganization,

which may exist at any level of the brain. The application of the appropriate input so as to

organize the brain is required for proper development. The process of organization

culminates with the establishment of laterality and brain specificity, which provides for

the necessary storage, long-term memory, and retrieval, as well as the necessary

emotional controls needed for function with the classroom and in testing situations.

The final piece of this almost completed puzzle involves utilization of

information, the ability to retrieve information at will. Utilization is dependent upon how

efficiently one receives, processes, and stores the information as well as the physical

environment of the brain and the psychological environment of the individual.

The child’s general health, allergies, nutrition, and respiration influence the

physical environment of the brain. Modification of diet can often improve the

environment and function of the brain as can improvement of breathing. The

psychological environment can greatly affect the child’s performance. The learning

environment needs to be positive and reinforcing in order for the child’s function to truly

reflect the ability to learn and perform.

Inefficiencies associated with learning and attending are universal. Such

inefficiencies can also be universally eliminated if approached specifically in terms of the

child’s ability to receive, process, store, and utilize information.