Understanding Your Child Behavior

Last month I introduced the general principles that Dr. Mel Levine describes to helping parents and teachers understand differences in a child’s learning. Dr. Levine’s ideas are presented in his book, learning systems everyone has are:

1. Attention Control –The system that controls focus, alertness, planning and completion of tasks.

2. Memory – The system that helps the child store information and retrieve it.

3. Language – The way a child uses words to speak, write, and read.

4. Spatial Ordering – How your child organizes information in visual patterns, seeing how things fit together.

5. Sequential Ordering – The system that helps your child see the steps in solving a problem, follow directions, or manage time.

6. Motor Skills – How your child writes or draws, plays a sport, or ride a bike.

7. Higher Thinking – The system that helps your child solve problems and think critically and creatively.

8. Social Thinking –How your child makes friends, works in teams, and addresses conflicts.

In this column, I discuss the learning system Attention Control, keeping in perspective that these systems are interrelated and all need to work together for learning to occur  (Attentional Control is not necessarily ADHD or ADD).  Attention control is the command center for our mental processes that control learning and behavior. In school students must use their attention skills to pay attention, attend to important information, and produce products (such as tests or assignments) that show what they learn. Different students will show different strengths and weaknesses in this area. Helping students understand their different facets of attention and ways to strengthen all aspects of attention can increase their success throughout life.

For example, if your child has difficulty concentrating try strategies such as having him complete his most difficult homework first, rather than waiting until the end when he, and you, are tired. Give her advanced warning before you transition to a new activity so she can mentally prepare for the adjustment (e.g., “In two minutes it is time to clean up and brush your teeth before bed.”) You can also allow your child to use brief periods of stretching or walking to refresh themselves. For example, your child can complete his spelling assignment, stretch as you lead a game of Simon Says, then return to work to complete a math assignment. Suggestions for teachers include providing frequent breaks during the day such as collecting papers, assisting the teacher, or by having students talk to each other about one or more facts or skills they are learning.