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Could Your Struggling Kid Actually Be a Visual-Spatial Learner?

John*, as his mother will explain in an exhausted tone, is an energetic child. He loves Legos, creating unique contraptions, and he appreciates complex conceptual challenges. But in kindergarten and first grade, he struggled with many subjects. While he enjoyed discussing larger math concepts like infinity and fractals, he battled with basic math facts, spelling, and even writing (and was later diagnosed with dyslexia).


John was also very sensitive. When he knew that his teachers or other children were frustrated with him, he, in turn, acted out in frustration. He was eventually asked to leave first grade due to behavior problems.

John is what is called a visual-spatial learner.

According to Linda Kreger Silverman, an expert in visual-spatial learners, children like John “are individuals who think in pictures rather than in words. They have a different brain organization than auditory-sequential learners. They learn better visually than auditorily.”

 

 

Additionally, visual-spatial learners tend to learn holistically or non-sequentially. This results in their sometimes arriving at solutions without going through the usual steps. Showing your work, often required by teachers, may be impossible and sometimes results in accusals of cheating. Visual-spatial learners may succeed in solving difficult problems while finding simpler tasks a challenge. Teachers might interpret this kind of student as being obstinate or contrary.

In one interaction with John, then seven years old, he informed me that “the parts of a tree are all the same.” I had a feeling he was onto something, so I encouraged him: “But an apple isn’t the same as its bark or its leaves. I can’t eat the bark of an apple tree, but I can eat the apple,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, searching for words to describe a concept that seemed so clear in his mind. “But the leaves, the apple, the bark, the wood, the roots – it’s all the same, through and through.” When I asked how he knew this, he strained to articulate his idea. Eventually, though he wasn’t able to give me the proper term, I believe he was describing what we call DNA.

Most teaching techniques in our schools are designed for linear-sequential learners whose learning progresses from easy to difficult material. Subjects are taught in a step-by-step fashion, practiced with drill and repetition, assessed under timed conditions, and then reviewed. Problem solving and learning is done in a systematic manner, using a series of logical steps: Memorize the math facts and then do algebra, or learn to read and write and then write your own story.

While these techniques work for some learners, they are counter to the visual-spatial style. More and more, I see children on the visual-spatial spectrum who don’t yet have the sequential learning skills required early on in school.

How to recognize a visual-spatial learner

Below are some general identifiers from Silverman. The appearance of one or even several of these does not necessarily indicate a visual-spatial learner. But if many indicators are evident, it’s worth looking into:

●    Thinks in images instead of words

●    Resists demonstrating what she or he knows

●    Has trouble with timed tests

●    Takes things apart to find out how they work

●    Is frustrated with writing assignments

●    Solves problems in unusual ways

●    Doesn’t memorize math facts easily

●    Reaches correct conclusions without apparent steps

●    Dislikes public speaking

●    Is not a good speller

●    Doesn’t budget time well

●    Doesn’t have neat handwriting

●    Is extraordinarily imaginative

●    Oral expression is much better than written expression

●    Is not well organized

One thing I would add to this list is the spatial component of thought. One child described it as thoughts that come in “chunks” or “globs.” Complex ideas present in units, and it’s in this way that many visual-spatial thinkers synthesize thoughts. So, I would add, “thinking in chunks.”

Today, I see many students trying to cope with an education system that doesn’t fit their learning style. Unfortunately, most professionals tasked with helping these children are trained to focus on behavior rather than learning style. As a result, these children are often given labels that only partly address their problem, or that don’t address their problem at all.

What can we do?

Andrew, another visual-spatial learner, was having problems in school. When he finished first grade, his parents decided to homeschool him. At a certain point in the school year, he asked, “What caused WWII?”

With his mother’s guidance, he researched the subject. He watched documentaries, acted out battle scenes, read maps, and used other aids to satisfy and stimulate his visual-spatial needs to find answers. Years later, he could probably still discuss, even reenact, some causes of WWII.

Andrew is now at a school that understands his learning style. Teachers allow him to study in-depth what engages him, even if topics are beyond his grade level.

Jeannie, a highly visual-spatial third grader, was refusing to go to school and cutting her arm daily. A mental health professional told her parents that she may have ADHD and depression. Medication was prescribed.

Instead, the parents decided to pull Jeannie from school. She stopped cutting immediately and exhibited happy behavior. This marked the beginning of the family’s journey in discovering Jeannie’s needs. They’ve since sought my help, and as part of that, have obtained appropriate assessments.

While Jeannie is sensitive, she shows no signs of depression. Her parents’ goal is to help her follow her interests, while making sure she learns the essentials. They’ve found, through some trial and error, that a mix of homeschooling methods, including “unschooling,” are the best fit for their daughter’s learning style.

Jeannie continues to be engaged, and while she previously had difficulties connecting with others, she now has a close group of friends with shared interests.

Schools designed for visual-spatial learners are obviously most appropriate for these children. Based on a homeschooling model, these “micro-schools” follow the intellectual curiosity of the children with project-based and learner-driven techniques. They address the varying needs of children through techniques such as Montessori math, (a process-oriented, tactile, and visual way of learning math), technology, and experiential learning methods. Their high student-teacher ratio and high teacher retention are key to creating and maintaining important relationships that develop over the years.

That there is great concern in our school systems’ ability to educate every child well, and it goes without saying that many parents cannot afford to homeschool or pay for a private school. But we can all agree that, when a child is having difficulties, it’s best to get to the root of the problem, seek resolution, and support the child at the earliest possible age. I speak for many parents who have discovered a successful educational fit for their child.

It is my hope that our public-school system can learn from techniques with which these micro-schools are finding success and incorporate them into their methodologies. Visual-spatial children are key to our societal advancement. As Silverman has found, they are often some of the most gifted creatively, technologically, mathematically, and emotionally.

Visual-spatial children are an integral part of what our future needs to be.

*Names have been changed for the purposes of the article.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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