Celebrating Learning Differences

We find cause to celebrate learning differences! For the majority of people, learning differences are commonly known as “Learning Disabilities”. Here at Footnotes, we prefer to focus on the ‘ability’ of a person, and repeatedly, we see high functioning autonomy, and abilities that happen in each individual that are expressed beyond the simple forms of communication – where most societies set their benchmarks. Indeed, we find time and time again that Footnotes strategies enable an effective capturing of the sometimes otherwise untapped creativity and skill sets that makes each of us so unique. Footnotes strategies are readily applicable to the following so called disabilities/disorders:

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
Also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, this is a condition that adversely affects how sound that travels unimpeded through the ear is processed or interpreted by the brain. Individuals with APD do not recognise subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. They can also find it difficult to tell where sounds are coming from, to make sense of the order of sounds, or to block out competing background noises.

A specific learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts. Individuals with this type of LD may also have poor comprehension of math symbols, may struggle with memorizing and organizing numbers, have difficulty telling time, or have trouble with counting.

A specific learning disability that affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills. Problems may include illegible handwriting, inconsistent spacing, poor spatial planning on paper, poor spelling, and difficulty composing writing as well as thinking and writing at the same time.

The signs and symptoms of dyslexia differ from person to person. Each individual with the condition will have a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Symptoms can include. Speech problems, such as not being able to pronounce long words properly or delayed speech development. Problems learning names and sounds of letters /putting letters and figures the wrong way round (such as writing “9” instead of “6” or “d” instead of “b”.
Visual disturbances when reading for example words and letters seeming to move around or appear blurred. Poor handwriting and spelling /slow writing speed. Difficulty planning and writing essays, letters or reports/ difficulty taking notes or copying. Some people with dyslexia also have other problems not directly connected to reading or writing. For example poor short-term memory poor organisation and time management. Problems concentrating and short attention span.

Our Footnotes perspective *

In order to help a dyslexic child, you should understand what dyslexia is.

We at Footnotes, like to think of dyslexia as more of an ability than a ‘dis’ability. We have seen how differences in learning styles when given an environment in which to flow, allows for expanded – even enhanced- ability and creativity. That’s why we believe it’s so important that individuals showing dyslexia traits are encouraged to focus on the very characteristic which in some learning and working environments are deemed a negative rather than a positive attribute. We are as unique as our fingerprints; why then would we assume that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to learning will be successful? We believe that those labelled with dyslexia often need to dual process and even multi layer their thinking to be able to better function. This ‘seeing the big picture’ approach is regularly the opposite advice given to so called ‘slow learners’ who are deemed to need ‘bite sized’ pieces of information in something of a formatted structure.

Language Processing Disorder
A specific type of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) in which there is difficulty attaching meaning to sound groups that form words, sentences and stories. While an APD affects the interpretation of all sounds coming into the brain, a Language Processing Disorder (LPD) relates only to the processing of language. LPD can affect expressive language and/or receptive language.

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities
A disorder which is usually characterised by a significant discrepancy between higher verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial and social skills. Typically, an individual with NLD (or NVLD) has trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language, and may have poor coordination.

Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
A disorder that affects the understanding of information that a person sees, or the ability to draw or copy. A characteristic seen in people with learning disabilities such as Dysgraphia or Non-verbal LD, it can result in missing subtle differences in shapes or printed letters, losing place frequently, struggles with cutting, holding pencil too tightly, or poor eye/hand coordination.

ADHD is a commonly used term to describe
a disorder that includes difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behaviour and hyperactivity. Although ADHD is not considered a learning disability, research indicates that from 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability, and that the two conditions can interact to make learning extremely challenging.

A disorder that is characterised by difficulty in muscle control, which causes problems with movement and coordination, language and speech, and can affect learning. Although not a learning disability, dyspraxia often exists along with dyslexia, dyscalculia or ADHD.

Executive Functioning
An inefficiency in the cognitive management systems of the brain that affects a variety of neuropsychological processes such as planning, organisation, strategising, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. Although not a learning disability, different patterns of weakness in executive functioning are almost always seen in the learning profiles of individuals who have specific learning disabilities or ADHD.

Three types of memory are important to learning. Working memory, short-term memory and long-term memory are used in the processing of both verbal and non-verbal information. If there are deficits in any or all of these types of memory, the ability to store and retrieve information required to carry out tasks can be impaired.

Autistic Disorder, is a commonly used term, also known as autism, childhood autism, early infantile autism, Kanner’s syndrome or infantile psychosis.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, also known as CDD, dementia infantalis, disintegrative psychosis or Heller’s syndrome.

Early infantile autism.

Kanner’s syndrome or infantile psychosis.

Asperger Syndrome, also known as Asperger’s disorder or simply Asperger’s.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, also known as CDD, dementia infantalis, disintegrative psychosis or Heller’s syndrome.

Dementia infantalis.

Disintegrative psychosis or Heller’s syndrome.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified), also known as PDD (NOS) or atypical autism.

Linear Thinkers
People who can pass exams but often need the support of a CV and qualifications to create a career. “Linear Thinking” is defined as a process of thought following known cycles or step-by-step progression where a response to a step must be elicited before another step is taken.

Visually impaired through to blind (- Yes! Blind people can ‘see’)
This is a severe reduction in vision that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses and reduces a person’s ability to function at certain or all tasks.

Auditory impairment through to deafness
he official definition of a hearing impairment by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is “an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a person’s educational performance but is not included under the definition of ‘deafness.’”

Multi Lingual – but no sense of mother tongue Illiterate (for example, people who are from a culture that don’t write down their communication)

We believe that the label of disability/disorder is an inappropriate classification in terms of the many different ways in which people function uniquely. We have observed at times, how ‘support’ for disabilities can cause unnecessary stigmatism. On top of the already heavy requirement on alternative learners to be able to jump through hoops to be ‘normalised’; the help that is offered often creates a sense of alienation, and in some cases an awareness of a problem that wasn’t realised before.

We are not interested in ‘normalising’ an individual, we are interested in celebrating their uniqueness.

In short; sometimes the ‘help’ creates more of a problem. Footnotes enables an individual to think in their preferred way, process in their preferred way and communicate with themselves in their preferred way. It becomes a powerful tool that gives people the ability to communicate with the world; with the detail and expression of intelligence that, in our opinion, is far greater than had previously been required of them in linear/lexical terms. We believe that these individuals profoundly excel when they don’t have to think in the thinking-style given to them. By using the Footnotes grids, they can have peace that they will develop a form of translation once they have identified all corners of their own thought concepts and context.

The other areas that Footnotes celebrates are the numerous benefits that are found by incorporating the grid strategies into everyday living. Understanding and communication becomes open for both the learner and their support, where it may have previously felt clumsy or heavy handed. Through the accumulation of understanding, subsequent emotional connections that become apparent there is much to celebrate! With all of these so called disabilities and disorders, we know that diagnosis is clumsy, and we love hearing from those people who feel that a specific diagnosis for their child ‘doesn’t quite fit’.