Celebrating Learning Differences Footnotes

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:

Auditory impairment through to deafness

The 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.’”

Our Footnotes Perspective:

As with other kinds of Auditory processing disorders, footnotes can act as a mapping tool for carers supporting an individual to know how much information is being understood through lip reading or sign language and other ways of communication. With the use of Footnotes grids users can also build up their own series of grids which help to notetake from what they have heard while using the structure of the grid to clearly show them what information they ideally need to hear again. Where appropriate it can also act as a shared communication tool where communication can be shared through quick and easy to images/symbols which can help to confirm understanding and also add the added benefit of describing some sound related information as meaning enhancing images.

Auditory Processing Disorder (AP

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.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

As with other kinds of Auditory processing disorders, footnotes can act as a mapping tool for carers supporting an individual to know how much information is being understood through lip reading or sign language and other ways of communication. With the use of Footnotes grids users can also build up their own series of grids which help to notetake from what they have heard while using the structure of the grid to clearly show them what information they ideally need to hear again. Where appropriate it can also act as a shared communication tool where communication can be shared through quick and easy to images/symbols which can help to confirm understanding and also add the added benefit of describing some sound related information as meaning enhancing images.

Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorders/Pervasive Development Disorder

Whilst varied in their presentations, these typically  include delays in how a child typically develops, problems with socializing and communicating, trouble when a routine changes, and repetitive movements and behaviours. But it’s actually not a term that doctors use anymore. PDDs are now called autism spectrum disorder. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) as described above are developmental disorders that affect children (and adults) by disrupting their ability to communicate and interact socially. 

Autism refers to a broad range of conditions. Children or adults with Autism may have an unusual interest in certain objects and may do the same thing over and over again, or talk constantly about specific things that interest them. Individuals with Autism often have difficulty with changes in routine and may have unusually strong reactions to one or more of their five senses. They may have unusually intense and prolonged emotional reactions. It is not uncommon for a person with Autism to have great ability in one area and great difficulty in another.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

We have seen that by harnessing basic drawing skills and using grid strategies, even individuals who were previously self elected non-mark makers have achieved exceptional breakthroughs in their abilities to order, communicate and rationalise. These breakthroughs often happen when the focus is directed away from the stigmatism and onto the task at hand. Footnotes is a highly effective tool that is non confrontational and friendly in its approach.

Asperger Syndrome 

Also known as Asperger’s, is characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and perhaps non-verbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. Signs may be evident before two years of age. Asperger syndrome is often evident with an autism related presentation/diagnosis.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

People with Asperger syndrome can be particularly well developed in their visual capabilities ie good with imagination and visualisation. Footnotes aims to capitalise on these inherent skills which are often present to enable divergent thinking rather than convergent thinking. Footnotes provides trigger strategies which enable an individual to move from seeing in very personal and isolated thought patterns to more of a global perspective, particularly useful in the realm of communication and personal management skills.

ADHD 

This 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.

ADD

Is ADD and ADHD the same thing?

You may have heard the terms ADD and ADHD used interchangeably. Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are indeed the same condition, it’s just that ADHD has had several name changes in the last three decades.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Having the ability to be hyper alert or aware can in some situations be very handy! On the other hand if that skill seems to happen all the time then other simple skills like sitting still,listening and retelling what one heard becomes sometimes more than a bareable challenge. Enter Footnotes, which harnesses the multi aware skills and brings them into a managed aware state which in turn gives the user the ability to bite size focus more easily.

We have a lot more information on the subject of harnessing abilities of those labelled with ADHD / ADD so please do get in touch. But our Footnotes experience tells us that busy head thinkers can often find a hyper focused state in equal measure of so called attention deficit.. Footnotes focuses on giving these individuals the ability to use their big picture thinking in a productive way for the benefit of all concerned.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, also known as CDD, dementia infantalis, disintegrative psychosis or Heller’s syndrome is a rare condition characterized by late onset of developmental delays—or severe and sudden reversals—in language,social function, and motor skills. Researchers have not been successful in finding a cause for the disorder CDD has some similarity to autism and is sometimes considered a low-functioning form of it. In May 2013, CDD, along with other sub-types of PDD ( Asperger’s syndrome, autism and PDD-NOS), was fused into a single diagnostic term called”autism spectrum disorder”  Heller’s syndrome, is a rare pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) which involves regression of developmental ability in language, social function and motor skills. It is a devastating condition of unknown cause.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Footnotes grids provide a space for both the individual and those working with them to build a big picture view of recent activity so that memory and learnt actions can be re-triggered with picture recognition skills.The grids can, therefore, be very good for retracing steps, plus adding new actions to an existing set of schedule.

Dyscalculia

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

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Picture association strategies are one of the tactics that Footnotes uses to frame up and trigger understanding in the realms of maths. Einstein often referred to the process of Imagination and picture thinking as his way of dealing with complex mathematical challenges. Footnotes offers a range of visual thinking activities which help thinkers with the dyscalculia label to see the big picture  beyond the limits of questions and answers where maths can get personal.

Dyspraxia

A neurological disorder that is characterised by difficulty in muscle control, which can impact an individual’s ability to plan and process motor tasks. Although not a learning disability, dyspraxia often exists along with dyslexia, dyscalculia or ADHD. Individuals with dyspraxia sometimes have a degree of difficulty with thought and perception and may experience problems with movement and coordination, language, speech, and learning.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Having the ability to park/store quick trigger images or words on a grid can help an individual with  Dyspraxic tendencies to coordinate, plan and then communicate as guided by their pr organised set of prompts.

with regular use, this has proven to support aspects of the neuroplasticity of the individual. The act of drawing can also aid with hand/eye coordination which in turn can help with motor-related tasks.

Dysgraphia

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.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Sometimes the process of joining up the dots or leaving ones self a trail of breadcrumbs can enable coordination and reassurance of  sense of place to those with a Dyspraxia diagnosis. The process of drawing /doodling within the structures offered by Footnotes can be like learning to catch a ball. In the same way keeping a visual note of what the eye is perceiving helps to create pathways for thought that can have a direct onward benefit to functions like moving/sensing space and communication. The action of thinking what to draw/associate can open up a partnering of other senses, making the user feel more efficient.

Dyslexia

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.

Downs Syndrome.

Down syndrome is also known as trisomy 21, caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It occurs in about one per 1,000 babies born each year and is one of the most common chromosome abnormalities in humans. Down Syndrome is usually associated with physical growth delays, mild to moderate intellectual disability, and characteristic facial features.

Some children with Down syndrome are educated in typical school classes, while others require more specialized education.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Just because an individual doesn’t always communicate all that they see,feel or think, that doesn’t mean that they’re not sensing and knowing lots of things beyond description. Footnotes can scale up or down its mapping tool so that even the simplest of mark making can be recorded. We have witnessed where the accumulation of marks gathered in one place can form the beginnings of an information and communication platform. Footnotes provides a place for collaborative learning in an instant, lasting for as little or as long as focus permits.

So with such a range of skills and disabilities displayed in Downs Syndrome, Footnotes can be applied whatever the availability of the user. By the way Footnotes grids are two sided so that means that a collaborator can make their own notes alongside.

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.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Footnotes techniques offer a function a bit like an imaginary friend, who is always there and ready to gather, remind and coordinate the user. Simple alongside activities enable the easily distracted / fast thinker to be able troubleshoot and do the observant functions they are gifted at doing, while their grids do the jobs they are less a natural at. Once these techniques become habit, the user can feel much more on top of their organisational challenges.

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.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

As with other kinds of Auditory processing disorders, footnotes can act as a mapping tool for carers supporting an individual to know how much information is being understood through lip reading or sign language and other ways of communication. With the use of Footnotes grids users can also build up their own series of grids which help to note-take from what they have heard while using the structure of the grid to clearly show them what information they ideally need to hear again. Where appropriate it can also act as a shared communication tool where communication can be shared through quick and easy to images/symbols which can help to confirm understanding and also add the added benefit of describing some sound related information as meaning enhancing images.

Linear Thinking

“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.

Learning to grasp concepts of thinking and understanding in visual terms for a linear thinker often causes a period of initial unrest and/or frustration. This is because linear thinkers like rules with their learning; a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way, formulas, and coding. They like to see the clearly defined pathway of learning that they are going to take, before they embark on any learning assignment and they feel very uncomfortable in the open ended journey of ‘big picture’ thinking where visual learners flourish. This process can seem messy, therefore disorganised; unskilled therefore unprofessional. Some linear thinkers might not even consider such learning strategies as worthwhile or comprehensible due to their long-windedness. 

Our Footnotes Perspective:

True learning is individual and unique. It is usually processed internally. True discovery is found by walking paths that have not yet been trodden.

Linear thinkers may not even be aware that visual thinking could offer a wider sense of learning or understanding of a subject matter. Educational systems in the main do not support learning styles outside linear (sequential) processing, therefore many people do not get to explore their own auditory/visual/kinaesthetic balance and their preferred combinations for learning within these styles.

The ideal would be for a linear learner to find their own balance (eg auditory+visual or visual+kinaesthetic etc) and to harness the strengths of each style to create a super enhanced learning/retention capability.

Memory Loss/Alzheimer’s/Dementia

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.

Alzheimer’s, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gradually worsens over time. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events.

Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long-term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is severe enough to affect daily functioning. Other common symptoms include emotional problems, difficulties with language, and a decrease in motivation . Consciousness is usually not affected.  A dementia diagnosis requires a change from a person’s usual mental functioning and a greater decline than one would expect due to aging. These diseases have a significant effect on caregivers.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Because images/picture thinking activates long term memory triggers, by incorporating visual thinking into our short term memory strategies, we can develop higher functioning of our brains, against the flow of our modern culture of short term memory function. i.e.

The use of pictures for storyline have proven to be effective at recalling initially long term memory, but with practice even some shorter term memories. With the understanding that both of these illnesses lose functionality in certain parts of the brain harnessing picture thinking strategies can help information to arc more easily with the potential for more joined up memories. As an example when we introduced certain drawing activities with individuals who had dementia and Alzheimer’s over a period of weeks of repeat visits, the individuals seemed to make longer range connections and hold their attention for greater periods of time. 

Footnotes also offers systems for retraining of memory.

Multi Lingual/Third Culture

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

Our Footnotes Perspective:

Footnotes has proved itself to be a very useful tool for a multilingual third culture kid ( and the big kids too) With so many languages and ways of thinking all wrapped up into one identity it’s important to keep all that unique thinking alive. The grids do that, they don’t rely on specific language or even order to hold large amounts of information in a multilayered menu format. Footnotes promotes and helps to maintain unique identities, whilst offering support when the unique identity wants to be understood or at least to be able to relate.

Non-Verbal Learning

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.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

The Footnotes Grids can be used to translate and or mirror nonverbal cues. The act of drawing simple trigger images into a grid can, for example, help to create an action plan or communication/speech board. It can also provide a space for those sometimes but random developments along the way which might help to highlight needs but also abilities.

Stroke 

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. A stroke is a medical emergency and prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications. The use of hydrogen gas for stroke victims has seen remarkable results in recovery of function. The good news is that medical knowledge is increasing within the field of strokes and this in turn has lead to an increase in preventative lifestyle behaviour and public awareness.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

As a stroke can cause one’s senses and perceptions to alter both physically and mentally, Footnotes can provide an effective mapping tool for reapplying understanding to one’s own being.

Where memory loss or language skills deficit after having a stroke, Footnotes strategies can be used to unearth language memory or, when necessary, establish first tools for effective methods the re-learning of language and communication.

Visually impaired through to blindness (- 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. It is entirely possible for a person who is blind to be a visual/spatial thinker.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

The Footnotes strategies have the potential to become a sensory accompaniment to Braille.

For those  usual thinkers both blind from birth and those who have lost their sight at a later stage, Footnotes can be a great aid to capturing Braille like grids for processing in the same manner as sighted people.

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.

Our Footnotes Perspective:

The folded grids (used in various sizes) can enable simple marks to be made in isolation so that as a whole, simple images together can work together to relay a big picture message. This means that images don’t need to be elaborate or joined up with other parts of the overall collection of images. This can give the user the confidence to mark make at will without concern of it ruining or disrupting other parts of the mapped image. Depending on need, the grid can be folded down so that only one gridlet (one of the 16 boxes) is drawable at end one time. Which means that the borders between each part of the grid/map can be kept clear so that all of the segments of images can be seen clearly. There is much more that Footnotes can offer, so it might be worth booking a bespoke online session to explore your specific needs more closely.

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.

Celebrating Learning Differences Footnotes

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’.

External links which might be of interest

Here are a couple of speakers who I present with, John and Thomas.

Professor John Stein speaks about the gifts of Dyslexia.
https://www.ox.ac.uk/news-and-events/find-an-expert/professor-john-stein

Thomas West speaks about Creative Visual Thinkers.
https://krasnow.gmu.edu/trustees/biotw/