"A MIND AT A TIME" by Mel Levine 

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Additional thought of Graham White in highlights.

Think of the tragedy when a child goes through life listening to caustic comments like "We know you can do better" or "He'll start succeeding when he makes up his mind that he wants to" or "She's got an attitude problem".  They suggest that a child is somehow academically immoral, guilty in the first degree of his or her own undoing!

All children can be helped once we identify the strengths of their minds as well as the potholes that get in the way of their success or mastery.  We can cultivate their minds by addressing the weaknesses and strengthening the strengths.

Everyone has areas of the mind that need some work.  It is only in recent years with research into learning, brain function and school failure that we have been able to develop approaches to the understanding of children's minds. It has enabled us to "demystify" how the brain works.  

It's taken for granted in adult society that we cannot all be generalists skilled in every area of learning and mastery.  Nevertheless, we apply tremendous pressure on our children to be good at everything.  In one way or another, all minds have their specialties and their frailties.

Each of us is endowed with a highly complex, inborn circuitry -- creating innumerable branching pathways of options and obstacles.  While some of us have brains that are wired to handle a lot of information oat once, others have brains that can absorb and process only a little information at a time (often with greater accuracy).  While some of us have brains that store and retrieve from memory with precision and speed, others possess brains that access facts more slowly or with less precision.  Some kinds of minds prefer to dream up their own original thoughts rather than drawing upon the ideas of others, and vice versa.

Although some of us have minds that are more comfortable and effective visualizing complex political or even religious ideas, others are apt to do much of their thinking in words and sentences.  So it is that we all live with minds wired to excel in one area and are challenged in another.  Hopefully, we discover and engage in good matches between our kind of mind and our pursuits in life.

Some price, modest or substantial, must be paid any time a mind is not forced or attempts to learn or perform something in a way for which it is not wired.

When people, adults and children, learn about their own gaps, they frequently show, or actually report, a sense of relief, because for the first time in their lives they are able to understand exactly why they've been struggling to meet certain demands and how they can go about conquering or bypassing these challenges.  They can forgive themselves and set about becoming stronger people.

If you have trouble writing, use dictation.

If you have trouble communicating when talking, use writing.

If you have trouble with both, try art.

The assumption may prevail that somehow a floundering student is not really trying, that he is lazy, unmotivated, or, perhaps, even worse, that he's "just not too bright."  

Neurodevelopmental dysfunction can be misread as behavior problems.

Attention Control System-directs the distribution of mental energy, so that we finish what we start and stay alert throughout the day.  Other controls of attention slow down our thinking so that we can plan and complete tasks competently and efficiently.  An example of attention control is a child's ability to resist the temptation to think about the party she's invited to tonight so she can concentrate on the word problem her math teacher is explaining.

The Memory System- Everyone has memory compartments that serve him well, while other parts of memory bring on varying degrees of frustration.  There are countless intellectually competent kids who unravel in school because they understand far better than they remember.  Ironically, there are many students with superb rote memory who succeed with flying colors through their school years simply by regurgitating factual data.  They may be far less successful during adult careers when memory plays much less of a starring role.

The Language System-The ease with which a brain detects differences between the forty-four or so different English language sounds, the ability to understand, remember, and start using new vocabulary, the capacity to express thoughts while speaking and on paper and the speed of comprehension needed to keep pace with a seemingly supersonic flow of verbal explanations and instructions.  Kids who are good with language are more likely to succeed throughout school.

The Spatial Ordering System-is designed to enable us to deal with or create information arranged in a gestalt, a visual pattern, or a configuration.  Through spatial ordering we perceive how parts of things fit together.  Spatial ordering also helps us organize the various material necessities of the day, such as pencils, notebooks, and other props needed for academic efficiency and proficiency.  Spatial ordering enables us to think with pictures, so a child hearing a story about Robin Hood can visualize the dramatic events, while a student in art class can picture the steps needed to undertake a ceramics project.

The Sequential Ordering System-forms the basis for time management, for understanding time, estimating time, allocating time and being aware of time's passage.

The Motor System-governs the very precise and complex network of tight connections between the brain and various muscles all over the body.  Being able to show off proficiency makes an important contribution to overall self-concept and confidence.

The Higher Thinking System-is the ability to problem-solve and reason logically, to form and make use of concepts (such as mass in physics), to understand how and when rules apply, and to get the point of a complicated idea.  Higher thinking also takes in critical and creative thinking.

The Social Thinking System-Some kids seem to be born with distinct social talents that allow for friendship formation and a solid reputation; others have to be taught how to relate.  A child (or adult) may be strong in the seven other Neurodevelopmental systems yet seem to fail in life because he or she is unable to behave in a way that fits appropriately with others of his age group.  In this way, you are severely limited by your weakest area of development.

Some children are blessed with profiles that are magnificently matched to expectations, while others are saddled with profiles that fail to mesh with demands.  A pattern of strengths and weaknesses may operate particularly well at specific ages and in certain contexts but not nearly so optimally in other times and under alternative circumstances.  Teaching and parenting entails helping kids make it through periods when they feel inadequate.

Not only may a mind come into its own at any time, but also a profile that is perfectly set up for success in school may not be nearly so well fitted for career attainment.  Parents can take solace in the well-documented finding that report cards are notoriously poor at predicting how your child will eventually do in a career.  Sometimes the very same traits that jeopardize your kid in third grade could evolve into his prize assets during adulthood.  Distractibility and daydreaming during reading class may be an attention deficit yet may also be early indicators of creativity and innovative thinking, "symptoms" tat will bolster he r career as a scriptwriter or music video producer.  A student's trouble understanding language may cause him to do much less of his thinking with worlds, as a result of which he strengthens his visual and spatial thinking, destined to serve him well two decades later in his career as a mechanical engineer designing nuclear power plants.

Parents need to find things to praise in a struggling child and make sure that he doesn't give up on himself and get depressed and distressed while waiting for his day to come.  You can change your mind, but you can't exchange your mind.  You can develop any ability, but there may be some ceilings, limitations on how strong a weakness can become.

Individuals may grow up in homes that are dysfunctional, neighborhoods that are violent, hey somehow manage to salvage their minds.  Sometimes talents remain forever hidden and go to waste instead of triggering resiliency.  That means parents and teacher have to be on a constant, diligent quest for buried treasure within children.


Genes- Many strengths and weaknesses appear to be inherited.  Sharing aspects of your child's profile can make you a more sympathetic parent.  Genes are powerful but they don't prevent us from working on our weak spots, especially if we decide they're worth working on.

Family Life and Stress Level- When families feel as if they are buried beneath the stresses and strains of daily existence, it may be hard to foster a stimulating intellectual life through shared experiences and high-level discussions at dinner.

A student's cultural background may help determine which neurodevelopmental strengths get stronger and which ones do not.  In some cultural settings athletic prowess is considered valuable; in others, sports are deemed trivial pastimes.  These activities in turn, profoundly influence a child's profile of strengths and weaknesses.

Friends- Develop definition.

Health- Numerous medical factors either foster or impede brain development during the developmental and school years. Nutrition, certain, illnesses and physical trauma all may play a role in the shaping of a profile.

Emotions- Emotions and neurodevelopmental functions are like a two-way street: emotional problems may weaken the functions and weakened functions can cause emotional turmoil creating schizophrenia/bipolar disorder etc.

Educational Experience- Kids who have failed over and over again in the past, may be sapped of motivation and sink even further into failure.  Success, on the other hand, has a way of breeding more success.  Therefore, set them up to succeed.


Rapidly paced entertainment can make school content seem like a colossal bore!  Television shows over stimulation in small chunks without much call for sustained attention and deep concentration.  Unsophisticated language is a feature of much of the music that interests children, thus music no longer reinforces verbal abilities.

Frazzled lifestyle patterns can also cost something in terms of children's nutrition.  Skipping breakfast, overindulging in convenient junk foods, and becoming addicted to empty calories of various sorts may be taking a hidden toll on brain development and mental energy.

Nightlife is yet another potential invader.  I find that kids are orienting increasingly toward nighttime pleasures, often getting to sleep late and having trouble functioning in school the next day.  TV, the Internet, social life, e-mail, instant messaging and a multitude of other thrilling forms of nocturnal experience make homework and other educationally useful activities seem like impositions or chores to get over with as expeditiously as possible.  

More and more kids are becoming night people. What used to be the downtime of the day has now become for so many children the most stimulating and distracting interlude.


The Early Detection of Dysfunction

It is a commonly held belief that the earlier you detect and deal with your child's dysfunctions, the more likely you are to prevent disastrous behavioral complications.  I believe there is some truth to that.  It might seem odd, therefore, that this book deals exclusively with school-aged children rather than beginning with infancy.  In part, this is because my expertise is limited to school-aged children and adolescents.  Additionally, so many of the neurodevelopmental functions needed for learning cannot be assessed until they are called for in school.  Problems with memory, with time management, with the understanding of abstract language, along with hundreds of other breakdowns in learning are just not detectable until kids are actually attending school.  As the demands keep changing, learning differences can and do crop up for the first time at all grade levels from kindergarten through the final year of college.  I'm bothered by the fact that some academicians, policy makers, and early educators have maintained that if you don't fix a learning problem before age six, it will be impossible to deal with later on.  This assertion is false.  As we shall see, even adults can show remarkable improvement in one or more of their neurodevelopmental systems.  It's never too late to understand and strengthen a mind.

Each individual is highly capable.  Each has a niche they can fit into.  None has much understanding of her or his profile, of its lack of fit with current demands.  The cost of this lack of insight is high.


Darwin confessed that his brain was not constructed for much thinking and wisely gave up the attempt to use it for pursuance of his special subjects for more than an hour or so at a time.  Had he not done so, much of his invaluable work might never have seen the light.  If a man of Darwin's gigantic intellect found it impossible to concentrate his attention for any lengthy period without fatigue, surely allowance should be made for children who doubtless suffer as he did.  Yet bright children are often expected to concentrate their attention for many hours at a time, and when they fail are regarded as simply lazy.  Leonard G Guthrie, Functional Nervous Disorders in Childhood (1909)

When the attention controls operate as they're supposed to, they help a student learn, they help her become productive and they help her behave appropriately.  She can pay close attention in class and think through the best way to solve a math problem instead of just impulsively initiating the first thing that crosses her mind.  The results are gratifying.  On the other hand, dysfunctions of the attention controls often lead to chaos in the learning process and also in the daily life of a family.  

Another trait found in many kids with weak attention control is insatiable, aloft in an often-frenzied quest for stimulation.  When conditions are blissfully placid, the mind steps up and volunteers to get things going, to stir the pot, to cook up some stimulating feuding.  Parents of this type of child aren't all that happy about being his parent.  They do love him -- very much, but a lot of times they find it hard to like him.  The attention they must devote to him can hurt their marriage and cause them to neglect some important needs of their own children.

Teachers become fed up with his behavior, but they are impressed by his insights and original creations.

His peers enjoy his antics and love to laugh with him, but he has no close friends and doesn't get invited to birthday parties.  Like any number of others with attentional problems, this boy's lack of self-control ultimately is repellent to other children.  Also, when he's with them, Clark insists on being in charge at all times; he demands to be the star of the show.  That goes along with his insatiability, which the other children resent.

He may start to learn about his attentional difficulties, recognizing that these traits are not his fault, but that he definitely needs to work on them.  He then studies at attention controls and talking about techniques he might use to get more in control.  For example, when his teacher gives instructions, he whispers them back to himself so he can be sure he is listening carefully enough.  He also tries to go back over all his work to check for errors and plan his tasks ahead of time.  He consciously asks himself, "What is the best way to do this?" or "Is this the best thing to do now?" before undertaking an activity. 

It's not easy, and sometimes he may forget, but trying to look before he leaps helps.  He begins to perceive the negative impact he is having on teachers and classmates.  He also begins to understand how being out of control is making him feel unhappy, especially because other kids are starting to reject him.  In order to improve his rapidly deteriorating self-esteem, we need to help him discover and make better use of his impressive strengths.

Writing is often a seeming insurmountable threat to kids with attention problems, as it takes strong attention controls to conduct the orchestra needed to express thoughts on paper.  You have to slow down, plan, organize your thinking, pace yourself, watch what you're putting on paper, and pay attention to all kinds of small details all at once.

Often accused of being lazy and irresponsible, she isn't lazy at all. "Whenever I try to write, I lose my ideas and get all mixed up about them" she explains.  To help, she brainstorms ideas into a tape recorder, then takes a break, then writes down the key ideas, takes another break, then organizes her ideas in the best order, then after another break, writes a draft without worrying about neatness, spelling, or punctuation (these details will be added later).  Using a computer for writing can be especially good; she likes to type fast and then go back and correct her mistakes, which are pointed out to her by the computer's word processing program.

There is a clear relationship in all of us between the quality and quantity of sleep and performance in school or at work the next day.  Problems regulating sleep and staying alert during the day are a common occurrence in kids with insufficient attention control.

Trying to get into bed at the same time each night with white noise in the background can help.  So can trying to read and then dozing off.  If these measures don't work, she may need to take some medication for a few months in order to get a better nights sleep.

A student with attention control issues may say, "I never know in the morning whether I'm going to have a bad day listening or not."  Performance inconsistency is a source of constant confusion and anxiety to kids with attention deficits as well as the adults in their lives.

The very same kids who suffer lack of attention control are often remarkable people in their own right, displaying refreshingly unorthodox pathways of thought.  These children are challenging types of human variation rather than deviation, so parents should never believe that their child with attention deficits is necessarily abnormal or pathological.  Many of them turn out to be extraordinary adults.  We just have to help get them there.

Kids who have serious trouble sustaining alertness do not come home and proclaim to their parents, "I'm having serious problems sustaining my level of alertness in the classroom."  Rather they announce "School is boring."

It may seem odd, but many children react to their mental fatigue by becoming hyper.  It is as if they have a need to substitute physical energy for their shortage of mental energy.  One clever teacher allows her hyperactive student to retreat strategically to the back of the room whenever confinement to a desk chair becomes unbearable.

Mental Effort Control- 

It takes a lot of energy to do things you don't feel like doing!  For some kids, work seems to be too much work, while for others effort is effortless.  Schools for generations have assigned effort grades (generally thinly disguised moral evaluations of their students).  Many children who are though to be lazy are experiencing trouble generating and sustaining their mental effort.  We should stop accusing them and start understanding and helping them develop ways of controlling their mental effort.

Schools should teach kids how to learn, and parents should teach them how to work by establishing work rules and a work ethic at home.  Many need help getting started with an  assignment, a relatively distraction-free environment and more frequent breaks.

Consistency Control

April came away from her math quiz with a stunning 99.  The usually expressionless teacher was visibly impressed.  Sadly, he responded nearly vindictively "Now we know she can do it.  When April tries, she can be successful."  In the mind of her teacher, April's brief display of genius justifies moral condemnation of prior and future bouts of inattention.  He implies that the rest of the time she was guilty of not trying to do well, of not really putting in the effort.

WRONG!  Parents and teachers could help children see that their inconsistency is not a crime, but instead something they need to be working on.  They could start to keep track of periods of good an poor performance and consciously try to increase the proportion of the time they are on target.  Little by little (not overnight), their children might then show greater consistency.

Performance inconsistency can extend well into adulthood.  When it occurs among adults we call it "unreliability."  "You can't really count on him.  Sometimes he shows up and does an excellent job and then he may not even show up when you need him again.  He is so undependable."  In part as a result of their inconsistency, these kids come the conclusion during adolescence that eventually they will need to be self-employed.  They'll want and need to set their own hours.

Selection Control

Selection control disposes of worthless stimuli, such as the quiet hum of a florescent bulb.  It does not actually interpret or put to use what we hear or see; it just picks out the very best items.

To succeed you need to focus on what can get you somewhere.  A child falls behind in school when he can't seem to prioritize and concentrate on the most useful information rather than worthless trivia.  This is a critical point.  Development stops at the point where this control is not working properly.

A child with selection control may focus on too few or too many things at once.  He may describe his head as a TV set with no remote control so that he gets all the programs on the screen at the same time.

Kids who are highly distractible need first of all to learn about their distractibility and be able to recognize moments when they are tuned in to the wrong programs.

The Impacts of the Attention Controls

We are obligated to help children with weak attention controls and realize that these are not "bad minds", but that their strengths will prevail in the end.  During the earliest grades in school, you should work hard to ensure your kids achieve a nice balance between sleep and wakefulness.


Children are not all alike.  Some with attention control problem are overactive and some are not.   Some have behavior problems; others just have trouble concentrating or getting work completed.  Some of them can't seem to sleep well, while others have not sleep difficulty.  Avoid lumping kids with attention control problems as any combination of weak attention controls can be found in a child.

-Once child was helped by his teacher to rate his level of control at the end of each school day.  He kept score of his attention controls and tried to improve them.  He succeeded in doing so.  He was far from perfect, but there was noticeable improvement when he no longer say himself as a "bad boy".

-Since the traits associated with attentional dysfunction can be impossible to erase, you should redirect these traits toward constructive pursuits instead of trying to eradicate them.  For instance, we should recognize that kids with material insatiability can become great collectors, that distractibility is akin to creativity, and that the free flight of ides can lead to some fantasy-filled artwork, unique, if far-out inventions, and strikingly original fiction or poetry.  Go for it!

-All to often kids get put on medication for their attention deficit, while a language or sequencing or social thinking problem is ignored.  The medicine might help for a while, but it's like putting a Band-Aid over an infected wound without treating the injury itself.  It looks better but is it really healed?

-"We know he can do the work when he wants to.  In fact, when he can overcome his laziness and his attitude problems, he will succeed.  Until then, it's up to him.  We can't help him unless and until he helps himself."  This was a terse report from the algebra teacher of a patient of mine.  It is so typical of the kind of misunderstanding that causes children with attentional deficits to shoulder all the guild and blame for the way they are.  A lack of attentional control may masquerade as laziness, a negative attitude, or just plain bad behavior.  Yet these are struggling and confused students who want very much to succeed, to please themselves and win the respect of the adults in their lives.  They need our sympathy and support at the same time that they need us to hold them accountable for working on their attention controls.  When they sense that we're on their side and not accusing them of being bad or lazy, they often rise to the occasion and show steady improvement.  Teachers, therefore, need to form strong alliances with these children rather than adversarial relationships.  The same can be said for parents.


Vastly more extensive and strenuous use of memory is required for school success than is needed in virtually any career you can name.  Children with reduced memory capacity can be stigmatized as "dumb" or "slow" when, in reality, he or she possesses fine intellectual faculties but a flawed information filing system.

To treat all children the same is to treat them unequally.  Different kids have different learning needs; they have a right to have their needs met.

Have kids describe how they remember things.  Find out what methods THEY find work for them.






A critical key to successful learning is the awesome power to recognize familiar material in the presence of superficial differences.  A superior chess player observes a play evolving on the board.  He has never seen that exact maneuver before, but he has encountered many other moves similar to it but with superficial differences.  He will transfer over the method that has worked for him in the past, despite the fact that this time there are superficial differences.

As children progress through school and life, access to much of what is stored in long-term memory is supposed to become increasingly swift and easy.  Most reading comprehension difficulties in middle school stem from a lack of automatic decoding of individual words.

Parents can and must try to help students with delayed automatization.  Use plenty of drills on the basics.  Kids whose lack of automatization has been ignored are going to feel overwhelmed in high school or sooner. In general, schools do not have the resources to induce automaticity; whenever feasible it should be carried out at home, ideally with suggestions from the school.  Ultimately, intense practice pays off.

A paradox of children with memory issues is to display an immense torrent of episodic memory amid a trickle of semantic memory.  (Episodic memory is your memory for details having to do with events in your lifetime; it's your biographical storage.  Semantic memory is your memory for formal learning).  It is especially common to find phenomenal episodic memory among children with weak attention controls.  These students often learn best through hands-on activities in which they are major players.  Probably no one gets more out of a field trip than a kid with attentional dysfunction and a large-capacity episodic memory.

It is common for students with memory difficulties to drop out of school, to write themselves off, or to just assume they are stupid.  It is nothing short of alarming how many kids with excellent minds reveal memory deficiencies that they don't themselves know about.  We have to reach them before it's too late.

-Students should realize that there's a big difference between being "stupid" and having trouble remembering certain kinds of things.  Nobody's memory works with total accuracy.

-Studying for tests is a healthful exercise for mind development.  among other things it is a vivid lesson in getting prepared for or anticipating an upcoming critical event. Children have to realize that they will be taking such "tests" throughout their lives.

-In devising student examination, teacher should strive for a good balance between understanding and remembering.  Tests should not reward pure rote recall.  In secondary school, in particular, students ought to be allowed to bring several pages of their own notes.

-Long-term filing works best if you go right to sleep.  The minutes before bedtime are crucial.  A student shouldn't study and then place a phone call to her best friend.  Call your friend, then study, then go to sleep -- in that sequence to foster optimal consolidation in memory.

-School policy makers should consider that long-term memory works best when there's sufficient time for consolidation.  This does not occur when you partake of social studies for 40 minutes followed by algebra for 40 minutes, then English for 40 minutes and immediately thereafter, physical education.  Switching from one subject to another pretty much prevents the consolidation of the one that preceded kit.  Class periods should be longer, and there must be consolidation time-- perhaps used by small groups of students who in the final 12 minutes of the session talk about what they've learned this period.  Block scheduling (six weeks of nothing but chemistry) also merits consideration.

-Attention and memory are compatriots.  When you're not concentrating it's hard to remember.  Therefore measures used to improve attention will help memory function.

-Children need to be systematic in their use of memory.  Studying for tests provides an opportunity to do so. They should be able to ask themselves "How am I going to remember this?" and then come up with a deliberate plan for doing so.  Before an examination, students should be told to submit their learning plans to the teacher.  Such plans should include a timeline for studying the material, a description of the choice of material to study, a way of putting the information in an organized format that will make it easier to remember and methods of self-testing.  Schools should teach kids how to set up such a plan.  In many respects, studying for tests in childhood is the same as preparing for an important career event when you are older (meeting with a major customer, going for a job interview, making a presentation to an influential audience).  In all instances the key is proper preparation and anticipation.

-Students should master the tricks of remembering and include them in their learning plans.  The best way to remember something is to change it, to transform the information in some manner.  If it's visual, make it verbal, if it's verbal create a diagram or picture of it.  Use plenty of lists, tables, graphics and other devices so that you're not merely sponging up the subject matter intact as it was presented.  Another way to alter the inputs is to elaborate on them, to connect new data to prior learning or experience and to file the new information in several categories of knowledge.  The question "What does this stuff fit with or remind you of?" is key to remembering.  The more richly you transform and connect knowledge, the more actively accessible it will be in memory.

-Students needs to realize that recall and recognition work best when they work often.  Practice makes perfect.  If you seldom use certain skills or information, they'll be hidden away when you need them.  If you only think about what you've learned between 8:30 AM and 3:00 PM, it will be difficult to access.

-All learners should understand and then consciously activate and exercise active working memory.  There are many ways to do so.  Mental arithmetic is one such: How much is 21 time 11?  Try doing this in your head.  Children can practice with longer and longer numbers.  The age-old game Simon Says stresses active working memory (can you remember the original instructions while listening to the more recent inputs?).  It also calls for firm attention control.

-All kids can benefit from practice bolstering active working memory during reading.  They can do so by underlining or highlighting and then going back and orally summarizing into a tape recorder.


Automatic -- Literate

Concrete  -- Abstract

Basic        -- Higher

Receptive --Expressive

Effective language lubricates peer relationships by enabling a child to communicate with a classmate in a way that conveys positive feelings.  Nonverbal thinkers are beleaguered, often misinterpreted and maligned.  Our society unwittingly punishes and discriminates against these kids for the way they're wired.  

Kids with language problems who look as if they have attention deficits are actually tuning out because it is so hard for them to understand.

Kids from a young age need to keep reading and writing actively - that is, not just to complete an assignment or topic but to joust vigorously with the subject matter through words and sentences, verbal interchanges, rewordings, arguments, elaborations, summarizations.  They have to stay in verbal shape.  They need opportunities at the dinner table, in the car, and elsewhere to talk about intellectual issues at length. They need to read and discuss newspapers and magazines, along with their schoolbooks.

The Language Levels


Word Bits

Word Meanings

Words Put In Sentences

Language In Big Chunks

Thinking about Language

Most often children who fare poorly with a second language harbor (knowingly or unknowingly) neurodevelopmental dysfunctions in their first language.  A child who has never fully managed to absorb completely the phonology, semantics or sentence structure in his native tongue is likely to encounter even more serious problems doing so in a second language.

The myth abounds that very young children (such as preschoolers) pick up foreign languages faster than do middle or high school learners.  This is not the case.  In fact, several recent studies have shown that fourteen-year-olds learn foreign languages much faster and more effectively than do five or six year olds.

Practical Considerations

-Life at home should straddle the borders between automatic and literate English.  Informal conversation helps grease the gears of family dynamics but should not be the exclusive style of family talk.  With some regularity, parents should provide and partake of opportunities for the discussion of abstract ideas, contemporary issues, and other matters that are removed from direct practical family agendas.

-Kids should be encouraged to elaborate, avoiding conversational deterrents like "stuff," "thing," and "yeah."  A firm home rule could stipulate "In our family we only communicate in complete sentences."  Opportunities for verbal enrichment are available especially at a meal table, at bedtime (horizontal kids are often more expressive and less distracted than vertical ones), and buckled up in the car.  There might need to be a regulation banning radio playing fro at least some of the duration of an extended auto ride.

-Kids need to see their parents reading, and they need to be read to themselves as early as possible.

-Kids can best enhance their language skills by reading, writing, listening, and talking in their domains of personal affinity.  A girl who loves sports needs to evolve into a prolific sports communicator.  She should devour sports magazines, write about her favorite sports, teach sports to younger kids, and talk (with elaboration and complete sentences) sports talk.

-Kids should also have opportunities to manipulate and play games with the sounds of their language and to create their own poetry and rhyming musical lyrics.


Is there a member of your family who is late for everything, who can never seem to handle a deadline or due date, and who gets confused  when given more than two things in a row to accomplish?  If so, that person may have trouble finding and creating order in the vast world of sequences, of information that has to be thought about or acted upon in a particular order.  Do you live or work with someone who has a hopelessly misguided sense of direction, a person who is hesitant about the distinction between left and right, and who loses most worldly possessions most of the time?  If so, that sometimes disoriented individual may be having trouble finding and creating order in the world of space.

The way we test for learning disabilities is especially irrational, since there has never been much agreement regarding what learning disability is.  It's amazing how often a child's sad moods and feelings come forth and become amplified when confronting a specific area of weakness.  Out of compassion, quit pursuing the area of weakness and switch to something the child can do well.  It's amazing how quickly they will bounce back.

Sequential Memory

When a child can't seem to learn math facts, the culprit seems to reside in sequential memory.  Affected kids need extra drill and also benefit from the various tricks of the trade that many math teachers know that serve to make multiplication facts more logical and less dependent on rote recall.

Sequential Organization-Time Management

Seemingly lackadaisical behavior can infuriate a non understanding parent or a demanding, compulsive teacher, especially when these supervisory adults are paragons of punctuality themselves.  Very often vociferous bullets of moral accusation are aimed at the out-of-step student.

Higher Sequential Thinking

A child may settle down to do homework and have absolutely no idea of where or how to begin.  These children are overwhelmed because they lack a sense of how to break down a task into a series of achievable sequential stages.  If you don't know what to do first, second and third, how do you begin?  Parents have to give such children help to get started and also get him to talk through the different steps he intends to go through to get the job done.

I had a difficult time with this as my mind needs to grasp the entire big picture first and then break it down.  Until I understand the big picture, my mind won't allow me to begin on the first step.  This is backwards to the way most people learn and understand (starting with the first bit and then adding on).

Spatial Output

Innumerable children and teenagers with serious problems writing reports, understanding what understanding what they read, controlling their attention, or completing math homework can succeed with flying colors when they are using their hands to conquer space, to create attractive and/or effective spatial output.

Spatial incompetence may come across as a lackadaisical attitude. such a child may feel ashamed and believe he is totally inept.  Parents need to reassure a child that his spatial defeats are not a cause for great worry in the long run, that many of the world's most successful adults have had trouble succeeding in the worlds of arts and crafts and manual repair.  It is especially important to emphasize the strengths of such a kid, since his dearth of spatial mastery is so visible to the world at large that it may obscure less obvious abilities, such as creativity, strong problem solving, or excellent receptive language.

Teachers should encourage the use of computer graphics among those with spatial output impairments.

Spatial Organization - Material Management

Material management dysfunction incites flagrant bouts of anguish and anger on the part of well-meaning parents.  Those who are materially disorganized spend much of each day in vain quests for lost objects (keys).  

For materially challenged kids, everyday life is an endless chain of visual-spatial defeats.  There's hope; parents can help a child organize a home office with labeled drawers, shelves and boxes. Notebooks can undergo periodic refurbishment under parental guidance. Sometimes parents need to take over entirely the chore of keeping a kid's workspace neat so he can acquire a taste for material order.  This tactic may or may not work.  Mothers and fathers at the very least can take solace in the fact that many an absentminded professor has a disastrous office and an endless paper trail.

Spatial Versus Sequential Ordering: Which Would You Rather Be Good At?

You have the option of deciding whether to strengthen one or more weak levels of an ordering system, to work around a weakness or to go about vigorously strengthening an existing strength.  These options are not mutually exclusive; it's possible to attempt all of the above.  We always have the opportunity to strengthen strengths at the same time we are working on weakness.

Practical Considerations

-All kids (and lots of adults) need help with time management.  Your children can get a handle on time management by setting itineraries and timelines for errands and vacations.  Children and teenagers should wear analog, not digital, watches; they need to observe the sweeping second hand and program themselves for the passage of time in continuous intervals. every class in school should stress time management, having kids devise schedules, complete projects in stages, and demonstrate work in progress.

-Teachers and parents need to be alert to kids who become disoriented, inattentive, or possible even disruptive when faced with multi-use instructions.  They may be battling inadequate sequential memory.  Teachers should repeat directions and encourage these students to check with classmates regarding what is expected.  These students may also gain from receiving written or graphic directions.  Also, these children need to be aware that their minds are not hospitable to newly arriving sequences.

-Rhythmic games and songs early in life can help reinforce sequential ordering.  Songs and rhymes about the alphabet, the months of the year, and other practical sequences are particularly effective.  Music, in general, can be a forceful promoter of sequential ordering.

-Help with material management may be scholastic chemotherapy for some individuals.  As I have suggested, a well-organized workspace at home is especially curative.  Parents should be accommodating in helping a materially confused child get organized.  In this context parents should not say, "You know, Johnny, I'm not going to be around all your life.  Someday you'll have to be independent and do all this on your own."  This is generally a waste of breath and a needless put-down.  I recently advised a young boy who had been overdosed with this all too familiar maternal refrain to say that he has every intention of marrying a woman just like his mother!

-Children who have either spatial or sequential strengths should exploit these capacities through art, dance, music, and opportunities to work with their hands.  Their ordering strengths are likely to be longing for cultivation.


Popularity Subgroups in School

Popular Kids       Well liked and respected by most.

Controversial Kids   Well liked by some, quite unliked by others

Amiable Kids        Not known well in the school, but accepted

Neglected Kids     Unnoticed (some by choice)

Rejected Kids       Actively excluded, bullied, verbally abused

Peer rejection and abuse take a heavy toll.  Often rebuked children become depressed and angry.

The Political Mission

It may seem a bit disconcerting to ponder, but childhood is political.  Kids have to learn to interact advantageously with individuals in a position to help or hurt them.  They need to figure out and influence those who are influential.  The earliest political lessons are learned through sibling rivalries, power struggles within a family that play out as kids seek preferred or privileged treatment from their parents.

Inform your children at some point that they will derive their most lasting and potent political experience by practicing on their teachers, the people who evaluate them on a daily bases.  Since teachers continuously reward or demean you as a person, they occupy positions of political power, so it makes good sense to court their favor.

Social Language Function

In many respects, social language comprises the highest, the most complex language mode.  Studies of patients with brain injuries bear this out.  Social abilities are often the last characteristic to return to those with severe head injuries, often they never return.

Individuals with social language dysfunctions are forever being misinterpreted because they have trouble regulating their tone of voice, choice of words and rhythm of language to convey their feelings accurately.  They can sound angry when they're not.  Parents need to be alert for this common variety of social dysfunction.

Weak social language abilities also may interfere with interpreting the feelings of others when they speak.  A kid with social language dysfunction may have trouble telling when you are joking and when you're serious.  Using videotape and reviewing it with the child (or adult) can help point out and teach what is actually happening as opposed to what they perceived.

Code switching is another essential social language function.  Code switching means that you don't talk in the same manner to your sister as you do with your parents.  You don't talk the same way to your friend as you do to your boss.  There are children who stall out when moving from code to code.  They don't know how or when to switch codes or else they speak but one code all the time.


Social Behaviors

Resolving serious conflict without resorting to aggression is a real social accomplishment. Some kids however, can't handle social conflict without unleashing verbal or physical social grenades.

Discussions of conflicts should take the emphasis off who started it or who was the culprit and instead stress what might be tried the next time such a negative scene takes place.  We need to teach kids the art of no-fault conflict resolution.

If you are insensitive when it comes to social feedback, you don't even notice that you are infuriating the person you're with.  Many kids with weak attention controls have difficulty with self-monitoring; they fail to notice their social faux pas just as dependably as they make unnoticed careless errors in their academic work.  In other words, they don't watch what they're doing.

Here then is one of the biggest reasons to help your children with their attention control: in order to help them navigate the social world, prevent them from being misunderstood, or worse, picked on or physically abused by their peers.

A tool kit of social thinking behaviors enables a kid to "market himself" to others.  He is able to create a demand for his presence.  First, there is an awareness of the image he is broadcasting to others.  He can sense how he is coming across.  The way he dresses, the way he acts and the tastes he manifests create deep impressions.  How acutely aware is he of how he's perceived by others?  To what extent is he able to shape and project a self-image that others are attracted to and respect?  The answers to these questions have a strong bearing on social acceptance.

Strange as it may sound, there are those who have some trouble producing socially acceptable body movements.  They move awkwardly or they invade other people's space.  Their movements somehow repel their classmates and sometimes adults too.

Some students overdo their self-marketing, over-selling themselves in a manner far too direct, aggressive and obvious -- showing off, boasting, displaying ostentatiously.  Some children have trouble assuming a collaborative role.  They seek too much control or they fail to do their share and thereby alienate others.  Kids with weak collaborative abilities have difficulty giving up any control.  They feel compelled to dominate every relationship.  It is common for them to be rejected as prospective lab partners or teammates because of their reputation as soloists or unequal sharers.

Important Social Behavior

Conflict Resolution   The ability to resolve conflict peacefully

Monitoring      Awareness of how you're relating to others.

Marketing     Good image and ability to appropriately "sell yourself"

Collaboration  Ability to cooperate and work in partnerships

Social Reading   Ability to correctly interpret social interactions

Additional Influential Factors

We don't really know how kids become effective social thinkers.  Not every individual needs or wants to be popular.  Some children tread a pathway toward rugged individualism; there are those who enjoy being loners.

Children are under intense peer pressure, which has the potential to bring with it stifling conformity.  In many respects, to be cool requires a kid to be pretty ordinary.  What a waste when potentially extraordinary individuals select that pathway.

Can Kids Be Too Socially Successful?

Social obsessions can distract from other events, such as school or community involvement.  Those who are overly socially successful can overlook the importance of developing their other skills.  We are most familiar with this case when considering the attractive, popular girl who relies on her looks and personality to get what she wants at the expense of developing her mind.  This can be very dramatic in late elementary school, early junior high school when a young girl suddenly develops and finds that she has become popular almost overnight.  It may lead her to reject her family in preference to the attention her peers are giving her if she is not developed enough in other areas.

Keep an eye on your 5 - 8 year old while they are interacting with peers.  You need to be aware if and when their kid is developing a negative reputation, becoming rejected or bullied, and try to understand which of the social functions described in this chapter she or he may need to work.  Pressures are especially intense from fourth through ninth grade.  Of course, there are some very special heroes in this age group, children who know how to resist the pressures and just be themselves.

Peer pressure is always on the verge of triggering a self-esteem implosion during middle and high school.  Many students in secondary school are wondering whether to play the game or buck it - seek popularity or be yourself.  It's a tough decision, a common personal dilemma.  Happily, most of them resolve the quandary in a healthy manner; they eventually gain a healthy level of social acceptability while still managing to be true to themselves.  But the social pressure never abates.

Practical Considerations

-Parents should serve as sympathetic and open-minded social sounding boards.  Kids should sense that they can confide in caring adults and tell them about any social setbacks or dilemmas they are facing.  When children confess their interpersonal glitches, their mothers and father should be all ears, suppressing their parental instinct to swoop down and preach or offer glib (usually unhelpful) advice or bland reassurance.  It is actually preferable for a parent to say, "Wow, that must have been incredibly embarrassing for you" than to say, "Whenever that happens, just ignore those guys."  He can't.  Kids crave empathy, a secure sense that they are not in the fray alone when they deal with what they consider earthshaking social disasters.

-Parents need to provide social tutorial support for all kids.  Children need to hear about their parents' social and political career problems.  They need to discuss ways of nurturing good relationships with teachers and peers.

-Parents have a right and an obligation to inform the school when a child is being purposely humiliated, made fun of or bullied by classmates.  If the school is unresponsive, the parents may need to appeal to the school board or, in a worst-case scenario, consider taking legal action.  The attitude "kids will be kids" is unacceptable.  If need be, you will need to prepare yourself for legal action.  

All schools must aggressively outlaw and if necessary punish all bullying, absolutely banning all weapons of verbal and physical abuse.  All students should be helped to recognize the shameful immorality of bullying and conspicuously rejecting others, of intentionally causing someone to suffer misery.  They should know the difference between teasing (which is pretty natural and often friendly) and the infliction of humiliation (which is morally unacceptable).

-Some children benefit from counseling or a formal curriculum in social skills.  Videos of the actions and dialogues can also be helpful.

-A more popular, well adjusted kid can help mentor a student who is enduring widespread rejection.  

-Celebrate their distinctiveness and valiant social courage. Everyone should support and celebrate kids who march to the beat of their own drum, those willing to paddle against the current of conformity.  Being eccentric isn't bad.  As one child said, "I like sitting on a rock reading poetry during recess.  That's the real me.  People think I'm out of it, but I'm not.  I'm just plain eccentric and doing my thing.  Ritalin might make me like everyone else.  Why can't I be me, the real thing?"



Repeated frustration has the potential to downgrade a kid's estimate of self-worth.  At any distance along the academic track, your child's mind could derail. For example, a college student may discover that the heavy dose of terminology in zoology is more than she can handle, despite the fact that she was in the top 10% of her high school class.  Well into adult life, a certified transmission specialist may plummet into a career tailspin when having to incorporate some brand-new automobile computer technology.  An effervescent six-year-old who has consumed the early phases of kindergarten like a hot fudge sundae suddenly may develop a school phobia because he can't seem to match up sounds with the right symbols for reading words.  So it is that as the demands increase and change over time, different kinds of minds are likely to prosper or flounder.

Most kids simply lack the insulations to handle repeated frustration an personal failure.  Some simply surrender.  Some become permanently anxious or depressed.  Others act out, cause trouble, get themselves pregnant, or take drugs.  Still others become transformed into conservative non-risk takers, shutting down and decisively writing themselves off at an early age.  Or else they keep criticizing and putting down whatever it is they can't succeed at: "Algebra's useless; I'm never going to use it" or "There's no way I'll ever need to speak Spanish."

Search for specific strengths and weaknesses, which may or may not be obvious.  Direct observations by parents and teachers and the use of multiple sources of information can be like developing a photograph of your child.

Identifying the Breakdown Points

Problems with learning can be divided into six, sometimes overlapping areas of weakness:

  • Trouble mastering skills
  • Trouble acquiring facts or knowledge
  • Trouble accomplishing output
  • Trouble understanding
  • Trouble approaching tasks systematically
  • Trouble with the rate and amount of demands

If you read enough, language functions grow stronger.  If your child begins life with a reading difficulty, chances are he will dislike reading.  Because he dislikes reading, he will not gain much experience reading.  The child who reads well, enjoys reading and gets a lot of practice.  A child with a reading difficulty needs to read MORE to gain the same level of proficiency.  Your task is to find ways to encourage him to read.

Similarly, if you have some motor dysfunction, you will most likely shy away from sports, in which case your motor abilities will stagnate rather then strengthen over time.  Meanwhile, your next-door neighbor has been playing basketball for all it's worth so his coordination is getting better and better and the gap keeps widening.

One of the redemptive features of reading a writing is that as you climb upward in school, the curriculum in these skill areas does not mandate any totally new sub skills.  In mathematics, virtually every time you turn your brain around the challenge you with new potentially ego-threatening sub skills to conquer.

Some students struggle in vain to amass knowledge in subjects they find challenging.  Specific knowledge deficits lead to disenchantment with the subject.  Having more knowledge in the subject makes learning more meaningful and relevant.


There are some students who do not have trouble learning but instead have problems with getting the information back out.  They seem lazy, have trouble completing homework, studding for tests and problems meeting deadlines.  Work is too hard for them due to neurodevelopmental dysfunctions.

Children with weak attention controls often fail to acquire effective approaches to tasks.  One child describes her ability as follows: "My head's the same as a television set except it has no remote control so I can't choose the channel I get.  All the programs turn on inside my head at the same time."

It is more important to employ a good strategy than it is to arrive at the correct answer.  The honor student is a master strategist.  Methodologists pause and ponder the best available techniques before they do something.  Non methodologists just do things.

Some students just plain don't seem to know how to go about doing things.  They have no techniques for studding for tests or planning a report.  They are devoid of strategies that might make work easier and more successful for them.  They "Just kind of go over the stuff on the test."

Parents of disorganized students have to help their children become methodologists.  Parents may need to guide a student through a steps of test preparation.  For some kids strategies feel natural; for others they never seem to fit right.  The latter need to be taught some clever tactics and perhaps even bribed or coerced to deploy them.  

Failure to learn successfully on the part of the student is the failure of the parent and teachers to successfully recognize the strategies that will work with the student.

Certain students have minds calibrated to function at slower than average speeds.  People who think relatively slowly eventually may trade off speed for quality.  They borrow a friends notes after class, or they go home and do a lot of reviewing of what they didn't get during class.  Others just give up.

Teachers need to reevaluate the speed demands they impose on students.  There are hardly any careers where you need to think as fast about entirely new subject matter as you do in school.  Within a career relatively redundant information gets conveyed and dealt with from day to day.  That makes it fairly easy to interpret those messages that exceed the speed limits of your processing.

It is vitally important that teachers and parents identify students who are slow processors and not consider them abnormal or stupid.  That just happens to be the way their minds are set.  We need to ensure they are not being humiliated, and that those who don't have coping strategies are taught some so that they can avoid scholastic calamity.  Parents should be able to observe that their child is being left behind by the rapid flow of information in one or more subjects in school.  such students need a great deal of review at a slower space.  Try a slower, year round schooling schedule with more time allowed to process and review.

Students need help dividing tasks into manageable, bite-sized chunks if they are to tame the volume.  Schools need to ask whether it is the case that more is always better.  We can adjust the rate and we can either reduce the volume or break it into more manageable chunks.  Over time kids can improve spontaneously in both the rate and the volume of information they handle.

Parents who have diametrically opposed personalities or processing strategies can exasperate and embarrass each other.  We can't be rewired, so we must learn to understand and accommodate each other.  Often no one is a fault when the styles of parents or teachers are counter to the learning patterns of a child.  Both sides need to put some work into the relationship and try a healthy dose of compromising and mutual acceptance.  The same transactions must occur among adults in the workplace.  It is not unusual for an employee to have a style that clashes with a supervisors expectations or management style.  Dealing with these conflicts in childhood and adolescence is good practice for later in life.

There's no such thing as a perfect mind.  Every gifted child has some discrete areas of weakness that could cause problems someday.  Every child has at least one area of potential or actual giftedness as part of his or her developmental profile.

How can you tell whether a child has a real learning problem or some other kind of emotional problem?  Kids often have both.  Emotional problems can erode and weaken developmental functions, and developmental dysfunctions frequently lead to emotional turmoil and behavior problems.  Repeated failure inflicts penetrating wounds in a child's psyche.


It is not unusual to hear the comment that a particular kid would start doing well in school if he could get himself motivated.  I tend to respond to this statement with lightly veiled indignation: "I believe this kid will get motivated when he starts doing well in school!"  Motivation is complicated.  Success nourishes motivation and motivation makes further success more likely.  Failure dampens motivation and a lack of motivation makes continuing failure a near certainty.  The developmental systems require constant exercise if they are to stay in good shape.  Such persistent use is partly dependent upon motivation to learn, that is, a willingness to absorb and endure the risks that go with new and ever more demanding brain challenges.  For some kids, motivation is spontaneous.  Others don't experience it at all.  Some simply give up.  Those who have surrendered have been described as experiencing "learned helplessness."  Such individuals come to feel that their fate is not in their own hands, that factors beyond their control determine what will happen in school.  Believing that you're just not smart enough or that you were born to lose or that you're an unlucky person wipes out any motivation and eradicates all academic incentive.

Generally speaking, an individual is motivated if he finds the goal attractive.  He is motivated if he believes he can attain the goal.  It is hard to get up for something if you're pretty sure you're going to fail at it.  On the other hand, you become motivated if you believe that a desirable goal is achievable without superhuman effort.  If it's going to take too much work to get somewhere in life, it may not seem worth the expenditure of energy.  Thus a student may lack motivation because he doesn't particularly see the attractiveness of learning a subject or succeeding at a skill.  Even more commonly though, a kid exhausts all motivation by believing he will never be able to make the grade or somehow measure up in one way or another.  Why try if you're not going to do as well as your big brother or your younger sister?  Why try if you can never meet the standards or the example set by your parents?  (Mothers and fathers need not even declare openly that they want you to do as well as they've done or perhaps better; it is powerfully implied by the example they set and/or the values they espouse.)  Why try if your teacher always finds fault with what you do?

When an academic skill is not yet fully automatic and takes too much time and energy to do, then motivation may be extinguished.  Output difficulties are so formidable that they conclude that a homework assignment is just not worth attempting.

Nearly paralyzing pessimism can undermine external motivation.  He may react by giving up.  Forming abnormally close attachments with groups of peers, many of whom may be just as academically disinclined, disenfranchised, and disillusioned.  

Kids do not normally suffer inborn motivation deficiencies.  I like to think that all kids enter the world prepared to become motivated.  When we encounter one who is unmotivated, the questions focus on where, how, why, and when motivation was depleted.  The job is to restore that force by making the goal more attractive, by seeing to it that the goal is somehow attainable, and by easing the effort required through effective strategies and sensitive teaching.

Excessive anxiety can interfere with attention and also with memory.  Some kids become so anxious they develop flagrant phobias.  Anxious students have to be taught to cope with stress more effectively.  They need to learn how to stay cool while taking an exam.  Some students don't have enough anxiety.  They are simply too laid back.

Quickly placing all these kids on antidepressant medication is not the answer.  Medication may be helpful, but there is a compelling need to seek out possible sources of a child's feelings of inadequacy.

Sometime in middle school kids decide whether or not they possess intellectual ability.  Before then they can't quite make up their minds about their own smartness.  During high school their opinion changes surprisingly little.  Kids who think they're not too bright keep on thinking that way.  Kids who have confidence in their intellectual abilities continue to believe so.  these kinds of self-perceptions often become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Each individual should come to appreciate that she has one or more intellectual specialties, applications of brain functions for which she is admirably wired.

When kids suffer from perilously low intellectual self-esteem, they can become internally enraged.  they feel trapped.  Day after day the formal education process humiliates them, a daily reminder of their cognitive inferiority.  Children have very little tolerance for these buried negative sentiments, for these abysmally low feelings about themselves.  In some cases, those with deficient intellectual self-esteem are condemned to daily embarrassment in the classroom, and they may become emotional powder kegs that could ignite at any time.  These students are exquisitely susceptible to all the dreaded adolescent/young adult catastrophic outcomes, including serious substance abuse, depression, juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and dropping out of school.

Every child has a fundamental need to respect his own particular kind of mind and its potential ways to shine.  In seeking such routes toward gratification, parents should stress to the child that he is using his mind exactingly.  For example, if a child becomes proficient at restoring cars, he should realize that the effort has a very heavy intellectual component, that it is mind work, not just body work.  If a kid loves animals, she should be helped to see that her affinity represents an achievement of the mind.

Hows instead of whys:  Focusing on Identifying and Fixing the Breakdowns Instead of Their Cause

The stress should be on how a child is the way she is rather than why she is the way she is.  Schools and parents should be investing a lot of time, effort, and resources speculating about why a kid is having trouble.  You should not be wasting your time wondering, "Is all this my fault?"  All too often searches for causes are biased.  People seek and find either what they were trained to find or what they find most interesting.  Since you can never prove with certainty that any cause was the cause, you should skip the whys and instead devote thinking to the best way to care for that profile.

The benefits and danger when a child's mind is tested

It is important that a team of individuals, not just a single clinician, examine kids.  There is an overriding tendency for people to see in a child either that which they were trained to detect or that which they are interested in.

Oftentimes when a school evaluates a child, budgetary limitations and special education laws distort the diagnosis.  A school may not want to uncover a problem that it lacks the funds to deal with.  Such conflicts of interest are widespread, so parents need to shield students from their effects.

-Creative people may have a hard time in school, but in the world of entrepreneurial ideas they can excel where others fail.

-If you don't like reading books, find magazines on subjects you enjoy and begin reading them.  Gradually you should be able to build up your reading skills.



Accept Your Child's Approach to Concentration
  • Kids thrive on doing what works best for them. So, if your son concentrates well when playing a video game or if your daughter likes to study with loud music, welcoming such experiences—in moderation—may be good for their mental and intellectual health.
  • Celebrate your child's assets: her remarkable creativity, his rugged individualism. Children's behavior often improves dramatically when adults stop making acts like fidgeting and daydreaming seem criminal.

Cultivate Your Child's Memory

  • Urge your child to master the tricks of remembering, and apply them to his schoolwork. Get him into the habit of visualizing information and making plenty of lists.
  • Long-term filing works best right before sleep. To foster optimal memory, encourage your child to call her best friend before she studies for her test, then go directly to bed.

Develop Your Child's Language Skills

  • Initiate discussions of contemporary issues and abstract ideas. Invite your child to elaborate, as long as she avoids conversational deterrents like "stuff" and "yeah."
  • Find ways to make language fun. Challenge your son to a Scrabble® game or a crossword puzzle race. Give your daughter a diary—with the promise never to read it

Help Your Child Become Better Organized

  • Help your child get her workspace organized, without preaching. Advise her to talk through where she put key items, whispering their location under her breath repeatedly.
  • To get your child up to speed with time management, put him in charge of setting itineraries and timelines for errands and vacations.

Help Your Child Adjust to Slow Motor Skills

  • If your child has trouble with running, balancing and balls in general, have him pick just one sport and focus all his efforts on it. Allow him the option of total athletic avoidance.
  • Computers put attractive text and artwork in the hands of all kids. If your child struggles with writing and drawing, stress computer skill-building—and convince her teacher.

Encourage Your Child to Think Outside the Box

  • Heed your child's intuition for revealing implications for her ultimate career pathway. Your "natural born" cake-baker may be an embryonic cordon bleu chef.
  • Make a commitment to tapping higher thinking in fun ways. For instance, use watching a football game to prompt your child to think about how the rules work, to critically analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team, and to problem-solve.

Teach Your Child Strong Social Skills

  • Offer your child social tutorial support. Give her honest advice on nurturing her relationships with teachers and peers.
  • If your child craves and pleads to march to his own drummer, support and celebrate his efforts. A child willing to paddle against the tides of social conformity can grow up to become a brilliant entrepreneur or a courageous force in reform.
  • Children need to feel comfortable talking about their social setbacks. Parents should be sympathetic, open-minded and non-judgmental.


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