Decoding the Struggles with Learning: Understanding Learning Disorders

In Donesa Walker, Lola Shreveport by Lola Magazine

Exploring the hidden elements of learning disabilities and working to change the underlying causes is my passion and life’s work. The reason behind this is the real struggle in my own family with learning issues.

First, let’s explore what it feels like to struggle with a learning issue. Childrenofthecode.org quotes, “According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 60% of K-12 school children are reading below the level of proficiency required for the brain-work of reading to be transparent to the mind-work of learning at the grade they are in.” This particular group of experts at ChildrenoftheCode.org are fighting to end the “mind-shame” that occurs in the struggle to read. What starts as a simple struggle, soon becomes a learning-disabling downward spiral as these students develop an aversion to the whole learning process.

Let’s equate this with dancing for a minute. When I was growing up, my parents believed that dancing was innately wrong and taught me to accept this as a young child so I never learned to dance. As I got older when most of the other girls were in dance classes, I was in PE/athletics with the boys. This is not a sympathy pitch but rather an understanding of how mind shame works. Since I never learned to dance, I avoided school dances and I never went to Prom or a lot of the other social events as I was ashamed that I could not dance. As I grew older, I simply avoided the things that included dancing as I didn’t understand them and I couldn’t participate. Now, I’m old enough and strong enough mentally that I have signed up for ballroom dancing classes. Mine was not an inability for dancing but rather an uninstructed disability. Reading and math struggles for many change their whole outlook about themselves and their abilities so they because they cannot read or cannot do math, they begin to believe that something is innately wrong with them and the “mind-shame” begins to affect self-esteem and avoidance of the skills that are difficult for them to the point that in many teens and young adults struggle with suicidal thoughts and depression.

Let’s try a couple of activities: Please read the following aloud to yourself then answer the following question.

Exploring the hidden elements of learning disabilities and working to change the underlying causes is my passion and life’s work. The reason behind this is the real struggle in my own family with learning issues.

First, let’s explore what it feels like to struggle with a learning issue. Childrenofthecode.org quotes, “According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 60% of K-12 school children are reading below the level of proficiency required for the brain-work of reading to be transparent to the mind-work of learning at the grade they are in.” This particular group of experts at ChildrenoftheCode.org are fighting to end the “mind-shame” that occurs in the struggle to read. What starts as a simple struggle, soon becomes a learning-disabling downward spiral as these students develop an aversion to the whole learning process.

Let’s equate this with dancing for a minute. When I was growing up, my parents believed that dancing was innately wrong and taught me to accept this as a young child so I never learned to dance. As I got older when most of the other girls were in dance classes, I was in PE/athletics with the boys. This is not a sympathy pitch but rather an understanding of how mind shame works. Since I never learned to dance, I avoided school dances and I never went to Prom or a lot of the other social events as I was ashamed that I could not dance. As I grew older, I simply avoided the things that included dancing as I didn’t understand them and I couldn’t participate. Now, I’m old enough and strong enough mentally that I have signed up for ballroom dancing classes. Mine was not an inability for dancing but rather an uninstructed disability. Reading and math struggles for many change their whole outlook about themselves and their abilities so they because they cannot read or cannot do math, they begin to believe that something is innately wrong with them and the “mind-shame” begins to affect self-esteem and avoidance of the skills that are difficult for them to the point that in many teens and young adults struggle with suicidal thoughts and depression.

Let’s try a couple of activities: Please read the following aloud to yourself then answer the following question.
Шалтай-Болтай сидел на стене.
Шалтай-Болтай свалился во сне.
Вся королевская конница,
Вся королевская рать
Не может Шалтая,
Не может Болтая,
Шалтая-Болтая,
Болтая-Шалтая,
Шалтая-Болтая собрать!

Who fell and where did he fall?

Now, this is an extreme example where the language has no familiarity at all. Yes, that is Russian and no, I cannot read it but my sons can because they are teaching themselves this language-why? Because they love languages since I taught them French/Spanish at a young age. You see, I learned Spanish because as a kinder student, I was the only English speaker in my class so I came home on the very first day of school quoting Humpty-Dumpty in Spanish much to my mother’s surprise. Yes, that is Humpty-Dumpty above too..roots…brain burp (for all of those who struggle with attention, this was you detour)….now, back on topic…most struggling readers have some grasp of language patterns and some can even site read as they’ve memorized many of the words but true love of reading is lost because it is just too much work. According to recent stats, 40% of adults are functionally illiterate and many of these people feel stuck in their situation at poverty level….20% of the criminals in prisons today have a learning disability. The stats are staggering…..What about math? …according to a recent study by changetheequation.org 30% of Americans struggle with simple math such as giving change and balancing a checkbook which means avoiding doing these types of jobs. And that is before the new challenging style of math that “we” I admit that math is not my first love and reading truly is but that doesn’t lessen the struggle in America nor does it change the equation. The real struggle is becoming the advocate for the hundreds who are struggling with literacy and mathematical processes.

The number one question that I get about this is Why don’t schools do more about it? Answering only a small part of this….As a dyslexia specialist, I saw over 100 kids per week in my school district which means that I only got about 30 minutes of time per student per week. It’s supply & demand. There are simply not enough specialists in the school system to make it financially feasible nor even putting the finances aside, skilled enough to make a huge difference. Most schools and teachers truly do care but with limited resources and limited time, it’s like the analogy of the guy in the middle of the ocean with a hole in his boat and a small bucket….he keeps dipping the water out of the boat back into the ocean but then the waves crash a huge amount over the side and he gets completely exhausted. How do we change the paradigm and do something about this? It starts with informing yourself. I challenge you to go to www.understood.org and click on experience it. Understand what it feels like to struggle with learning and go to childrenofthecode.org and learn about mind-shame. Become a volunteer to read aloud with our littles who struggle through Step Forward stepforwardnla.org Get help with the underlying cognitive skills that affect the learning process through engaging local resources like learningrx.com. Be a part of the change in your own family and relationships as well as in the community around you. So many in our area need advocates for themselves. Donate to a reading literacy group with time/money or to The Children’s Brain Training Fund through Community Foundation. Sponsor a child in need. Partner with your local school to help read to children. Offer to tutor after school with Volunteers of America or a local church/charity of your choice. Stop the Mind-Shame and help lead the battle towards positive learning experiences!