Just hearing the labels ADHD or Dyslexia for some gives them chills and anxiety, but the truth is that everyone has cognitive skill differences and the knowing is half the battle. Cognitive skills are the thinking skills we use every day to make sense of the world around us and they control everything we do from breathing to memory. When there is an inefficiency in these skills, we often end up with labels such as ADHD or Dyslexia just like when the body inefficiently manages our blood sugar, we end up with the label of diabetes. This does not determine who we are nor who we are capable of becoming.
The core cognitive skills that affect the overall efficiency of learning are long-term and short-term memory, processing speed, visual/auditory processing, logic and reasoning, and executive function. Executive function is the skill that is essentially the CEO of your brain. It helps you to control the overall management of the other skills and things like senses which can lead to sensory overload or time management issues as well as ADHD or Autism. Finding the weakness in this skill can be as easy as identifying which of the six components of executive function you struggle with: organization, focusing and task shifting, regulation/sustaining effort and processing speed, managing emotions, utilizing working memory and recall, or self-monitoring and self-control. Dr. Thomas E. Brown calls these the Executive Function Impairment of ADHD: Activation, Focus, Effort, Emotion, Memory and Action. Identifying where the struggle is and working on that skill can make all the difference in the world especially for those who struggle with ADHD.
Logic and reasoning impacts math skills, test-taking skills, comprehension skills, understanding abstract concepts and impulse control. Addressing this skill through rigorous training can give the person the ability to handle tasks with more thinking before they act as well as improving test taking and math/comprehension skills. Processing speed is the hardest of the skills to address as it requires the speeding up or slowing down of the thought processes and requires the person to learn to listen to his/her own thoughts and to manage this skill through exercise. This is often paired with meditation or breathing exercise as this is an important aspect to learning to manage anxiety.
Visual and auditory processing are very important as these skills impact all of the learning experience and the way that information is encoded to memory. The visual-spatial sketchpad is the tool that we use to hold things in working memory to work on them much like our screen on our computer holds what we are currently working on while on the computer. Learning to utilize this sketchpad correctly such as learning to hold information there or when to discard this information can be the difference in following multi-step directions correctly and being a good listener. It can also impact the way we read as we can create a visual movie of all the different things we read about on this brain screen. Pairing it with the auditory processor, which manipulates the sounds we hear into words, and words into meaning as well as the letters we see into sounds we can blend into words that have meaning can be the difference in enjoying the reading process or making it a laborious task to be dreaded.
All of these skills add up to different strengths and weaknesses, for example, typically a dysphonetic dyslexic person can struggle with not only memory issues with the code of the English language, but also the understanding of the sounds that letters/words make and the processing speed of the brain. This can be really confusing as there are about 13 different ways we make the sound A in our language and only one is by the letter A at the beginning of the sentence — how about EIGH for example? That’s why a sentence like “The bandage is wound around the wound” can be so confusing!
There are many different types of attention issues and many different types of dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, etc. But none of these defines a person anymore than someone with a heart condition is defined by that. Remember the next time that you see someone struggling with learning or behavior that inefficiencies do not define us. We define them by how we refine them. Struggling with learning issues isn’t a way of life, it is something that can be trained. No one stays the same. Each day we are training our brains and ourselves to be the best person we can become no matter how old you are.
Take a step today to be the best person you can be. Partner with a local brain trainer and overcome some of the challenges you face to continue towards the best you. LearningRx and The Brain Train Learning Solutions are happy to partner with you to direct you to the resources in our community that can assist you with being the best person you can be and helping you to discover the greatness within you or your children, grandchildren, spouse, etc. Most of all remember to cherish those around you for who they are no matter what their differences.
Donesa Walker, M.Ed. is the owner of LearningRx and Brain Train Learning Solutions