Can Learning Disabilities Be Mitigated?
- Friday, September 20, 2013
On a sunny morning, twin 5-year-olds were practicing writing their names. Cara wrote her name on the paper and proudly showed it to me. John also wrote his name and proudly showed it to me. Cara’s name was written well, albeit with the primitive spacing and angles that 5-year-olds often use. John, however, wrote his name in total mirror writing! As a special educator, I knew that reversing a letter in writing is typical for a child who is just learning how to write, as 5-year-olds are. However, I knew that total mirror writing was a whole different story. That told me that this child was having big issues with an internalized midline that would only lead to bigger issues when older, if not addressed early.
To further explore this internalized midline, I asked John to do the simple cross-crawl exercise (touching the opposite hand and knee while standing). I demonstrated how to do this. He watched me and then did a homolateral crawl (touching the knee and hand on the same side of the body). Then I said, “You just march in place, John, and I will move your hands, touching the opposite knee.” We did this for a few moments. As soon as I stopped moving his hands, the movements went back to the original homolateral fashion. Meanwhile, his sister, who had been intently watching this process, said: “Look at me. I can do it! I can even do it going up the stairs, like this. I can do it while singing a song. Watch me!” John, who had been watching his sister do the cross-crawl without any effort said, “This is boring.” (As we know, boring is a euphemism for hard).
After doing some easy interventions with John at home, he began to write with ease, without the disturbing mirror writing. Later, he became a voracious reader, and now he is in college, majoring in journalism because...he loves writing.
When working with John, I used two simple interventions that parents can easily do at home with their children. These two interventions, if carried out consistently and faithfully, can make a huge difference in preparing a child’s brain and nervous system for easy learning and information processing. These interventions are (1) midline exercises and (2) nutritional interventions, particularly the essential brain fats.
Mitigating the Symptoms of Dysgraphia (fine motor or writing issues)
Make sure your child crawls for a few months. If you have a little one who wants to walk early, without crawling, then spend a few minutes several times a day (at each diaper change, possibly) touching the child’s knee to the opposite hand. This will be perceived as “crawling” by the brain, and it will make all the adequate hemispheric connections.
A child’s hand dominance is usually established by age 4. If your child is still “switching hands” after that age, then do an easy midline-establishing exercise called “Bilateral Drawing” to help the brain establish the correct hand dominance. Stand behind your child at a sliding glass door. With an erasable marker in each hand, help the child move each hand, drawing from the midline outwards. At the beginning, both markers touch each other, and then they should move way out, as far as the arm will go. Then slide them back to the middle, and repeat this movement down the glass door. Do this about five minutes a day for four weeks. After this time, the brain should have established a hand dominance for the child.
If a child does “mirror writing,” then do some easy midline brain training. Have the child lie on the floor. Kneeling beside him, touch his opposite hand and knee repeatedly, while the child’s eyes are in the upper left position (stimulating the right, automatic brain hemisphere). I do this movement with the child for two minutes. It helps to play some music with this, which further stimulates the right, automatic brain hemisphere. Do this exercise two times a week for three months.
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