Saturday, August 05, 2006
If you have a child with learning challenges, you've probably wondered at times if they will ever master certain tasks. If learning is represented as a curved line, and the line curves more sharply with rapid learning, then slower learners are more accurately represented by a longer line with a gradual upward slope. Does it ever seem to you that your child's learning curve isn't actually curving at all but is more like a straight line extending to infinity? If so, you are not alone. I've observed it over and over with multiple learning tasks. My "neurotypical" child has a learning curve that looks pretty much like the majority of learning curves for the general population. My two special needs learners are more like bumpy lines with occasional spikes. Not stairsteps, not smooth upward curves, but jolts and spurts. I still haven't figured out what actually causes the spurts, or prevents them for that matter. What I can tell you is that they need a whole lot more repetition and practice than the average child does to master a skill. They also appear to finally "master" a skill only to have it mysteriously evaporate by the next day. Then it reappears again, not taking quite as long the second, third, and fourth time around. It's as if their neurological wiring shorts out, causing them to lose information that had been available to them only moments before. Yes, it's very frustrating - for me and for them. I don't know why that happens, but I know it is not uncommon among those with learning challenges. Frustration or not, it's what we have to deal with and we press on until another spike in learning occurs. Some of you may be visualizing large increases as are sometimes shown on charts in business meetings. The spikes I'm seeing are much smaller. Distinguishable from the bumpy line, but not huge upward thrusts like some people experience when they have a breakthrough. Yet I rejoice in the seemingly little jolts of learning for my children, because I know that eventually those small increases will accumulate and the skills will be successfully incorporated beyond the point that they could evaporate. They will still continue to learn in a manner similar to a bumpy line, but now that line is just a little higher. And if you look really closely along that line, you just might see a tiny slope emerging.