Is your (ADHD) child a kinetic or visual learner?

Recently I went to a workshop for one of my job-jobs (as opposed to my main job as MOM) about dealing with adult learners. For 15 years my job-job was in the schools, working at all grade levels as well as working with adults as an ESL teacher, so I figured I wouldn’t learn anything new at this workshop, but hey – it was required, and besides, I don’t pretend to know all there is to know about anything.
The workshop ended up being very boring (she spoke in a tired monotone throughout and said one thing we should always try to aim for when teaching adults was enthusiasm!) but I did learn one completely crazy, relevant, and amazing fact:
65% of all adult learners are visual learners: they learn best when information is presented visually. They need to SEE it to understand it. Pictures, diagrams, and charts are the best way to reach visual learners. 5% of adult learners are kinesthetic learners: they need to DO something to understand it. And about 30% of adults are auditory learners: if they hear something they learn it best.
So if those percentages are true of all adult learners, it stands to reason they’re true for all people as well…which means that they’re true for children, too.
Okay, okay, you say: people learn differently. But how does this relate to ADHD?
Some people (Guffanti, Linksman , Major) think that many of the issues that children with ADHD have in school is a mis-match of learning style and method of teaching. Research by Alexandra Golon says that 80% of all boys are visual learners (and 2x as many boys as girls are diagnosed ADHD). Various other researchers and folks trying to sell stuff on the Internet J suggest that children with ADHD are predominantly kinesthetic learners who needs hands-on activities to stimulate their brains.
I know from working with my own little ADHD bundle of joy that he listens better if I touch him (what does that mean? Kinesthetic?) and he learns better by watching videos and looking at pictures than by simply being lectured to (visual?). And he loves to learn hands-on. Field trips and workshops are the best way to get his interest (again, kinesthetic?) But he also loves to listen to recorded books and has decent reading comprehension, either when he reads to us or we read to him. And if he really wants to do something he will pay very close attention to anything you say – especially if it’s about his current obsessions: fishing.
So I’m not sure how this applies to my child. I do know that once I abandoned phonics in my homeschool reading class and just practiced reading through reading (whole language, I guess), he made leaps in bounds in his reading level. Apparently he is learning to read through memorizing the words. I actually remember learning to read in 1st grade the same way (funny how kids are expected to learn to read in kindergarten these days). I’d memorize passages from my favorite books and then one day – bam! I could read! This seems to be the same way it’s working for Little J, whose reading level has gone from mid-1st grade to mid-2nd grade in the 2 months he’s been home with me. I’d like to think it was me as fantastic teacher who’s responsible for this, but in reality I think it was just discovering what worked for him and what didn’t. His 1st and 2nd grade classrooms emphasized phonics (an auditory method of teaching a visual task) to teach reading, which made absolutely no sense to him at all. Me neither, but who was I to argue with years and years of educational pedagogy?
But even if these learning styles don’t have particular application to children with ADHD, it’s astonishing to me that only 30% of the population are auditory learners…but in my experience as a teacher and a school librarian, as well as a school volunteer and now as an author who visits schools, most information is presented to children as if they are all auditory learners. “Listen to the directions,” “You’re not listening!” “If you had listened you would know what we were doing,” etc.
Of course, good teachers try to hit all modes of learning, and there are many good teachers, but I think that there might be something to this idea of a learning style/teaching style mis-match. If children consistently don’t understand (or won’t/can’t pay attention to) oral directions or oral information, perhaps it’s not actually an attention problem. Perhaps it’s a learning style problem. It’s probably a combination of the two…but I wonder if the school outcomes for many of our kids would be different if the onus wasn’t put on the kids to change their ways of learning to fit the way the schools deliver it, instead of the other way around.
(image by flickr user woodleywonderworks)

Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is the co-editor of and contributor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories, and is also the author of two picture books about Russian adoption. She’s had stories, essays, and articles published in a variety of journals, both print and on-line. She is the owner of DRT Press. She was a school librarian for many years before giving it up to devote more time to the rest of her life. She chronicles her adventures raising her son, recently diagnosed with FASD in her blog, A Square Peg, a Round Hole. She also writes for the blog for Easy to Love but Hard to Raise and her writing/speaking website is adriennebashista.net. She lives in central North Carolina with her husband, two sons, two dogs, 21 chickens, and a lot of bees.

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About the author

Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is the co-editor of and contributor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories, and is also the author of two picture books about Russian adoption. She’s had stories, essays, and articles published in a variety of journals, both print and on-line. She is the owner of DRT Press. She was a school librarian for many years before giving it up to devote more time to the rest of her life. She chronicles her adventures raising her son, recently diagnosed with FASD in her blog, A Square Peg, a Round Hole. She also writes for the blog for Easy to Love but Hard to Raise and her writing/speaking website is adriennebashista.net. She lives in central North Carolina with her husband, two sons, two dogs, 21 chickens, and a lot of bees.

One Comment

  1. Mr.Jolly says:

    Thanks for this article

    Reply

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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