There is an old saying that “a square peg won’t fit in a round hole.” Yet much of education, especially for those of us with learning disabilities, seems to consist of trying to force this square peg into the proverbial round hole. But, can we change the hole?
It’s an established fact, people learn differently from one another. Not only do some people learn best by listening, some by reading, some by doing and so on. Some students learn best in large gatherings and others in small groups. There are people who learn best with lots of noise in the background. And conversely, some people learn best in quiet surroundings.
There are people who like to move while learning while there are others who prefer stillness. In lectures, there are people who learn best taking lots of notes and students who learn best with almost no notes at all.
A traditional school can’t possibly accommodate all these learning styles. The accommodation that helps the person who likes noise hurts the one who likes quiet. Moreover, allowing Bill to move around the room may distract John who prefers stillness. A lecture with 400 people is not a seminar with 10.
Although I would say that special-education schools and programs are better equipped to deal with this glorious variety, even the best can’t do it all. Outside of school, though, we can try to accommodate both our children and ourselves. And, importantly, we need to recognize that our own optimum learning styles may not be those of our children.
Simply finding out how you or your child learns best won’t magically make you learn everything easily. But it will help. Because, the hole may be closer to the right shape than you thought.
Written by Peter Flom PhD. He is a learning-disabled adult, a husband, a father a professional statistician and author of “Screwed Up Somehow, but Not Stupid.” Peter can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.