Ricki Linksman, MS
Our advisory board member, Ricki Linksman, answered questions from our readers.
On the Interactive Metronome
I have a teen who has experienced lots of side-effects from too many neurological drugs. He is presently off all meds to get detoxified and so he can have another PET scan. It’s like he’s a zombie [from the medications] and is just starting to wake up. Would you suggest the interactive metronome to help jump-start his brain? Would this help him learn again? Are there any other methods of teaching that you would recommend?
You’re asking a great question. Several years ago I researched the Interactive Metronome (IM) and was impressed with its benefits for some students with attention disorders. I went through the IM provider training, and offered it at my reading institute, National Reading Diagnostics Institute, headquartered in Naperville, Illinois. I saw definite improvements in children and adults who went through the IM program. Their attention span did increase and there was a corresponding increase in their academic performance. Since the movements in IM involve movements controlled by the left and right sides of the brain, it stimulates both hemispheres. You may wish to visit the IM site (see below) for more details and to locate an IM provider near you.
The second thing you can do is to use methods to match your child’s learning style. For example, if your child is kinesthetic, then teaching through methods that involve movement will be easier and more fun. If your child is tactile, then teaching through hands-on methods will be more enjoyable.
A third factor not mentioned but which is important is to work at the child’s success level. If the work is way above his current level, he will be bored and frustrated, and he’ll tune out. Diagnosing his current level of ability in reading or other subjects and building from that point will increase chances for success — and successful learning experiences increase motivation and interest. I hope the combination of these three practices helps your son.
Skipping Words When Reading
Do you have any suggestion for when a child skips words when reading? I have a student who follows along with her finger but this doesn’t seem to help her. She’s seven years old, in the second grade.
The first step is to determine what is causing her to skip words. There are several possibilities, and here are some examples:
She may lack the phonics skills to properly decode words. If she cannot decode the words and does not have enough context clues to figure out what the word is, then she has no alternative than to skip the words.
In many schools, the emphasis on fluency has been interpreted as having students read faster. If the school is more concerned that she read at a faster speed than that she read accurately, the school may be rewarding those who finish a text within in a certain time limit and penalizing students who do not. Thus, she may be trying to “survive” the classroom expectations and feels that if she does not know a word it is safer to move on and finish the text quickly than to spend time puzzling over the word.
There may be a physiological reason for skipping words that has to do with visual tracking. This can be checked out with a developmental optometrist or an opthamologist. There can also be other visual processing disabilities that could be causing the problem.
I would recommend that you first administer a phonics test to be sure she can decode the words accurately. Then, if she cannot, have her learn phonics skills. After mastering phonics, listen to her read and see if she still skips words. If she no longer skips words, you have solved the problem.
Check at school to find out if there is an overemphasis in school on speed over accuracy. If so, you need to ask her to read less quickly at home, trying to get all the words correct. It may take a while to break her of the habit if this is indeed the case. You need to slow her down to find out if that’s the reason she’s skipping words.
In the meantime, I suggest you have her vision checked. Then, if all the these efforts do not solve the problem, you may want to consider having a psychologist either at school or outside of school complete an evaluation to make sure there is not a specific learning disability.
Better in Math, Slow in Reading
My child does not have a learning disability — at least the school says she doesn’t. But she does much better in math than in reading. It takes her forever to do her homework and she hates it. Is there something special that would help her? Spelling isn’t too good either.
Proper diagnosis of her problem is important. A good reading diagnosis involves:
- Passage reading test to find her reading level, her word reading accuracy, her comprehension, her vocabulary skills, and fluency
- Phonics test to find out whether there are gaps in her phonics skills causing her to have difficulty reading the words accurately
- Learning style and brain hemispheric test to find out her best style of learning.
My reading kit contains all these diagnostic tools for parents and teachers. If your school is interested, I also have the entire process described above delivered through an Internet-reading program called Keys to Reading Success.
Dealing with Right-Brain Dominance
My son is in the third grade. He has all the attributes of a right-brained dominant person and I am exploring ways to help him improve his learning strategies. Mainly his spelling, reading, and printing need improving. I went to a Brain-Gym workshop and also plan to send him to an occupational therapist to see if she can help. She said she would do a brain dominance profile and then work with his teacher about different ways to help him. Is this where I should start or are there other professionals who would be better suited to help? I am from a small town in Ontario and my options aren’t too expansive.
I’ve devoted a good portion of my career to helping students with a right-brain preference to learn reading, writing, and spelling. You can give your son a learning style/brain hemispheric preference assessment at home, using the test in my book, How to Learn Anything Quickly. This will help you pinpoint not only his brain hemispheric preference, but also his learning style. The combination of these two form one’s “superlink” to accelerated learning.
Then, you can apply the techniques at home. You can teach phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, writing, etc., using his learning styles. Some basic principles to consider about those who have a right-brain preference are:
- They need to see the big picture, main idea, or “bottom line” of a subject first before going into the details. It is easier for these people to see the end product upfront, and then go back and fill in the details and steps.
- Combining instruction conveyed in words and language with pictures, graphics, color, shapes, designs, patterns, real life objects, or examples helps a visual right-brain learner.
- Combining language with tones, rhythm, music, and environmental sounds help an auditory right-brain learner.
- Combining instruction conveyed in words and language with feelings, emotions, hands-on learning, and the ability to draw or make things with one’s hands related to what one is learning helps tactile right-brain learners.
- Combining movement, action, simulations, role-playing, discovery, exploration, games, and use of one’s large motor muscles with the instruction helps kinesthetic right-brain learners.
We would need to know whether you son is a visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic right-brain learner to determine the optimal techniques for him.
What are Good Kinesthetic Techniques?
I read your article on the Latitudes site about ADHD and kinesthetic learners. I know there are different ways people learn—I’ve seen this with my students. (I think kids sit in their desks way too much at school!) What are some good kinesthetic ideas for third graders and reading?
The basic principle of kinesthetic learning is to involve the students’ large motor muscles. This translates into learning by doing, by activity, by being physically involved in real life experience or applications related to what is being taught — simulations, role-playing, games, discovery, exploration, competitions, movement, and working toward a goal in an active way. Some techniques to consider are:
Flip charts: one of the easiest ways to move an activity into kinesthetic mode is to place flip charts around the walls of the room or on the board and let the kinesthetic students do their lessons writing, while standing up. They can use large colored, non-toxic markers to do their work. This small change allows their large motor muscles to move while they write.
Another idea is to let them have their desks at the back of the room and allow them to work at their desks standing up when they want to.
Make a game or competition of some of the more rote activities, those tasks that require memorization, letting them win points toward prizes or rewards.
You can couple the correct completion of a math or reading task with a kinesthetic movement such as throwing a soft ball into a basket, putting a golf ball into a cup, or some other physical activity when they get a correct answer. It motivates them when they know they can get up and move! You will find hundreds of additional ideas in my books, providing a solution to all aspects of reading.