Saturday, September 26, 2009

Different Minds: Chapter 4

I'm totally doing this the opposite of the way I told AmyP I would. Now I'm working on Chapter 4 of Different Minds, on "Cognitive Issues: How Those with a Different Mind Think."

My summary:
Gifted kids with AS or ADHD have less flexible learning styles, inefficient executive functioning, some troubles with central coherence, and most importantly outputs of learning, i.e., being able to demonstrate their knowledge.

Lovecky uses a computer analogy to explain cognitive functioning. Abstract reasoning is like telling how many things the computer (child) can do. Learning styles of children are like the different computer OSes (Windows, Mac, Linux). Executive functioning is like the efficiency of the computer--how fast can it be done/how fast can the child accomplish these tasks?

She breaks down this chapter into 4 areas:

1. Abstract reasoning and concept formation

Gifted children are generally good at abstract reasoning. They see things and ask questions about, make conclusions about, classify, categorize, and analyze these things.
(An example using my son: I'd bought a package of little plastic animals to decorate a cake. He opened the package and divided them into 4 categories--animals that came in pairs and animals that were single, then he broke both those groups up into animals that could stand by themselves and those that couldn't. Then he ripped a piece of paper in 4 and wrote down each category and put the animals on top of each category.) he did all of this while his sister and I were talking about my plans for decorating the cake.)
Gifted children ask complex questions and need complex responses, especially by the time they reach an intellectual age of 12 or 13, which some gifted children do as early as 5.
Gifted kids with ADHD will make hypotheses to explain their observations, but kids with AS do not do so as often.
Gifted kids can recognize patterns and algorithms, and some may create mathematical knowledge themselves rather than being taught it.
Asynchrony is when there is a range of these cognitive abilities in the same child based on interest levels, the kinds of tasks the kids do, and the kids' personalities/temperaments. They might be intellectually advanced in one area yet not in another, even if it's closely related. The example Lovecky gives is of a child who uses Hawking's theories to explain how Santa can travel to so many different houses and get down chimneys, but didn't question Santa's existence.

2. Learning Styles
Lovecky talks about two main learning styles: visual-spatial and auditory-sequential. Lovecky links this to left brain (auditory, verbal, analytical, sequential) and right brain (visual, pictorial, holistic, intuitive).Gifted children often excel in both areas, but some do not and need evaluation. Interestingly, studies show that mathematically adept students tend to have deficits in verbal areas, but verbally adept students tend to be more balanced.

Visual spatial learners "like to picture things. Asked to think about a problem they will use a picture or spatial schema or find a mental pattern.... [They] can be very creative, quick to grasp concepts and find patterns. They excel at tasks that require inductive reasoning, holistic thinking, and seeing complex relationships among parts." Visual-spatial learners can be weak in sequential thinking, planning, organization and details. Research has shown some connection to dyslexia. Also, there are difficulties of visual-spatial thinkers with central auditory processing disorders, who have trouble following directions, seeing the main point, prioritizing details, and interpreting qualifiers.
ADHD kids tend to be visual-spatial learners. Gifted kids with ADHD can have difficulty expressing their visual-spatial ideas on paper and sharing them with others. Others have problems with impulsivity that prevent them form seeing the "big picture." However, gifted children with ADHD can be intuitive and creative and think outside the box, from new perspectives.

Lovecky suggests the following strategies:
*Emphasise visualization in tasks (i.e., color coding)
*Emphasize inductive reasoning, allowing kids to use intuition to find the answer, then support it with data.
*Use visual models and diagrams to help with sequencing.
*Big picture first, then smaller steps.
*Use graphic organizers to teach organization; use categories.
*Work on listening skills by having the child watch the speaker's mouth and repeat the directions.

Gifted kids with ADHD who are slow to process info can have trouble because they "form partial wholes, or wholes based on erroneous info." These students need to have teaching slowed down for them and have the "big picture" presented to them first.
Gifted kids with AS have a lot of trouble with holistic thinking and cannot create a "whole" form the parts very easily. (This goes back to weak "central coherence.")
This is why people with AS also have trouble with facial recognition (hard to put the parts into a whole to recognize a person) and with social situations (reading body language and facial expression and hearing words in order to understand the full social situation).

Lovecky has the following suggestions for visual/non-holistic learners:
*Similar to other visual-spatial learners. Need more time to complete tasks and more space, as well as compensatory tools such as computers, calculators, etc.
*Teach these kids by starting with the big picture, breaking it down into parts, then reiterating the big picture again.
*Build a "repertoire of parts" so they can construct wholes.
*Provide models of what a completed task looks like.

Auditory-sequential learners tend to thrive in traditional school settings, which are geared towards auditory-sequential learners. Whereas visual-spatial thinkers learn with pictures, auditory-sequential learn with words.

Auditory-sequential learners learn with facts and words.. They can work on smaller parts without needing the big picture. They are good at deductive reasoning and developing hypotheses. They can pick out main points. They're usually early readers and good at spelling.

It's harder to see auditory-sequential learners' weaknesses because they are easily compensated for. They may have some difficulty with putting together parts to see the whole, and they may have some weakness in spatial organization.

Lovecky suggests the following strategies for auditory-sequential learners:
*Encourage use of words (speaking and listening)
*Encourage debate, seeing both sides of an issue
*Use verbal skills to compensate for visual and spatial weaknesses
*Make lists of steps/rules to help overcome weaknesses in visual-spatial thinking
*Use auditory-based strategies for studying
*Encourage them to play games that require visual-spatial skills to develop in these areas.

Gifted ADHD kids may be strong auditory learners but lack sequential skills. They have a harder time putting it all together into a big picture and rely too much on the smaller parts they can see.
Lovecky brings up NVLD (Non-Verbal Learning Disorder) here. These kids have great difficulty with organizing their learning. They have difficulty writing because they don't know where to begin. They would benefit from very specific steps given to approach a writing or other similar assignment.
These kids can forget and lose things very often. They may hyperfocus on details. Sometimes they have OCD tendencies.

Gifted kids with AS are similar, specifically in determining what parts are most important and focusing on those. They are good when it comes to memorizing, but weaker when it comes to organizing material. They are prone to rigid thinking, specifically, thinking that because something happened one way once, it will happen the same way forever. They have limited perspectives and can't see that there are solutions that haven't occurred to them. They can be "overwhelmed by complexiy" very easily.

Lovecky suggests the following for Auditory Learners with NVLD:
*Encourage reading/listening to learn new content.
*Use logic and deduction for problem-solving.
*Teach brainstorming and looking for multiple alternative solutions
*Encourage them to memorize facts/info then show how they relate to a larger concept.
*Start with the big picture, teach the steps, then go back and look at the big picture again.
*Explain the "why" of an action, not just the steps
*Reduce "visual overload" and distractions.
*Build on existing verbal skills whenever possible.

1 comment:

Amy P said...

Whoo--I'm having a hard time seeing the big picture.