Common Learning Challenges and Practical, Low-Cost Solutions
By Shoshana Shamberg OT, MS, FAOTA,
Occupational Therapist, Special Educator, Irlen Diagnostician, and Accessibility Consultant
President and Owner Abilities OT Services & Irlen Diagnostic Center
An adult’s brain weighs 3 pounds and is made up of 100 billion neurons and has 1000-10,000 synapses per neuron. Synapses are the connections between the neurons and are created when learning occurs. To increase IQ, you need to push the brain’s limits and do it repeatedly over a significant number of days. Playing games and using memory techniques help improve learning and increase brain synapses and are perceived often as fun. When an activity is enjoyable and challenging, but not overly difficult to the point of frustration, learning can occur organically and with less effort and more enjoyment. In this article, I will present techniques that can be implemented easily at home and may reduce boring repetitive learning activities and the perception that learning is too much “work.” We call what is commonly known as “homework” as “home play” activities. .
Symptoms that present learning challenges that can be helped by brain exercises and memory techniques:
“Reading is slow and tiring and I have to re-read what I just read multiple times to remember what I read.”
“I often make stupid mistakes what I read or do math problems, and am too tired to catch my mistakes.”
“I have to take lots of breaks when I read, work at the computer, or do other mentally challenging activities so my performance is slow and I often take much longer to complete a task or assignment, or I am unable to finish on time and my grades are lower and I work harder to do the same work as others.”
“I am anxious, get headaches and am highly distracted when I do mentally challenging tasks like reading , math, test taking, remembering and following instructions, driving in new places and following directions, learning new skills, etc.”
“When I have to concentrate for longer then short periods of time, I get so tired and often forget what I am supposed to be doing or miss a step and do it wrong.”
“Working at the computer is difficult, gives me headaches, and I get anxious. I am better when I turn down the brightness and room lights. Glare on the monitor really bothers me and my eyes often feel strained.”
“I wear glasses but letters and numbers still look blurry. It gets worse when I am tired or focusing for longer then brief periods of time. I often cannot see even with my glasses and sometimes my glasses make me feel weird.”
Memorizing and Remembering Techniques
- Recite information aloud. Sing math facts. Adding speaking and hearing to learning gives you access to more areas of the brain to help you.
2.Visualize the information. Create a picture in your mind. Pair with writing while visualizing. Imagery helps use more of your brain and gives you access to more ways to remember the same information. Writing gives you a motor movement component to pair with mental component.
3.Memorize in short chunks. If you have to memorize ten words then remember 3 at a time. Write down the three on file cards in different colors. Categorize three words by color and category.
4.Move as you memorize. Walk and talk. Do cross lateral movement in pattern with information. Arm write in air. Pace or rock while memorizing.
5.Create an environment that best promotes your ability to concentrate. Modulate visual, auditory, etc stimulation in the room. Use headphone with calming music. Lower the light levels. Minimize distractions by others in the room – find a space that is secluded. Go in nature. Use aroma therapy (lavender is calming, orange is invigorating)
- Check yourself periodically to insure you have learned the information. Test yourself.
- Use flashcards. Colored flashcards can be used to provide a visual cue. Write question on one side and the answer on the other side. Stack the cards with question side face up and look at the question, answer it , and then turn over and check yourself. Put cards you know (YES) in one pile and the ones you do not know (NOT YET) in another. Keep working on the ones you don’t know until you do know the answer and put that card in the YES pile.
- Memory Techniques: What is your best learning style? Can you recall what you see better then what you hear? Can you remember what you hear better then what you see? Do you learn best when you see and hear information at the same time? Do you learn better then you have something to hold or write? Do you remember through repetition? Practice over several days and in short periods of time rather then one long period. DO NOT CRAM!
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Speedy Sort: Increase processing speed
Requires 1-2 shuffled decks of cards and timing device. Sort the deck by suit as fast as you can. Record your time. Repeat three times a day. Record the date and time and compare over 2 weeks. Not competitive so do not compare with others. Everyone has their own pace.
Crazy Eights: Improves reasoning skills
Requires a shuffled deck of cards and 2 or more people. Each player get 7 cards. Remaining cards are placed in the middle with top card turned over in discard pile. Each player plays a card from their hand by matching the suit or number of top card in discard pile. If an 8 then a new suit can be declared. If no matches, pick a new card from deck and repeat if no card can be used until you have a card that can be used. Play continues until on player has not cards left and is a winner.
Twenty-One: Improves math skills
Requires a shuffled deck of cards. Dealer gives each player a card face down and a card face up. The object of the game is to add up the points on the cards and get as close to 21 as possible without going over. Each player may choose to “stay” and not get more cards or to take one. Aces are worth 1, jacks, queens and kings are 10. Once every player chooses to stay, everyone shows their cards. Player closest to 21 without going over wins that hand. Play as many hands as you like.
Concentration: Improves memory
Requires index card, pictures, and markers. Two cards with matching concepts etc. Example: Word on one card, definition on another card. The unlined side stays blank. Make at least 10 pairs. Shuffle and place cards in rows face down with blank side facing players. First player turns over two cards, second player does the same. If the two cards are a match, then that player takes those cards off the table. Continue til all matches are completed. Person with most matches wins.
Scrabble: Improves visual and auditory memory, focus and attention
Boggle: Improves visual auditory memory, focus and attention, timing
Uno: Improves visual memory, sequencing, and timing
Card games: Improves memory, timing, problem solving, focus and attention
Strategy Games: Improves problem solving, executive functioning, memory, timing, focus and attention
If you suspect you may have a learning challenge, then take this sensory symptom checklist self-test, complete the form and send it to email@example.com and we will review it for FREE and provide feedback on how you can help improve your performance and grades. www.aotss.com in the client forms section.
CLIENT FORMS SECTION OF WWW. AOTSS.COM. 7-PAGE SENSORY SYMPTOM CHECKLIST