We, as parents and educators, have a limited time to develop proficiency in reading for our children. Why? For a variety of reasons, not least of which is self-esteem. Children begin to compare themselves as early as preschool and kindergarten. My children entered kindergarten already knowing the alphabet. They could read a very limited number of words. They were considered slightly ahead of average. One of them had a classmate who could read Harry Potter with comprehension. You better believe that my kids found that intimidating, especially my younger son, who had a hard time reading when he was tired. The words would start to swim by the time he got home from school, and he would pull words from lines below the one he was trying to read. He got incredibly frustrated. I did a lot of extra work with him on the weekends, when his eyes were fresh. We also had him tested by a vision therapist and discovered that he needed prism glasses and vision therapy in order to see 3D. I could practically hear the clock ticking: would I be able to make this easy enough for him to master, so he considered himself smart, or wouldn't I?
"...millions of American children get to fourth grade without learning to read proficiently. And that puts them on the dropout track." According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, "Up until the end of third grade, most children are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade, however, they are reading to learn, using their skills to gain more information in subjects such as math and science, to solve problems, to think critically about what they are learning, and to act upon and share that knowledge in the world around them. Up to half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum is incomprehensible to students who read below that grade level, according to the Children’s Reading Foundation. And three quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school, according to researchers at Yale University."
Many of our children who live in poverty have been traumatized. When traumatized, our primary reflexes either don't get mastered or get reactivated, making 3D vision impossible. Children of poverty are much more likely to have learning disabilities because of this. In an ideal world, kids like these could get their primary reflexes properly integrated, and get prism glasses to allow them to make the most of their innate intelligence. How? Through educational kinesiologies like Brain Gym, the Masgutova Method, Books Neural Therapy, brain training programs like Interactive Metronome, and treatment with vision therapists.
Again, the Annie E. Casey Foundation: "Analyses of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicate that the United States will need 60% of its population to possess a post-secondary degree or credential by 2025 to remain globally competitive. Currently, 30% of all adult workers in the United States hold four-year degrees, an attainment rate second only to Norway. But if we look at the rate among the youngest adult workers—those workers on whom our future depends—the United States ranked sixth among OECD nations in 2006, behind Norway, the Netherlands, South Korea, Denmark, and Sweden. If we look at two-year degrees, the U.S. attainment rate for all workers is only average and has fallen over time. To achieve the OECD goal for workers with post-secondary degrees, the United States will need to produce 16 million more graduates above the current rate of production.” That cannot happen unless we increase the number of high school graduates. And that requires significantly more children getting on track to graduation by reading proficiently by the end of third grade."
But the bottom line is: do children feel competent at reading, or do they feel incapable? How they feel about reading is a deciding factor in what they dream for themselves, if they believe in themselves, or whether they give up on themselves, and opt out of school at the earliest opportunity. As Maya Angelou almost said, "children may forget what you said, maybe forget what you did, but they'll never forget how you made them feel." As a parent or as an educator, how do you make your children feel?
I got lucky with my younger son. I caught him in time, and he ended up graduating high school as a National Merit Finalist. His brother did just as well, and made it into a university rated in the top twenty in the world. My secret? Making sure they felt like winners at school, and backing it up with integrating primary reflexes, vision therapy, educational kinesiology, and Interactive Metronome.
Or did you walk early, thanks to a jolly jumper or exersaucer?
American parents are taught that the earlier our children meet developmental milestones, the better, but that's not necessarily true. In the case of creeping, crawling, and learning to walk, there's a downside to moving through each phase too quickly. If primitive reflexes aren't properly turned off, and we don't spend enough time creeping, then crawling gets impacted. It may look like crawling is happening, but it's done in a way that's compensating for non-integrated primitive reflexes. Additionally, bright kids can figure out how to game the system. Maybe they don't like the feel of the carpet on their knees, so they scoot instead. The downside is that crawling for six months allows for proper kneecap development. Kids who crawl for less time, or who scoot instead, will be more likely to have knee injuries.
Until the work is done to make up for underdeveloped lower regions in the brain, the compensation for non-integrated reflexes is done by the cortex. The cortex, which is what we should be using for excelling at schoolwork, is instead taking over for the midbrain and the primitive brain. Non-integrated reflexes hold back many children and adults from achieving their full potential.
My child development books are all packed up until I'm ready to write a book about that, so I'll recommend one website as a resource: braingym.org. This was created by a Touch for Health energy kinesiology instructor, who modified TFH to help his own learning disabilities. It's been used by parents to help their kids and by teachers to help their students since 1986.
The practitioners and consultants at Brain Gym are all about how to help restart delayed development and enhance potential, as well as how to tune in and activate different types of learning.
I recommend Brain Gym even for neurotypical kids. This is because kids these days are fast-tracked into reading too young and aren't allowed enough time for gross motor movement. It can make even neurotypical kids stressed out to be in a classroom environment all day. Brain Gym has simple movements specifically geared towards helping all kids have their nervous systems calm down and be ready for schoolwork, while honoring their bodies' needs.
There's a lot of debate on the right timing to start kids on reading, writing and math. Gross motor skills need developing young and instead we're largely restricting their movement to desks and fine motor movement instead, especially with smart phones and tablets. Young eyes need strong daylight when developing in order to mature properly. Instead, they're inside, spending most of their time under too-dim fluorescent lighting. It is leading to a generation almost entirely in need of glasses in every culture doing this.
Since most of us can't home-school our kids, one way to help make up for these deficits is to learn Brain Gym yourself and bring it into the classroom when you are volunteering in class during nursery school, kindergarten and first grade. When teachers see the difference it makes in behavior and learning, they'll tell the principal and teachers for the older grades. Before you know it, you've created a movement that will benefit all kids coming through the school, including your own. Be the change:-)
One great thing about the brain is it is neuroplastic no matter one's age. If you're having trouble with reading, either with comprehension or staying awake, or with organization, or focus, with listening or speaking, Brain Gym can help too. As we age, it's common for us to have more issues with learning disabilities. It doesn't have to stay that way.
I also have a one-on-one program to help people like me overcome their ADHD. If you are an adult with ADHD, feel free to contact me to find out just how much potential you have.
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash