Reflections on Cindy Gaddis’ Blog: “Timeframes, Challenges, and Disabilities”

One of my favorite homeschool speakers is Cindy Gaddis.  I always make a point to attend at least one of her sessions each year in August at the Love To Learn Conference that has been held in Charlotte the past two years (before that it was held in Hickory).

I have been to her blog in the past but am more drawn to it now that I am looking for resources for my daughter with OCD.  She fits many of the components, but not all,  of the “right-brained Learner” which Cindy describes at her sessions and in her blog and on her yahoo lists.

Homeschooling my daughter, my second child has always challenged me.  She learns very differently and her personality is very different than my oldest child.  We learn to become parents with our first child and we learn to homeschool with our first child (or at least the first child we homeschool) as well and so they can become our “norm”.  My oldest is drawn to academic subjects and will stay with one topic for a long period of time, wanting to know everything about it.  I had no issues with this, maybe because I am like this too.  He almost never says that he is bored, unlike my daughter who continuously complains of being bored.  I have begun to learn that when she says, “I am bored” it often has a deeper meaning.  As with many things she says, I have been learning to uncover the real meaning behind what she is saying.  This has been part of our biggest challenge with her journey especially since the onset of her OCD symptoms.

I am finding comfort reading Cindy’s blog and am joining her yahoo groups because I am searching for more connection with others with children with special needs, learning differences.  For example, my daughter has been reading since about age 6 but still struggles to write words.  She can form letters and her handwriting is fine, it is a spelling issue and I think an issue with auditory processing, as far as taking what she hears and writing it down.  I see it as a sensory processing issue.

I always love reading blogs that celebrate the child and her differences and see them like that, differences, rather than disabilities.

This post by Cindy really speaks to this topic.  I will share the beginning of her blog post here (it is long)  with a link for you to read the rest, and to see all her other posts and all she has to offer.

“Timeframes, Challenges, and Disabilities”

“We are on Round Three at my Homeschooling Creatively list about the perspective on “disabilities”, particularly as it pertains to the right-brained learner.  This post is my attempt at clarity on my position in viewing differing abilities among people.

•  Right-brained dominant and left-brained dominant learners process information differently; therefore, each has a different timeframe and focus to acquiring skills that optimally captures the individual strengths and gifts of that learning preference.

Our current institutions of school favor left-brained processes.  They are part to whole (versus global thinkers) as they take a whole subject, such as history, and break it down into segments and spread it across many grade levels before achieving the whole.  They are product-driven (versus process concepts) so that they can sort and classify based on right and wrong answers, completed tasks, and definable measurements.  They are word and symbol focused (versus image generators) with the early reading acquisition, math fact drilling, and handwriting practice.   Thus, schools created a scope and sequence that reflects the strengths and gifts of a left-brained dominant learner.

Because of the many generations toward this focus, our society has come to believe that this scope and sequence in favor of left-brained thinkers created for our schools is in actuality the Norm.  It appears that we as a people now believe that this is the Proper Order of Things in learning.  It is no longer a Preference; it is Truth in Learning.  However, this is False!  There is a preferred scope and sequence that favors the gifts of the left-brained learner, but there is another equally valid scope and sequence that favors the gifts of the right-brained learner.    This involves a difference in resources utilized and timeframes toward the development of the various subjects honored.

Unfortunately, because the majority of mankind has been schooled, our society has adopted left-brained thinking as the measuring stick of intelligence.  The current scope and sequence declare that reading, for example, can be accomplished through phonics by age 6-7 years old.  Parents clamber around this timeframe with bated breath in order to discover if their child is declared “smart”.  If you read before the expected age timeframe of 6-7 years old, you are “smart as a whip” or “gifted”.  If you come to reading at the expected time, you are “average”.  However, look out if you read after that timeframe!  You are either “lazy”, “not living up to your potential”, or “stupid”.   But, no one wants to think of any of these things about their child, so schools came up with a great reason to excuse this difference in intellectual ability and performance:  learning disabilities.

Why is it that behind every learning disability label (ADD/HD, dyslexia, learning disabled, dysgraphia, twice-exceptional, dyscalculia, etc.) is a right-brained learner?  Where are the left-brained learning disabled children?  Why is it that I have never heard that a school has said that the learning environment is not a good match?  Can the learning environment found in school be 100% successful?  Why is it that the child is always declared “broken”, but not the environment or the expected timeframes?

These are serious questions that need legitimate answers.  The good news is that these children are not learning disabled; they learn differently.  Right-brained children learn on a different timeframe that is healthy and advantageous to their gifts and strengths.  There would be little to no “dyslexia” if the path to reading for the right-brained child was honored.  That does not mean following the current left-brained scope and sequence, and just waiting a little longer.  It means it looks totally different.  The resources the right-brained child would learn to read will be different from what you see in school.  The skill development focus the right-brained child would learn to read from will be different from what you see in school.  And the timeframe the right-brained child would learn to read by will be different from what you see in school.  If all of that is honored, you will have right-brained children coming to reading, and other various subjects (such as writing, spelling, arithmetic, handwriting, and more), in as joyful and painless a manner as their left-brained counterparts.”