Profile of a Unique Learner: The On Again Off Again Student

One Example of The On Again Off Again Student

Ed came to work with me to strengthen his reading and learning skills. As with many unique learners who I worked with over the years, Ed was too bright to qualify for special education services but continued to fall further and further behind in class.


One benefit of working one on one with students is witnessing the steady progression of skills week over week. That didn’t happen with Ed.


Boy in blue shirt staring into space in class

Ed’s progress was inconsistent at best. One week his reading sounded fluent and strong. The next week his words were slow, choppy and oddly muffled.


Some days he actively engaged in our cognitive-based training exercises. Other days his eyes drifted away aimlessly. Every once in a while his words even drifted off mid-sentence.


Based on a hunch (and my experience with other On Again Off Again Students) I started asking Ed what he ate for lunch just before our sessions. Patterns started to emerge, especially on those days he behaved as if he were mildly sedated.


Chocolate milk. Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Green grapes. Doritos.


While that may not seem terribly unhealthy as far as kids’ lunches go, I made a suggestion. Food allergy testing might uncover potential blocks in Ed’s learning. Ed’s mom was more than willing to follow through. What she discovered from the allergist blew her mind.


“He’s allergic to the most obscure foods! I never knew that a person could be allergic to garlic, or black pepper, or tomatoes of all things. Paprika? C’mon!”


These ordinary, everyday foods seemed healthy enough, yet they were silently wreaking havoc on Ed’s ability to think clearly.


The Good News About the On Again Off Again Student

Once Ed’s mom dedicated herself to removing the innocuous items from his diet, we quickly started seeing steady progress in our weekly sessions. Not only did Ed’s reading skills soar up to and beyond his grade level, his academic success grew so much that he no longer needed my services.


Without the attacks on his brain chemistry holding him back, Ed was free to be the bright, confident learner he always was.


At first his mom was baffled, then amazed, then incredibly grateful.


“He’s a completely different kid!”


Does your child resemble the On Again Off Again Student? Even if she doesn’t experience learning challenges, please consider becoming a proactive food detective, not just for her but for the entire family.


You may have heard that some of the most common allergens or sensitivities are sugar and dairy.


Yes, parents, it is HARD to eliminate sugar and dairy from the family diet. It is even harder to grow up feeling inadequate because your very capable brain is bogged down by invisible chemical chaos.


I’m not a doctor or nutritionist so I leave you to explore the food angle on your own. Through my work helping students overcome learning challenges I’ve seen firsthand what dedicated families can do. When they change their mindset, then change their pantries, they can completely change the trajectory of their children’s educational experience. If you can do the same for your own child, do you believe the effort is worth it?


The Profile of a Unique Learner series continues.  Next up, The Storyteller.