When Sam’s teacher met Sam on the first day of class she knew she was in for a tough year.
Sam had only one volume – loud. Whether standing or sitting, the boy was never still. His body was in constant motion. Getting him to stay on task? Forget about it.
When reading, Sam spoke in a monotone, robotic voice, frequently skipped words, skipped lines and lost his place. If he wasn’t truly forgetting to complete assignments he was avoiding them entirely.
In a previous profile of a unique learner we met Beth, The Excessive Studier, who compensated for her auditory processing challenges by doubling down on her efforts in class.
Sam also experienced auditory processing challenges. Unlike quiet, super studious Beth, Sam’s reaction to his learning difficulties was not extra effort. Instead, the confusion he experienced when listening, learning and reading, combined with his high intelligence and need for mental stimulation, made him easily distractible.
Because of being highly distractible, his former teacher viewed him as disruptive, and told him so, repeatedly. Because Sam had no idea how to stop constantly disappointing his teacher, he fully embraced the role of troublemaker. After all, being “the bad kid” was much easier than the nearly impossible task of controlling his distractibility. Being “the bad kid” is also an all too common coping mechanism for deep feelings of inadequacy.
The Good News About the Troublemaker
First and foremost, no matter how many professionals view him as such, this is not a bad kid. With compassionate teachers, parents, and therapists, kids like Sam do not need to see themselves as troublemakers.
Why does Sam constantly interrupt conversations? He is not trying to be rude. He has weak auditory memory skills. In order to get his thoughts out of his head before he forgets them, he simply blurts them out, loudly.
Why can’t this child sit still? Auditory processing challenges manifest in many ways. One way (in addition to poor volume control) is balance disruption. Have you ever been at a standstill in traffic when the car next to you starts moving? Did you have the brief sensation that you were moving, too? Now imagine if that sensation never stopped.
Poor wiggly Sam here is not being defiant. He is attempting to get his vestibular system back in balance. Oddly, he only “feels” still when his body is in motion.
Reading Help for the Troublemaker
In addition to the suggestions below, kids with auditory processing challenges like Sam benefit from the same interventions found in Profile of a Unique Learner: The Excessive Studier. These include rhythm repeat, visualization training, auditory memory skill building, and perhaps even nutritional intervention. You’ll find more auditory memory suggestions in this post, Auditory Memory Activities for Kids and this one, Graph Art for Auditory Memory.
Wiggle worms like Sam may benefit from orientation training as described in the frequently recommended book The Gift of Dyslexia. In very basic terms, orientation training helps students train their mind’s eye to perceive the world from a centered point of view. Students learn to control their perception, and therefore balance, when needed.
Phrasing and Tapping
When students read every word in the same tone at the same speed and without pausing at punctuation marks, is it any wonder the sentences don’t make sense? Teaching students to read in phrases and to pause at commas and periods (by tapping their finger twice at punctuation, for example) can have a huge impact on a child’s comprehension and enjoyment of reading.
If you do have a child like Sam in your class or home, before pulling your hair out completely please learn whatever you can to become the compassionate, knowledgeable educator that he needs.
Want to read the first four unique learner profiles? Start here. And stay tuned for one more. Next up: The Daydreamer.