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#32: ADHD and different learning styles

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Understanding different learning styles allows you to teach your child in a way that makes the most sense to them. Different types of learners need different things to be successful. It’s important to encourage your child to develop learning strategies that work for them.

While there is some variation in learning styles, we are focusing on the VARK categorization. V stands for visual. A for aural or auditory, R is for a read or write. K is for kinesthetic.

Children can have more than one learning style, but they tend to favor one over the rest.

Children who are visual learners learn best through a visual representation of information. They like the data presented in diagrams, maps, graphs, charts, flow charts. For kids who are visual learners, they do well with visual instructions, so things like a chore chart or expectations chart work well for them.

Children who are aural or auditory learners learn best from lectures, group discussions, radio, and from conversations. For kids who are auditory learns, they do well with verbal instructions.

Children who are read/write learners learn best from text-based input/output, such as writing things down or reading lists and charts. For kids who are read/write learners, they do well when they can write down instructions or read instructions.

Children who are kinesthetic learners learn best when they are moving. For kids who are kinesthetic, they do well when they can add movement to what they are learning, such as playing with a toy or taking a walk.

Often ADHD children struggle with learning because we are presenting information in a style that doesn’t work for them. You’ll be able to determine which style they prefer by observing when they are successful learning information. Once you understanding which learning style your child with ADHD prefers, you can then present information using that style. Presenting information in a learning style they prefer will allow you to spend less time giving instructions while finding greater success.

You can also help them find strategies for different learning styles that aren’t their preferred learning style.

Stuck on determining which learning style your child prefers? ADHD Parenting Coach can help you with that! Sign-up for a free 15-minute mini-session and have our ADHD Parenting Coach help you find real and doable learning style strategies.

Sign-up for ADHD Parenting Coaching on the SmarterParenting.com website. https://www.smarterparenting.com/coaching

Episode Transcript

Did you know that Smarter Parenting offers coaching? And to begin coaching, we offer a free 15-minute mini-session where we can discuss what needs you may have with your child. When you sign-up for coaching, I’ll send you a questionnaire so we can maximize our time together. So go ahead, log into the Smarter Parenting website and sign-up for coaching and receive your 15-minute free mini-session. I hope to see you there.

Welcome. This is episode 32.

Smarter Parenting welcomes you to our podcast series, The Parenting Coach for ADHD. Here to heal and elevate lives is your Parenting Coach, Siope Kinikini.

Hello everybody. Hi friends. How are you doing? I hope everybody’s doing well. I hope you’ve had a great day and I hope you have great things planned for the next couple of days. I am really happy, actually, to be here and to talk about this next subject. Which I think is super important for parents to understand, or anybody working with children to understand, in how children process information and how they learn.

Before I get started though, I want to point out that I’m wearing a vest and for those of you who are listening to the podcast, you don’t know that I’m not wearing a vest. I usually actually wear a suit coat. But today I decided I will wear a vest, largely because I like vests. It’s kind of an odd thing but I tend to run cold and so I like things that are warmer. So, usually I am usually cold and that may be because of where I come from. I come from the Pacific Islands, which is warm and humid and I live here in the Rocky Mountains, which tends to run a little bit colder.

Anyways, I just wanted to brag about my blue vest cause I don’t wear it that much, but it’s a special day, obviously. But what I wanted to talk about today was about learning styles and the different learning styles that there are. And the reason that this is important is because your child has a very specific learning style that they’ve probably leaned on or they tend to lean on when they’re absorbing information and learning. And if a parent knows the learning style of their child, they actually are more effective in delivering instruction that a child will be able to grasp, or concepts that a child can learn from, much easier than conflicting styles of learning.

Now, there actually are a lot of different variations on learning styles. I’m focused on VARK, V-A-R-K, which, in 1992, came from Fleming and Mills. VARK actually is an acronym. And so we start with the V-A-R-K. V stands for visual, A for aural or auditory, R is for a read or write, which, I know write starts with a W, I get it, but that’s what they had put. So read and write for R and the K is kinesthetic. So I want you to go through each of these and explain them a little bit and then talk about how a parent can integrate a teaching interaction or how they can work with their child if they lean towards one. Now, a parent will know more effectively than anyone else what learning style their child has, right?

So let’s start with visual. Now, this preference includes a depiction of information in maps, spider diagrams, charts, graphs, flow charts, labeled diagrams, and all the symbolic arrows, circles and hierarchy. So things that are visual graphically. They learn that way. I am one of those people that if I see a picture, I can grasp a lot of information from that much easier than if somebody is trying to tell me or explain it to me. So whenever I do a presentation, when I am at a conference, I tend to always have slides, because for me, that helps me give the presentation a lot more easily than if I just had notes.

I depend largely on pictures. And in fact, when I was younger, I developed a system which is a mixture of the write and the visual where I would take notes, but I would draw little short pictures as representations and that’s what helped me through school. So kind of an interesting thing, I should show it. They kind of looked like hieroglyphic and nobody can understand it but me because I created it for myself. But it was a way for me to engage in the content because that was largely auditory and read and write, and those are my weaknesses. And so I had to find a way to make it work. So visual has to do with graphics and graphs and things that you can visually see to gather information and to help you know.

Now, aural or auditory, this perceptual mode describes a preference for information that is heard or spoken. So learners who have this as their main preference report that they learn best from lectures, group discussions, from radio, from email, from texting, from speaking with somebody else, web chats. Those are the types of things that is, those are better auditory, things that they hear.

Read and write, which is the third part of VARK. This preference is for information displayed as words. Not surprisingly, many teachers and students have a strong preference for this mode. Being able to write well and read widely are attributes sought by employers of graduates. So this preference emphasizes text-based input and output, reading and writing in all its forms, but especially manuals, reports, essays, and assignments. People who preferred this modality are often addicted to PowerPoint, the internet, lists, diaries, dictionaries, thesauri, quotations and words, words, words. Now that most PowerPoint presentations and the internet, Google, and Wikipedia are essentially suited to those with this preference, as there is seldom an auditory channel or presentation that uses visual symbols.

I’m this. I’m visual and I am read-write. And you can be a mixture of these and figuring that out. But I do prefer the large PowerPoint. I prefer pictures. I prefer doing it that way.

Kinesthetic. Now, by definition, this modality refers to the perceptual preference related to the use of experience in practice, simulated or real. Okay. That’s the definition that they give. Although such an experience may invoke other modalities, the key is that people who prefer this mode are connected to reality, either through concrete, personal experiences, examples, practice or simulation. That’s from the explanation, but kinesthetic basically means movement, their ability to move and grasp meaning from being able to move. And you’ll find that, actually, with ADHD children movement is a big component of some of their behaviors, especially with hyper activity. And so you can connect that with something else that they may have a proclivity towards. So say that they love something graphic. Then you would integrate something with both of those components to help your child learn a concept.

You can have a mixture of the modalities. You can have the kinesthetic, which is movement, you can read-write, you can be a listener, a good listener and process information in that way or you could be a visual person. Now the example that I’m going to give you is my own example. I’m a visual person. I’ve always been a very visual person, and I’m also a read-write person. So when somebody is giving a lecture, I have a very hard time paying attention to what it is that they’re talking about unless they have big pictures and they are able to show me a little bit more than just the verbal. If somebody is just talking to me, I have learned some skills in order to pay attention to that so I can have relationships with people because that is a big part of, not everybody’s going to be walking around with a PowerPoint for everything that they do. A lot of communication with friends and with family is done auditorially and so in order for me to maintain relationships, I had to learn skills that helped me keep focused.

I’m going to tell you one of those. When I am talking to somebody, like for lunch, let’s say we go to lunch and we’re in a room and it’s really noisy, I tend to focus directly on the bridge in between their eyebrows, that bridge area. I tend to look at it and then focus on that and then as they speak, I pay very close attention to, I imagine that sometimes those words. If I’m having a hard time paying attention, that those words are actually floating up to that bridge and are sticking there and they just kind of pop up there and then pop like a bubble. And that requires a lot of mental concentration and energy on my part, and I know it sounds really hokey and weird, but at the same time, it’s just a way that I’ve learned to pay attention to somebody.

The way it worked before is if somebody was talking to me and we were having lunch together, my mind would drift and I would be focused on the sandwich, I would be focused on the noise over there and I’d focus over there. Then I’d come back and I’d be like, “Okay wait, what are we talking about?” And it would be distracting. And so I use that technique in order to keep me focused on what’s most important because my mind tends to wander in a lot of different directions. Now, that’s not right for everybody. What I’m saying is I’ve learned to develop some of these skills over time.

I knew early on that I was a visual person. I knew that early on. I loved art, to draw, to explain myself it was always with a picture. In my early journals you will see, as a child, I drew pictures. That’s what I drew. So the visual, the kinesthetic, which is the movement of actually drawing the pictures was important for me. And then the read-write. I started to incorporate that.

There is an art piece that I did create while I was in college and it’s actually probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I created this mosaic of letters and it was pretty much representative of my inability to focus during college in the courses that I had, but it had a visual piece to it and then it had a read-write piece to it and it just was very representative of me.

So what I did, as I had mentioned before, is I created this way to visually see words when I am receiving a lecture from somebody, when somebody is communicating with me. As far as the lecture goes and if it’s just words, I know I have to adjust and find ways that I can focus on those things. And as time has continued, it’s been a lot easier to do. I’m super grateful for that.

Anyways, for your child, what you should do is evaluate what is their learning style? Are they visual? Are they kinesthetic? Do they need to move? And with the kinesthetic piece is really great because you can actually be walking and that is enough movement that while you’re talking, they can focus. For parents, what you need to do is evaluate what is the learning style of your child. Is it kinesthetic, is it visual, is it auditory? And when you are able to determine what it is or what the preference is, you can actually start to teach using that approach.

So take for example, if your child is kinesthetic, which is movement, a lot of times it’s important for them to be doing some type of movement while you’re communicating with them. And the movement itself, if it’s something that’s reassuring and calming, will help them focus a lot better. What you can also do is, during your communication, taking a walk together and talking about things is more effective than actually sitting down with them and just lecturing them or just making eye contact and talking that way.

There’s this certain ability that children are able to grasp more information if they are comfortable in the style that the information is being given. We’re all that way. Some things worked better for us than others. For adults, I mean, I want you to think back at somebody who’s communicated to you in a style that is not your preference. And maybe you haven’t thought about it, but everyone has a preference in the way that they like to receive information.

When somebody is giving information in a way that’s not really your natural style of receiving information, it can actually be very uncomfortable for you. And so what you want to do is create this environment where you are communicating with your child in a way that is comfortable for them and for you, so you can relay the information and they can absorb it in an effective way.

What I would recommend is, parents, take a step back and evaluate how is my child absorbing the world around them. Is it kinesthetic? Do they have to be moving all the time? Are they able to just auditorially listen to something and grasp it? Is that where the focus is? Is it with graphics? Is it visual? Does it have to be a visual thing? And then you can combine, if there are multiple levels or multiple ways that they learn, different learning styles, then you can combine ways to do that.

What I have recommended for parents who have children that are highly visual is that, for example, in cleaning their room, instead of having a checklist of things that they need to do, is actually taking pictures of what a clean room looks like and posting that on the chore chart. And that way the child is just looking at the picture and saying, “Okay, I have to copy what it looks like here, here.” And that actually is better than writing down pick up toys, pick up a laundry, make bed. No. For a visual person, it’s like, okay, what looks right? Okay, does this look right? And it’s feeding off of that learning style to help them learn better. That’s a technique that I’ve used with parents in the past.

Sometimes it’s better, especially with younger children, to use pictures rather than letters, sometimes in the verbal conversations. And a lot of parents like to lecture and try and convince their child that things need to be a certain way.

If you can use their learning style in the way that you present the information, then that can be super helpful. If they are somebody who likes to read and write, then maybe writing it out in a contract very specifically for them so they can go through and outline it and they can highlight it and they can mark it up the way that they need to mark it up in order for them to grasp the information that you’re trying to share.

Those are some suggestions that I, I would recommend that you actually hop over to the Smarter Parenting website. There is a skill there called Effective Consequences (coming late 2019), which is super helpful for parents to establish a system in the home where they can have consequences for the behaviors that they need to and make corrections. But paired with this knowledge of how you can present this information, it would be very effective for a child who struggles with ADHD in helping them understand the consequences of their behaviors and how to improve those behaviors.

Now, Smarter Parenting is offering coaching and I want to throw that in there. So if you are in need of a coach and you want us to coach you through an issue that you’re struggling with, with your child who has ADHD, please jump over to the Smarter Parenting website. Log in. There is a form there that you can fill out and what will happen is you will fill out a form that will give us some background into what we’re looking at and trying to address before we actually have the coaching session. So we’re actually focused in on what it is that you need. And then from there we can set up a time. We would do a Zoom call or we could talk over the phone and we could discuss what it is that you would need help with.

And I actually am excited about that part because sharing information this way is fantastic. I love it. But being able to be very specific to a very specific child and an issue is even more powerful. And that’s something that I definitely want to address with parents who may need it.

That’s it from me. I hope everybody’s doing well and I hope you have a great day and I will see you again next time. So until then, catch you later. Bye.

Resources mentioned in this podcast

Free 15-minute ADHD Coaching mini-session

The difference between consequences and punishments

How to teach your children consequences

Do consequences really work?

How to get your children to do what you want without punishment

Move-along chore chart: knight

Move-along chore chart: princess

Build a knight chore chart

Build a fairy chore chart


Podcast Transcript

The transcript text is below. You can also download the PDF file of the transcript here.