Strengths and deficits in children

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 posted by wiseones 7:04 am

On 24/11/09 I attended a seminar given by Dr Mel Levine, Rhodes scholar, graduate of Harvard, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina. Dr Levine taught us about Neurodevelopmental Constructs and Functions. His special interest is in children who are not doing well at school. Quite a few children are gifted and also have developmental deficits. Dr Levine does not believe in labels such as ADHD or Aspbergers. He says we must look at the strengths of each child and help use them to find a way around the weaknesses. I was interested in one of his books “The Myth of Laziness’ as one of my own gifted children was always accused of “laziness”. No teacher recognized him as gifted and he was not sure until he was tested as an adult.

The 8 Constructs are:

  • Attention, which is mental energy, alertness, mental exertion, Sleep/Arousal balance. He said up to 18 years they need 9 hours sleep a night and we can teach them “wind-down” methods. Dr Levine is very concerned that we take the moral condemnation away and look at the facts.  Every person has strengths and weaknesses. I discovered some I did not know I had and I’m a  grandmother.
  • Temporal Sequential ( time)ordering such as serial order, short term memory overload, giving too many instructions at once, procedures, narrative order, complex decision making
  • Spatial ordering ( space) such as visualization, aesthetics, recognition, non-verbal concept forming, non verbal reasoning, seeing the whole picture and all its parts. I notice this weakness in quite  few children doing WiseOnes try-outs. Some cannot make a picture from the information yet we remember in pictures.
  • Memory – short term, active working memory, long term memory encoding, long term memory access and recall, automated processes- tables and writing habits and courtesy habits matter
  • Languagereceptive where we gain our inputs –phonics, morphemes, semantics, sentence comprehension, discourse processing.  And Expressive language where we communicate with others- articulation, prosody, morphology application, word retrieval, sentence formulation, discourse production, verbal elaboration. He says every teacher must insist that the children answer in sentences and then elaborate with phrases and clauses as they grow.
  • Neuromotor functions (physical)- gross such as large movements and fine. Also graphomotor functions.  The way the child holds the pen does matter very much.  It must allow the other fingers flexibility so it is held between the thumb and first finger, resting on the joint of the first finger. A pencil is better to learn or re-learn as it has more friction on the paper.
  • Social cognition- verbal pragmatics. We have many small cues that we use- implicit communication(raised eyebrow, know who did the action) tone, affective matching, code switching, topic selection, conversation exchange and humour and then there is social regulation where we set up our own self image, market ourselves, respond to social cues, collaborate, resolve conflicts, initiation techniques, shake hands , stand apart distance and gain political acumen.
  • Higher Order Cognition  includes conceptualization and mental representation, evaluative thinking, complex decision making and applied reasoning.

These constructs come in clusters so a child who has a deficit in one is likely to have other deficits as well.  Dr Levine has a special website for parents to help them assess and help their children. It is

www.allkindsofminds.org   and another one   www.BringingUpMinds.com

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