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Wayne L. Klein, PhD

Neuropsychological Assessment of Children & Adults; Couples & Individual Psychotherapy Offices in Franklin, MA & Spaulding Center for Children, Sandwich, MA
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Study Skills

The active mind is constantly monitoring for hazy understanding, stopping and correcting the gaps in understanding. Gaps in understanding are like debris blocking the memory highway network. Much of the job of studying is the job of cleaning up the highway so understanding can efficiently flow in all directions.

Students with a history of academic difficulty have likely accumulated years of debris on the highway. When a subject is cumulative (that is, based on prior learning), students cannot effectively proceed without taking care of unfinished business. Put on your orange jump suit and clean up the highway. The child needs to clear the road of misunderstood concepts and hazy terms. Memorize those math facts. Drop back and go over all the material covered in lower grades. This will require extra work and is best done over the summer and over holidays.

The active mind is constantly monitoring to be sure that one is actually on task. It is very possible to read on automatic pilot without paying attention. This is close to a complete waste of time. Moving between the same concepts in two books, or a book & the internet helps keep the mind stimulated and auto pilot turned of. Students need coaching in what to do when they discover a lack of understanding.

Building understanding means building associations, connections or hyperlinks. Isolated facts are like potentially important documents thrown in the bottom of a file cabinet, never to be found when needed.

Effective memorizing entails building multiple pathways to the same information so when one road gets washed out, one link broken or one association forgotten, there are other ways to retrieve the information.

Ways to help your child at home

If your child likes movies, then watch a movie a week that provides background info for school, or for a future grade. A boy will get some sense of history just watching war flicks. Slip in documentaries when interest allows. Netflix can be a great way to access DVDs.

If your child has difficulty keeping up in class, then provide preteaching, either from yourself or via a tutor. Find out what will be covered in class over the next week and in coordination with teachers. This may be in the form of actual lessons or just looking at an age appropriate book or website.

For the child who rushes through homework to get it over with, change the rules. the standard should not be "getting it done." Make the standard doing it correctly, understanding it and being prepared for the next day. Set standards and provide enough help to keep the student in the zone of growth.

Study takes effort. Your child should not have to be constantly fighting temptations. Coach your child to eliminate distractions such as music, TV, text messaging, phone calls, video games and Internet. This is not done by the child turning them off. Turning off the electronics is not eliminating temptations, it is successfully fighting temptations - which requires constant cognitive resources. Eliminating temptations means removing all electronics from the room in which studying occurs and asking an adult to take control of access. If this is not successful and your child shows no signs of learning using this strategy, then you must ultimately take control. There are many software fixes to assist both children and adults in regulating their access to electronic temptations.

First, consider making this a learning experience by giving your child a way of avoiding your declaring Martial Law.

Warning. Do not allow electronics after homework is complete as this will strongly motivate rushing. Rather, set a window either before or after homework in which select electronics are allowed.