The new term is just about to start for my household; the washing machine is on permanently, pens and pencils keep being put in the right orders in pencil cases, we are making sure the kids touch base with their friends, we are having endless conversations about what will happen on the morning, and stress levels are rising.
One of the jobs to do over the next day or so is to help T (our youngest) to do her homework – an ‘all about me’ sheet to help her draw/write/decorate, and a questionnaire for me to fill in about her preferences, fears and interests. Slipped into this pack of papers is a sheet explaining different learning styles – a reminder that we are all different in the ways we most comfortably learn. It got me thinking and exploring. Are the four basic learning styles (auditory, visual, physical (Kinesthetic), reading & writing) a good way of thinking of T’s learning, or is there a model that would better take into account ASD characteristics?Temple Grandin described her experience of ASD as ‘thinking through pictures’, and I read a lot about how the visual learning style is the comfortable place for children on the ASD spectrum. But I recently read an article (about unique ASD learning characteristics which talked more about how although there may for some children be a very clear favourite learning style, there is still a blend of many styles just as there usually is for NT (neuro-typical) learners. In fact the article went on to suggest that a variety of opportunities is best.
The article helpfully added other distinct styles to the list of possibilities – modelling (having people around to imitate or watch), categorising & organising, self-talk (going through something out loud by yourself), needing the literal. Thinking about it with T in mind I also wanted to add that being asked to do something directly could stop the learning experience, and also wondered about her extraordinary imagination and its relationship to her learning. It has been really useful to make the time to think about it (yes as usual mostly when I ought to be sleeping but can’t!), and to watch how T does gravitate to some of these styles in particular and yet also engages with others quite often.
Of course I began to wonder how I take this into account while trying to share faith with her in the day to day. There are definitely some comfort learning zones for her, and some definite unique strengths. There are in all of us, and those must of course affect how we grow in faith, learn about faith, and experience (and process) the things of faith. Am I creating a variety of opportunities to learn in the day to day of the home, am I allowing her to dig deep in her comfort learning zone – a place where she will be most relaxed and receptive, most able to understand and appropriate ideas. Inevitably my mind has been scanning over the holiday weeks wondering what opportunities for nurturing faith we have had together, the intentional ones and the unexpected, and how they have given a chance for different learning styles to be used.
There was a scavenger hunt with cousins to find things ‘that God made’ that matched different categories which opened up great discussions and moments of praise and wonder (physical, visual, catagorise); travelling in the car listening to worship songs (auditory, physical – because each sentence had an action created for it by T!, self-talk – as T has gone away from those journeys singing bits of songs over and over and processing them, changing words here and there to make them her own); Bible stories shared, read and retold (writing & reading, visual and lots of imagination re-living the stories in play, self-talk); celebrating birthdays with family who acknowledge God’s faithfulness (modelling, physical, auditory); attending church – our own and others (auditory, visual, physical, modelling, reading & writing); discussion and answering questions (auditory, categorise); being in nature – walking, picking fruit, looking after pets, being at the beach, visiting farms – and being able to recognise God’s love and care, creativity and ‘bigness’ (physical, modelling – T was with us as we expressed some of those thoughts, visual and imagination); drawing and crafts – some at sunday schools, some just at home for fun – but nevertheless an opportunity to talk and learn about faith (physical, visual); camping with other Christians at New Wine & going to groups (modelling, physical, auditory, visual, reading & writing); praying together (imagination – T & I have been exploring meditative listening prayer when we can, auditory, self-talk?).
Looking over the holiday weeks in that way has excited me – how many more creative opportunities await? There will be plenty I will try to initiate (indirectly perhaps with T), and lots more that will just happen. I pray that in each of them we will learn together in different ways – nurturing our knowledge of God, our experience of Him, our trust and faith.
To find out about your learning styles try the quick questionnaire here http://www.whatismylearningstyle.com/learning-style-test-1.html
or your child’s here
I have summarised the ASD learning characteristics here, if useful feel free to print out!