Understanding Children as Learners
Children’s Cerebral Palsy Movement (CCPM) is offering a new Academic Tutoring Initiative as part of our effort to create community and resources for CP families in Orange County and Southern California.
This week, we’re hearing from Kate Anderson, Special Education Teacher & Program Director of CCPM’s Academic Tutoring Initiative about the program and its individualized approach to teaching.
It only was last summer that I was blessed to become associated with Debbie Fragner and family. I became the tutor for her beautiful and creative daughter, Maddie. From our first encounter, I could see that although she had mobility challenges, Maddie was a thinker and communicator with a desire to know more. Recently completing an extended professional development program, I was prepared to differentiate instruction to help Maddie become a successful learner. Getting to know her and assessing her prior knowledge have enabled me to use her interests and strengths to help Maddie not just memorize math processes, but understand concepts and apply that knowledge in her schoolwork.
Exceptional in her unique talents, Maddie is not the exception to a great population of mind capable special needs learners. In terms of education, the key to understanding the CCPM “a diagnosis, not a destiny” statement stems from decades of researchers discovering that the brain is a dynamic system that changes as a result of received stimuli during a person’s lifetime. Once considered “fixed” at some point in adult life, these newly understood changes in neural connections are referred to as neuroplasticity. “Long-lasting functional changes in the brain occur when we learn new things or memorize new information, and experiences reorganize neural pathways in the brain” [Hoiland, E. (n.d.). Brain plasticity: What is it? Learning and Memory. Retrieved from https://faculty.washington. edu/chudler/plast.html].
The knowledge that the brain never stops changing and adjusting, changes the way we should think of any child’s ability to learn. Too often, the labels associated with special needs learners having an IEP or Section 504 acknowledge the deficits and weaknesses in a child’s learning. Instead, we want to recognize the strengths and build on them to help every learner be successful. On a learning continuum, each child begins at a different point relative to his or her readiness to learn, interests, and learning styles. No matter where the starting point, we want every child to be afforded opportunities to be the best learner he or she can be.
The purpose of my ongoing blogs will be to inform and open up discussions about your children’s education, research in learning, and supportive strategies to offer hope and support. It is my goal that, over time, we all become more knowledgeable advocates and guides for our exceptional students.
With all of this in mind, I am delighted to begin to infuse these individualized learning concepts into CCPM’s new Academic Tutoring Initiative program, serving fully mainstreamed children with CP. This program is part of CCPM’s greater effort to create community and resources for CP families.