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AS and Comprehension Difficulties?

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Messages: 1 - 15 of 15
  • Message 1. 

    Posted by foobabe (U10565341) on Tuesday, 29th September 2009

    Hi Y'all

    I have a question about english/maths comprehension and processing. S scores very high for english but his processing and comprehension pulls him right down. Pure maths equations are doable but if in a paragraph format - forget it, I may as well be speaking greek. I have googled some strategies for helping him cope but I would be interested in learning more, can understanding improve with age? Thoughts?..
    Foobabe x

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  • Message 2

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by devine63 (U14166755) on Saturday, 17th October 2009

    a lot will depend on how serious his difficulties with processing and comprehension are. And yes, things can change as children get older, but not always, it depends so much on the individual.

    Sometimes a really detailed neuropsychological assessment report can help to clarify exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are. That report can help a specialist teacher with the right set of skills to teach him some strategies to help him to manage better. If that does not work he may need an adjustment to any future academic assessments which basically means he gets help with the processing, but still does the bits he can do.
    Your family doctor should be able to refer him to a child neuropsychologist for assessment. Good luck.

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  • Message 3

    , in reply to message 2.

    Posted by foobabe (U10565341) on Sunday, 18th October 2009

    Hi Devine63

    Many Thanks for your response

    It's definitely something to think about. I will look into how to get a referral for a child neuropsychologist.

    The Educational Psy did this particular assessment so I will ask her for a full breakdown when we meet again (at Christmas). I have looked into different strategies on the internet and feel that what we do at home also needs to be mirrored in the classroom, otherwise it going to be ineffective.

    It's an issue I want to raise with his teachers at the next IEP meeting. He has a teaching assistant for 15 hours a week (He has ADHD as well as AS) and she helps keep him on task and to stay calm, but how much she or the school can do with regard to processing strategies I don't know. If they are unable to provide specific guidance in this area then I am going to ask for additional help from ASD Services.

    I will keep you up dated
    Foobabe x

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  • Message 4

    , in reply to message 3.

    Posted by devine63 (U14166755) on Tuesday, 20th October 2009

    glad my suggestion was helpful; as I said, start by asking your GP. The ed psych may be able to do some of the necessary tests, but a child neuropsych has access to a wider range of tests which can be more sensitive to the small differences in ability on different skills. To be blunt, most ed psychs are OK on kids with routine behavioural difficulties and specific learning difficulties like dyslexia, but they are a bit out of their depth with the more complex neurological conditions and if you son has ADHD as well as AS, I would say that was more complex! Take the ed psych's report to show the child neuropsych, the scores will be useful to show whether he has improved over time.
    Best wishes

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  • Message 5

    , in reply to message 2.

    Posted by busybody2 (U9598304) on Saturday, 31st October 2009

    Hi, Devine,
    Young person has frontal lobe damage causing, among others, probs with organising, self-expression, 'seeing' the pic as others do ie interpreting feedback from the environment, mildly inappropriate verbal dealings with others... Plays havoc in exams. Finds physical stuff more straightforward. Has LS in school from good PA. Anxious to attend uni; good GCSEs but AS results disastrous, now re-sitting alongside A2s, private tutors supplementing in-school LS at school's request.
    Please elucidate on 'adjustment to any future academic assessments which basically means he gets help with the processing...'.
    Our young person has extra time & computer - anything else that might help?

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  • Message 6

    , in reply to message 5.

    Posted by devine63 (U14166755) on Sunday, 1st November 2009

    Hi busybody2

    frontal lobe damage is a tough one - typical pattern is that it leaves the person's general cognitive skills pretty much intact (so general "intelligence" is OK) but can also leave the person with

    - difficulties controlling emotions (any or all of: irritability, angry outbursts,cycling between low and high moods, sometimes inappropriate sexual desires, etc.).
    - difficulties with inhibiting behaviours for example people learn not to say every idea that enters their heads, because often the ideas are socially inappropriate. When disinhibited like this you can get emotions which not suitable for the setting, or jokes / laughter at inappropriate times, or just stark honesty when it would have been more tactful to stay quiet.

    - in academic settings though it is usually the executive skills difficulties which are most problematic. So that's things like:

    difficulties with personal organisation which affect essay planning;

    difficulties "thinking through" the consequences of an idea or action - so evaluation and analysis can be hard;

    difficulties planning ahead - so organising workload and meeting deadlines is harder;

    difficulties with complex forms of reasoning can make answering some types of essay questions more difficult.

    sometimes the person can have difficulties with empathy, which is that difficulty understanding how other people see things;

    Sometimes people have difficulties with perseveration (that means they keep on doing a task or following a rule after they should have stopped) which can look like obsessional thinking or compulsive behaviour. This can result in researching too much, gathering so much information for an essay or other assignment that the person then has trouble selecting what is relevant to answer the question. Or it can mean the person has trouble moving on from their first few ideas, and extending their ideas out into a whole essay. Or they can be really perfectionist and never satisfied with their work....

    Another difficulty can be with prospective memory (remembering to do things in the future, like remembering that today I have a doctor's appointment at 11am and a hairdresser appointment at 4pm - not just as a fact, but actually remembering to go do those things on time, without prompting). An electronic organiser programmed carefully can be a big help with this.

    So a lot depends on exactly what the difficulties are for the particular student. If s/he has not already had a detailed assessment by a neuropsychologist (referral from your GP to a local neurological centre, they should have a neuropsych), that would probably be worth doing as it will help to identify which skills remain strong and which are affected and so weaker, that can help a support worker to work out strategies to help the student.

    Some examples of things I have seen that helped some students:

    Some people like specialist software to help with planning essays and other projects. There is software based on Tony Buzan's "mindmapping" techniques for organisation (names include MindJet; Inspiration, Mind Genius you can google them). The software allows colourful visual planning, but then helps switch that over into a verbal format which can be really helpful if the student finds sitting in front of a blank page a problem. If helpful this software can be used (with a word processor) during exams or for coursework.

    Some students benefit from working with a professional mentor during the whole year (one hour a week, sometimes more), their job is to help the student to manage their workload, develop necessary study skills, etc.

    One thing that can help is working out the student's preferred learning style - helps if you know what kinds of things they find easiest to remember and think about. e.g. some people prefer visual information (pictures, diagrams, graphs, tables) some audio (sounds, spoken words, music, rhythm) and so on. They can work out strategies for switching the exam material into prefeerred format for revision and maybe planning too.

    One of my students used to work with mentor plus a large whiteboard to do his processing in a form he could both see immediately and keep visible for long enough to finish the exam or assignment. The mentor has to be very careful not to add content themself, but they can help to organise the material the student brings.

    If students have difficulties in understanding written material (e.g. because the language is too complex) they can sometimes either have a reader to make sure they read the question correctly or have papers written in simplified english (though that depends on the discipline they choose as sometimes it is unavoidable).

    Other students can be helped by something straightforward like a glossary - a list of the specialist jargon and its meanings.

    So a lot depends on exactly what the problem is with the exams.
    Did anyone ask for a report on the disasterous AS exams? Was there a specific problem with them?

    Some students need their mentor present for exams, not necessarily to do anything in particular, just for reassurance / moral support. I remember one girl who needed the mentor there because if she wasn't there, the student would become convinced the paper was not good enough and tear it up before the end of the exam... if the mentor was there, she knew they would stop her...

    ANother one had to have somebody walk with her to the bindery to hand in her thesis, because if not she might have dropped it into a puddle or found some other way to prevent herself having to hand it in.

    If the student really struggles seriously with exams it MAY be possible sometimes to negotiate alternative forms of assessment (so they do extra coursework or a viva (spoken test) or maybe a presentation or something else instead of the exams). This is more common in newer universities, but can occasionally be negotiated if needed - but should be done BEFORE the start of the course.

    Assuming the student is British and meets the other criteria, all the things I have mentioned could be funded by the Disabled STudents' Allowances or by the University itself.

    Happy to help if you have more questions,
    Best wishes, Deb

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  • Message 7

    , in reply to message 6.

    Posted by foobabe (U10565341) on Tuesday, 16th November 2010

    Update - despite S having a spiky profile (high english, v low maths) he was accepted into the local mainstream high school in September for year 8 smiley - smiley

    He seems to be coping but I am concerned that his short term memory is very poor. I know its very typical with AS but honestly sometimes it is down right frustrating - read a page for history (his pet subject) and five minutes later he cannot recall a single fact.
    Now his teacher informs me that the phrase "I don't know" is used a lot by him. I know stress gets him flustered and he will throw any old answer into the mix.
    I know he is very capable - Could it be how the questions are being phrased?

    I had investiaged a programme called Neuron Learning as it claims to help working memory, comprehension etc - has anyone very heard of it??

    Thanks as always

    Report message7

  • Message 8

    , in reply to message 7.

    Posted by devine63 (U14166755) on Wednesday, 17th November 2010

    Hi Foobabe

    sorry, I have not heard of "Neuron Learning", so can't help there.

    there are 2 things which can help with memory

    1. work out which modality is best for getting information into memory - which route works best - some people are very visual learners, others are best if the material is in an auditory format, others learn best by activity, and so on. If he can manage them there are some "learning style" tests on line which may help to identify which is his preference. Once you know that he needs to develop strategies for switching whatever he needs to learn into those best formats. Some people find "multi-sensory learning" helpful - it just means you ensure the material to be learned is available in as many formats as possible (so read aloud what is written down as well as reading it, maybe use scented pens for the writing, etc.).

    2. the memory input system has quite a strict size limit (for everyone)
    so strategies for grouping the information together into coherent chunks are helpful. A very simple example is that a long phone number is easier to remember if you break it into smaller groups e.g. 01 234 567 8910

    Also if your child is very visual, they may like "mind maps" - see various books available in your local library by a guy called tony Buzan.
    regards, Deb

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  • Message 9

    , in reply to message 8.

    Posted by foobabe (U10565341) on Wednesday, 17th November 2010

    Hi Deb
    Thanks for getting back to me - you always have fantastic ideas and a great understanding of AS - I am always heartened to see your reponses smiley - smiley

    We have never really established his learning style - I think alot of the time its by rote. In primary 7 I was really stressed because he couldn't get time tables - Even 2 x 2 was difficult - sent me into panic mode and so we started extra maths work in the form of KUMON - its extra maths every day and was very intense for a while (lots of tears - him and me) but now his mental maths is great (not perfect but much better). I think it eventually became a long term memory for him. Maybe thats how things work for him with his memory???

    Didn't know we could actually detmine his learning style online - will check that out and discuss with the school. I think that would help alot. Grouping information into chunks sounds interesting and I will check out how to develop a startegy for that.

    Had read a Tony Buzan book before - does it not work better for project work? Will have a re-read.

    S told me last night that it takes a while for stuff to get from his brain to his mouth and then it gets lost sometimes. We have now practiced saying "Please can you explain that question better and give me a little think to think" instead of the default - "I don't know".

    Thanks again Deb smiley - smiley you have given me a few more stratigies to look at and develop


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  • Message 10

    , in reply to message 9.

    Posted by Sofie2 (U14259204) on Wednesday, 17th November 2010

    Foobabe - there are (I think) tests that school can do to find out what style of learning S has. I remember doing them at some point.

    Report message10

  • Message 11

    , in reply to message 9.

    Posted by devine63 (U14166755) on Thursday, 18th November 2010

    Hi Foobabe,

    as always it is good to hear my suggestions are helpful. I have to admit most of my knowledge in this area is theoretical (I studied theory of mind ideas about ASDs in psychology) but I have gained a bit of practical / application from working with teenage students with AS and the children of friends. My own son has severe dyslexia.

    [that reminds me - did I mention a friend's son who has AS recently got a First in his University degree course? We were so pleased, he did so well!]

    Anyhow - getting back to helping you!

    When you say learning "by rote" - usually that means by auditory methods involving lots of repetition. If that really is his preferred method, he might be an auditory learner - in which case a voice recording device might prove helpful.

    But then you said learning times tables was hard - and most people do that by the auditory methods (just repeating the phrases until they are learned). I'm not familiar with KUMON, how does it work?

    You might try asking: when he does mental maths does he have a picture in his head? e.g. lots of people do mental maths by creating a mental image of a board with the working out written on it.

    Here are a couple of learning style tests that might be suitable, if not you can run a search for more, loads pop up.



    If you son is using his long term memory more, then bear in mind that there might be a period of time between learning the material and being able to recall it effectively - because laying down long term memories seems to require a bit of time and whilst they are being laid down, the material is not accessible. So if he cannot retrieve the material straight away, try again in a few hours or tomorrow...

    The mind maps from Tony Buzan can be used in lots of ways, they are a less verbal, non-linear way to manage a fairly large amount of info - some people use no words at all, just images (some are beautiful); others use key words in their mind maps. Some of our students use them for taking notes from a lecture or making notes from a textbook; others use them for organising material they need to memorise (e.g. for exam revision) and lots of students use mind maps for planning an essay or a project.

    If your son likes the mind maps on paper, he might light to try some of the specialist software - like Inspiration or Mind Manager or Mind Jet or Mind Genius (they differ a little and some people like different aspects of them - personally i love the rapid fire function in Inspiration).

    "S told me last night that it takes a while for stuff to get from his brain to his mouth and then it gets lost sometimes." Your suggestion is a good start! Other one is "I need a little thinking time..."

    He might also find jotting down keywords useful - so he doesn't lose ideas and can develop each one into a sentence / paragraph later.

    As for chunking:
    When I was revising for exams I would take my class notes and re-write them again and again, making it more brief each time, using tables and diagrams where I could (I'm a visual learner) and in the end I would have a set of postcards with just a paragraph or a set of keywords for each topic or other chunk.

    The other thing is to reassure your son: as he gets older and studies at higher levels learning big chunks of factual (descriptive) info becomes less important, it is more about being able to analyse and evaluate and construct a coherent argument gets more important, along with knowing where to look for info, rather than knowing it yourself. So the expectations change over time / level of study.
    regards, Deb

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  • Message 12

    , in reply to message 11.

    Posted by Otter25 (U14189455) on Wednesday, 8th December 2010

    congratulations to your son regarding his school place

    we see for want of a better word things as pictures and processes as past events. So if I am remembering birthdays I am 7 again and in a garden.

    Montessori - expensive yes, but a lot can be read about it. Its learning through play- so through physical process. So the process is reacted when the brain is faced with the equation or facts can be linked on to different stages of process. Sort of tying ribbons on to a ladder, each rung a different colour ribbon to bring through different facts stored somewhere in your mind.

    AS really is wrong planet syndrome isn't it

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  • Message 13

    , in reply to message 12.

    Posted by Otter25 (U14189455) on Wednesday, 8th December 2010

    should also work with dyslexia, they have a great spacial intellect

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  • Message 14

    , in reply to message 13.

    Posted by Otter25 (U14189455) on Thursday, 9th December 2010

    had a think about this at work last night. Is our inability to comphend info in written text or functions of an equation another dimension of our inability to read social cues and tone

    my feeling is that it would be to do with the same miswiring of the brain

    Report message14

  • Message 15

    , in reply to message 14.

    Posted by devine63 (U14166755) on Friday, 10th December 2010

    I think the answer is probably yes, Otter. Reading a section of text requires some social interpretation too - one has to decide things like:

    is this fact or fiction?

    what is the context? e.g. is it a textbook? If yes what level? Is it for 5 year olds or 15 year olds or university students? Is it aimed at experts or at the general public?

    or is it a coffee table book? (by which I mean something colourful, factual and interesting to read which one might leave on a coffee table for guests to amuse themselves with)

    what are the key points of the content they are trying to convey?
    (which is probably the problem with interpreting the maths question)

    If it is the case that social interpretation of the content of a piece of reading is an aspect of full comprehension of what one has read, then yes it could involve the same module of the brain. So if that module has different wiring to that of other people, then yes that could be a factor.

    regards, Deb

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