January 28, 2017 by Sarah Gillie
Sometimes classroom teachers or students’ parents express their frustration at the time or effort it seems to take a learner to complete a task the adult feels should be within their reach. When that happens, I ask them to try this activity, which was once demonstrated to me by an OT. Try it for yourself:
Take two post-its and a pen. Put your pen on the first note as if you’re about to write, close your eyes and sign your name. The result is probably pretty much like your usual signature. Now take the second post-it, stick it on your forehead and try to sign your name on it. The confusion and frustration of this is akin to that felt by a learner affected by e.g ADHD, dyslexia, working memory difficulties or EF deficits.
A different perspective is required when a student expresses their frustration at the effort required to master each stage of the reading, writing or other learning process. At these times I ask them if they’ve ridden in a car. We agree that parents make it seem effortless, then I tell them all the steps involved in just starting the car and pulling onto the road, pedal control, gear changing, looking, listening, using mirrors, indicators, windscreen wipers, steering etc. It’s a hugely complex multi-step process that requires mind and body to work together consciously, and it takes a lot of practice to learn.
With time, both skills can, eventually, become more automatic.