What is your learning style?
Have you ever thought about it and how it affects your role as caregiver for your child with special needs?
I expect if you’re dealing with a number of educational and medical professionals and juggling appointments and personal and professional obligations, you probably haven’t stopped to ponder something like your learning style for very long.
If I can ensure information regarding your child’s development is understandable to primary caregivers and meaningful within the daily workings of your family, your child benefits that much more.
You have a lot of information coming at you.
And when it’s coming from your educational and health care teams, it is coming from an informed and well-intentioned place.
Usually the way I learn best, which is not necessarily the way you learn best.
More doctors tend to be auditory learners and will rely in giving you a verbal explanation.
Physical and Occupational Therapists tend to be kinesthetic learners, who prefer to learn through movement and hands-on experiences.
I ask those around me to respect that I don’t retain all the things I hear, and I have to respect you if trying new positioning or handling with your child after a quick demonstration is outside of your comfort zone.
But we still need to learn the things we need to learn.
Do you need to see things in order to remember them?
Snap a quick picture of the new position or activity your child is working on with the Physical Therapist this week.
Take a short video of skill the Speech Therapist is focusing on this week.
Ask your education team for drawings and handouts relating to the current developmental milestone being emphasized.
Do you get more from listening to a lecture than reading the same content?
Does reading out loud help you remember things better?
You probably remember the 2-3 highlights from the session your Early Interventionist reminds you to focus on at the end of each visit.
Perhaps it would help you to have your Occupational Therapist make a brief audio recording or leave a voice message with key points.
This seems to be the preferred style of the teachers on my team.
You are the one who most appreciates the handwritten or e-mail recap of the Early Intervention visit. If this is your style, don’t be shy about requesting notes or taking your own.
Do you need to get you hands on and literally get the feel for a skill or concept?
You are most receptive to the coaching model in Early Intervention, willing to show how you and your child work on a skill and actively modifying with input from the interventionist for an even better outcome.
Ensure that your Early Interventionist doesn’t just show you a new strategy, but also allows opportunity for you to practice with guidance.
Advocating for your own learning is a small but significant way of advocating for the best outcome for the child you love.
French, Glenys, Tessa Cosgriff, and Ted Brown. "Learning style preferences of Australian occupational therapy students." Australian Occupational Therapy Journal 54.s1 (2007): S58-S65.
Prithishkumar, Ivan James, and S. A. Michael. "Understanding your student: Using the VARK model." Journal of postgraduate medicine 60.2 (2014): 183.
Urval, Rathnakar P., et al. "Assessment of learning styles of undergraduate medical students using the VARK questionnaire and the influence of sex and academic performance." Advances in physiology education 38.3 (2014): 216-220.
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