Sunday, October 25, 2015

Reflections on Closure

Lately, I have been seeing a number of children who appear to have difficulty with closure. I am not referring to the popular idea of getting closure after some tremendous, or not so tremendous, trauma; but rather the inability to fill in the gaps of a visual or auditory experience. Visual closure is "the ability to recognize an object as a whole when only parts are shown."   Auditory closure is the ability to understand a word or sentence when hearing only a part of it.  A child who has difficulty with one or both of these abilities often has difficulty in school.

Sight words are difficult to learn for a child who finds it problematic to recognize a word without taking conscious note of each individual letter. Many of these children dutifully sound out words such as cat, and, and in while their peers are blithely reading quickly and fluently. Problems with auditory closure may make it difficult for a young child to obey directions, or to follow a story that is being read to a group.  A child with auditory and visual closure problems may find school expectations overwhelming.

If your child is having difficulty in school and testing for a learning difference has been suggested, visual and auditory closure  problems may be diagnosed.  While there are children for whom this is a major problem and require professional help, some children just have to be shown what is expected.

Children can be pretty concrete when it comes to academics. When learning to write, a child may question what number a non-perfectly written 2 is.  Adults then sigh and correct their writing but often just asking a child "what number do you think it is?" helps the child realize that slight differences don't change the reality of numbers or letters.

Although some children have extreme problems with closure, many just need some explanations and practice on these skills. Books with rhyming words, (nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss, etc.) have a pattern that most children pick up from repeated hearing. Pointing out the obvious helps the child who doesn't seem to be able to predict that fish might rhyme with wish.  Adding why to a short question requires your child to expand her answer.  Modeling expected answers also helps some children.  The talkative child may learn to hold back a bit and the shy child may learn to answer in more than one word. 

Visual closure may be helped by copying a picture, a word or a sentence. Pointing out which letters go above or below a line is useful to some children. Boxing a word to emphasize the shape of the letters may help.  

There are electronic games that help a child learn about closure, but more important is the act of playing.  Running, jumping, playing outdoors, making up games with one's friends, settling arguments without adult help, all these activities help a child understand the world.  Taking a child to a museum, pointing out new things, using vocabulary, reading to a child, and demanding that a child at times calm down, watch, listen and learn helps children to understand how they learn.  Experience helps with closure. 

Remember school is a place where children are taught to think in a specific manner.  All stories must have a beginning, middle and end.  Most of today's children's stories have predictable happy endings. Math problems require that all work be shown even if we can do the easy stuff in our heads. We ask children "what do you think the author meant," but a child may hesitate answering because they think, "I am not the author so I really don't know what he meant." We expect children to give exact answers in a specific manner but not until they get older do we explain to them that there is more than one answer. Some children just need to be told that there is a specific way to do things in school and it isn't worth the effort to argue about it.  There will come a time when they will have more choices and more power.

I have a feeling most of us originally saw the world through different eyes -- but the group activity of school narrowed our vision.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Quiet Please

Recently I went whale watching. On the deck of the small boat I observed a young mother who was obviously enchanted with her baby. Now, the best thing for humanity is having mothers enchanted with their offspring, but the game these two were playing didn't bode well for the future likability of this child. The baby would scream at the top of his lungs, mom would laugh and reply with a softer scream, and the baby would scream again. I always wondered why so many children seem to love to hear themselves scream. I had no idea they were encouraged to do this. 

One might think that children enjoy noise; after all they often are pretty noisy. Many adults don't enjoy the loudness of a large group of children but few people think that perhaps there are children who don't enjoy the constant activity and noise created by their peers. Most of us forget that there are children who hate noise. There are children who have a difficult time concentrating in a noisy environment. These children are highly stressed by noise. Some of those stressed children are the ones making the noise. However, most children who dislike noise are the quiet ones.

In this world where children are not only seen but heard and heard and heard, it is getting more and more difficult to find an oasis of silence. Libraries have become interactive community centers, full of the sounds of video games, talking, and arguments. Schools encourage cooperative learning where every one works in groups and discusses what to do. More and more parents of young children complain of how loud their child's classroom has become. Some children have difficulty hearing the teacher over the pandemonium let alone concentrating on learning new skills. 

Leaving the school grounds doesn't make it better. Has anybody tested the decibel level on a school bus full of children? After school many children spend a few hours in a cacophony of children's voices at daycare. Some children's evenings are spent playing sports while hearing the roar of a crowd. Others go home to the constant background noise of siblings squabbling or TV. We have a difficult time providing a moment of silence in many children's lives.

I am not saying we should expect complete silence from or for children.  But .... today there seems to be fewer and fewer quiet places for children. Children sometimes need to hear their own thoughts. Some children are extremely sensitive to their environment. They easily become overwhelmed by odors, sights, or sound. They need a quiet place to unwind. Others have the type of personality that needs time to work alone with only their own ideas for company. This article about introverts explored not only the need for silence for the introvert but also the need for quiet in the life of an active extroverted child.  The hyperactive child's frantic behavior  is often exacerbated by the noise and activities of our everyday life.  

Parents should be their children's advocate. If possible put your child in a school that has a balance of quiet and noisy activities. Have a quiet hour in the house when no machines are running (washer, dryer, TV, computer).  Go for a quiet walk with your child outside. If it is obvious that your child needs some down time, limit after school activities or select activities that take place in a quiet environment. Stillness is a welcomed gift in this busy world.