Friday, September 26, 2008

Language Evaluation

I got the report back from the Language and Learning specialist. I think it was totally worth the money, although I'm sure super-hero would disagree. She wrote some pretty interesting things about the way he processes information, how he uses language, his fine motor skills and speech.

"Motor development is typically viewed as a function of fine and/or gross muscle groups, with speech motor acts produced with fine muscle movements; and walking produced with gross motor movements. The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is necessary for these motor acts. Damage to the spinal cord affects the motor function at the peripheral level (limbs, trunk, etc.) but not at the cognitive, speech or language levels. However, damage to the cerebral cortex can affect not only the motor ability to physically perform an act but also the ability to consciously want to execute an act. Thinking about execution is a cognitive (cortical) function. Execution of cognitive motor acts is not only a function of the motor strips but also a function of the frontal lobe in concert with the temperal and parietal lobes. The temporal and parietal lobes provide information about the language that a person is able to put to a motor act. For example, a child sees the feet move up and down. An adult watching this movement says the child is "walking". The child learns that when the feet move up and down a certain way, that motor act is called walking. Conscious execution of motor acts is a language function."

She observed his fine motor skills when he drew pictures, played with legos and spoke words. But she said he had "overflow" of the motor acts. For example when he ate a snack he used his left hand to pick up the small pieces while his right fingers were moving in parallel ways. Also when he wrote with his right hand, his left fingers would move. The movements on the opposite sides of his body show a "shadowing" which is more typical of a young child. He has this "lateralized" movement that affects his connection of motor patterns to the space that the patterns are in. This was interesting: "His body is divided into two equal parts and his eye movements see the letters on both sides of his body but in opposite position. Likewise, he sees the letters upside down and right side up at the same time. This means that he cannot use letters for the sounds of words. But, he can feel the shape of what he sees so that if he can store an idea as a motor shape, then it has no letters, no directions, and he has a visual pattern attached to an idea that he can retrieve." When Holland was asked to write a word with his eyes closed, he was able to do it. Dr. Arwood said because he can store the idea as a motor shape and he has a visual pattern attached to an idea he can then retrieve the information.

This makes complete sense to me. Recently I started signing words to him while he was reading when he got stuck. Sometimes he would try to "sound" out the word, but most of the time he would sound out letters that weren't even in the word. When I added a sign, he would be able to retrieve the picture for it and know the word. So he is obviously using "pictures" he has in his mind to retrieve information, reorganize it and give it back. Dr. Arwood also suggested that I fingerspell in his hand for vocabulary words. That way he could feel what the word looked like.

Speech requires fine acoustic motor patterning. "He responded well to falling or rising intonation indicating that he could hear the paralinguistic tones." He also heard a distant phone ring and asked about it, which suggests that he can also attach meaning to sound patterns of everyday actions. "However, the complex fine motor movements of speech for longer phrases or sentences and for sounds that require rapid movements during production such as glides and some blends, are often problematic for Holland. This is typical of auditory processing issues. Auditory processing requires a neurological connection of acoustic with visual patterns. Holland can produce the acoustic patterns and the visual patterns but his learning system does not integrate the two types of patterns for auditory concepts." He will also run his words together when words become too complex and he lacks the sound segmentation. (She called this "cluttering").

Holland's language and cognition was evaluated and it was found that his concepts are represented in visual form. He can see single pictures and is beginning to make those pictures into short "movie" clips. But because his speech showed auditory processing difficulties, Dr. Arwood asked him an auditory question. "What do you do on a typical day?" He replied, "playing, do math, stuff like that." This reply showed no "sequence of time, time-based wording or an understanding of the time of these events. He does not use the time-based properties of language."

When he was asked to read a first-grade passage, he immediately used his mental pictures to tell the story even though he could not read 80% of the words. For example, he would say the fox wanted to eat a hen. The passage read, "He was looking for food....He wanted a nice fat chicken." "He could mentally see what the meaning of the print was even though he did not know the names of the words. This means that Holland has visual or pictured concepts mentally to which he can put some sound for speech but cannot use sound for developing the meaning of ideas."

She suggested that I have Holland draw what we've read, add the words to match the picture and label the people/objects in the picture. She also said it was important to include thought bubbles and word bubbles so he could create perceptual patterns. I asked if I should correct spelling while he was writing and she said definately. It takes an average of 40 times to spell a word correctly that was learned incorrectly. If he learns a word that is spelled wrong, it will take him so much longer to "unlearn" that and learn the correct spelling. Good advice for all those "inventive spelling" teachers out there! That's what I was taught in my teaching program. 'Let the kids sound out words and experiment with spelling.' I suppose that would work if 100% of your students were auditory learners. But I'd be willing to bet that more people are visual rather than auditory learners.

The other thing that we will be doing is making a picture dictionary. She had a paper with about 12 squares on it for writing a word and then "bubbling" it. I had been 'framing' the words before, but this was new. She actually outlined the word, like you'd see on a high-school dance poster! Then she would erase the letters, so just the outlined showed. She had an example of a whole sentence written this way. At first Holland was uncomfortable with all the lines, but when he was shown the 'bubble' sentence, he was able to read all the words! Amazing. He could see the shape of the word, rather than be stuck on what the letters represented phonemically. She also had a little box for what she called "glue words." These were all those words he got stuck on like; I, me, you, they, their, there, them...etc. She drew a small picture above the word. Like the word "go" she drew little feet so he would have a picture to connect to a concept and then be able to create meaning.

So now you'll be able to use all these great ideas if you have a more visual than auditory learner. You're welcome.

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