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Choosing Educational Toys For Children With Learning Disability
Some children have to deal with leaning difficulties or problems learning new information. They may have difficulty mastering skills such as throwing and catching a ball. They can get confused trying to communicate by talking and listening to other people. Unable to learn and retain key information, these children struggle even more when they enter school and try to master reading, writing, and other content area skills and knowledge.
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes learning disabilities. Many theorize that the brains of children with learning disabilities mix signals and have difficulty sending and receiving bits of information. Basically, as University of Nevada-Reno professors Gary Fisher and Rhoda Cummings explain The survival guide for children with LD“some children have a hard time learning.”
These kids are not stupid or lazy at all. They just “learn differently” (LD). Gary Fisher and Rhoda Cummings aptly replace the term “disability” in their book, useful for dealing with the problem not with stigma. Children with LD have normal or even above average intelligence and may actually excel in other areas. Their brains just acquire, process and retain information differently. As Stanley S. Lamm, MD, and Martin L. Fisch, Ph.D. put it inside Learning difficulties explained, a child with a learning disorder has only “a specific condition or series of conditions that interfere with the normal learning process.”
Children who learn differently can come from any ethnic or socioeconomic group. Although only about 5% of children have been formally diagnosed with LD, some doctors and educators believe that up to 20% of children have some type of interference with how they learn in some area. The good news is that with proper diagnosis and targeted intervention, children with LD can greatly improve their ability to learn in a weak area.
It is especially critical that parents recognize that children with LD learn differently and the media and resources they should make available to help them learn. Once a LD is identified, a team of professionals assesses the child and uses their findings to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for him. Now the child and their teachers and parents know the area where the child needs extra help and can focus on developing and improving the child’s learning skills there. Special classes and one-on-one tutoring can help.
You can also use educational toys designed to develop specific skills. Children who are bored with dry schoolwork can find new excitement in learning when that learning comes in the form of a toy. Simplifying the learning process and using unconventional methods to make learning fun can spur children with LD to reach new levels of achievement.
Gary Fisher and Rhoda Cummings identify seven key areas in which children may learn differently: speaking and listening, reading, writing, mathematics, organizational skills, social skills, and motor skills. Here are some suggestions for toys that develop learning skills associated with each of these areas…
Speaking and Listening LD
Children with Speaking and Listening LD know what they mean; they just struggle to communicate their thoughts. They may also have difficulty understanding the meaning of words that other people say to them, sometimes mistaking one meaning for another. Some good skills to foster in this area are critical thinking and the ability to make predictions, understand cause and effect, and draw conclusions. These skills can help children organize their thoughts to express them more coherently and better understand what others are saying.
Strategy and logic games like FoxMind Games’ Zoologic or Cliko games can encourage the development of these logical thinking skills. While playing these games, parents can encourage children to think aloud to guide their reasoning. Parents can also gently ask children questions about what they think will happen next in a situation, recognizing each answer and using it as a basis for the next question.
Children with reading LD can feel overwhelmed by being exposed to too much text at once. They may struggle to read the alphabet or sound out words. They may skip lines when they read because the words seem to move across the page.
Educational toys like Melissa and Doug’s Opposites puzzle cards or See & Spell break down reading into its essential components. Travel Read Spin and Word Spin Deluxe Family Edition by GeoSpace are also great ways to turn spelling and reading skills into a fun experience. Focusing on one word/concept at a time and breaking words into letters prevents children from getting confused by walls of text. When using these products, encourage children to talk about what they are reading to check for understanding.
Children with Writing LD struggle with many of the same problems as children with Speaking and Listening LD. They have great ideas in their heads, but have trouble expressing themselves in writing with neat handwriting and good grammar and spelling. This is a case where the simplest toys can have the greatest effect. Take some of the pressure off writing by having kids write their thoughts on a fun whiteboard or dry erase board. Now kids can erase and/or restart their sentences over and over again until everything is exactly right.
Children with math LD struggle with what numbers and number symbols mean. They have difficulty memorizing and understanding mathematical facts. At the most basic level, they struggle with the patterns that underlie mathematical concepts. Playing with pattern games, shape puzzles, and blocks can give a child the experience and confidence with patterns needed to succeed in math. For example, a toy like the Logix from FoxMind Games, I give a child practice with logical shapes and patterns. Again, the GeoSpace Travel Math Spin is a fun teaching tool for basic operations, eliminating what is sometimes a terrible feeling for a child to have to learn math by themselves. Remember that the participation of adults in a family environment with educational games is important in the learning process.
LD organizational skills
Children with LD organizational skills have trouble keeping track of their materials and tasks. Even keeping your rooms or desks in order can be difficult. Puzzles or other toys with pieces that can only go one way can subtly teach these children organizational habits. An organizer like Melissa and Doug’s Magnetic Responsibility Chart can encourage good habits by helping kids keep track of their responsibilities and be rewarded for good habits and behaviors.
Social Skills LD
Children with LD social skills have trouble interacting with other people. They misread cues and facial expressions and make expressions and gestures that don’t convey what they really feel. Dramatic role play can allow children to rehearse appropriate social behaviors in a safe environment removed from the stress of real-life consequences. Dolls and dollhouses, games and figurines, and costume clothing and accessories can be vehicles for imaginative play that practice effective social interaction.
Motor skills LD
Children with LD motor skills struggle with both gross motor skills such as balancing, jumping or even running, as well as fine motor skills such as tying strings through holes or holding a pencil correctly. Toys like jump ropes, sports equipment and plasma car can develop gross motor skills. Toys such as string cards or art games such as the Melissa and Doug stamp set and bead set can develop fine motor skills. Some toys, like building blocks, develop a whole range of motor skills.
All parents can benefit from investing in educational toys
Educational toys can be a valuable resource for children with i without LD Children may become bored with completing worksheets or dry tasks intended to teach content area knowledge. In particular, children with LD may have difficulty understanding how to complete a worksheet. Playing with an educational toy, on the other hand, can encourage children to spend more (and more enjoyable!) time practicing and mastering new knowledge and skills. Instead of memorizing dry math information, a child can play with an educational toy and learn firsthand how to use logic and patterns to solve a problem. In fact, any parent looking to develop their child’s skills in any of the above areas could benefit from investing in any of the toys discussed.
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