The Physical Side of Learning Disabilities

Perceptual Motor Integration

  

Though I have had great success tutoring students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, there have always been lingering questions which I had no answers to. Why do my students hate writing? Why are some of the children struggling with math? Why are the students unable to copy from the board or a piece of paper? Why do many of the children seem to be ambidextrous? Why do some of the children have trouble following directions? Why do some of the children lack social skills? These and other questions led me to research and eventually spend an intensive week training in Perceptual Motor Development.



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Why does your child hate to write? Why can't he follow simple directions? Why does he lack social skills? Find out about Perceptual Motor Integreation

Central Nervous System

  

The central nervous system is a complex system that ultimately affects every part of our lives including learning, (reading, math, writing, spelling, etc), and social skills. Think of the central nervous system as a computer. If the computer is not programmed correctly and has a ‘glitch’ then multiple problems exist with the computer. If during the development of the central nervous system, a ‘glitch’ has occurred, and though the child or adult has the gross perceptual and motor skills, the refined perceptual and motor skills were not developed. Thus, the person may have any number of problems which may include difficulty learning, delayed reaction time to what he sees or hears, short attention span, easily distracted, and/or poor social skills.

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Is your child unable to pay attention in school, easily distracted?

Figure-Ground Relationship

Additional Information

  

Physical-Figure Ground Relationship- This is the awareness of one muscle group in contrast to a relaxed body. When a child can selectively tense one muscle group while the rest of the body remains relaxed with no overflow of tension to other body parts, he has developed a kinesthetic awareness of that one body part, where it is and what it is doing. One example of a child that does not have kinesthetic awareness is the child who always has his hands in his pockets, may always have a hand on another person, or is always leaning on someone or something. Once the child has developed the figure-ground relationship we can move on to the visual figure-ground relationship. This relationship is essential to the child’s academic success. A child without visual figure-ground relationship will have great difficulty in reading. He will not be able to quickly and accurately interpret what he sees. Letters or words may seem to float on the page and the child will have difficulty isolating words in a sentence.


The development of figure-ground relationships and kinesthetic awareness is possible only if the child is able to relax his body. With a totally tense body (hypertonus), no contrast is possible and the brain receives feedback from all parts of the body rather than the one part being moved. The child who is unable to initiate adequate tension (hypotonus), gets inadequate kinesthetic feedback from movement. Both of these children will fail to develop the concept of a figure-ground relationship.


When a child has not developed the figure-ground relationship, he is unable to pay attention to only one thing in his environment. Everything is perceived equally and thus all things are bombarding his brain. When he is listening to his mom, she will fade into the background. Her voice is often lost in the softer background noises that occur in the home such as another child speaking, dog barking, TV or radio noise, cars driving on the road, the air conditioner or fan running, even the sound of the dish washer or refrigerator. Imagine what it is like for these children in school! These children are easily distracted both auditorily and visually. Have you ever asked your child to do go get your keys, something catches his eye and off he goes completely forgetting what you sent him to do? It seems as if they are not paying attention, but in reality, it is impossible for the child to attend to one stimulus at a time.


This child may lose something that is in plain sight, lose his place when reading, copying from the board or book. The child might have difficulty finding something that is in plain sight and often seem to be day dreaming.

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 Imagine how exhausted you would be if your body was tense 24 hours a day, even in sleep!  

Relaxation

  

A child cannot have kinesthetic awareness and the development of the figure-ground relationship without relaxation. When the body is completely tensed, no contrast between relaxed muscles and tensed muscle group is possible. The child receives equal feedback from all body parts. 

Imagine how exhausted you would be if your body was tense 24 hours a day, even in sleep! A child who does not have the ability to relax does not have enough neurological energy for processing information. A child that is constantly maintaining body tension usually must re-learn, day after day, before the information is finally processed and remembered. This child usually has a very short attention span.

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 Is your child slow to complete assignments or quite the opposite, he may finish assignments quickly but his work is sloppy? 

Visual-Motor Coordination

  

The child who has not developed a refined visual-motor match has trouble with all pencil and paper work. This child may be slow to complete assignments or quite the opposite, he may finish assignments quickly but his work is sloppy. When writing he will often have difficulty staying on the line. Copying from a book or board will be time consuming and often is copied inaccurately. In math, the child may skip problems or a whole row of problems. Copying a simple line design may be difficult. If they can avoid looking at their hands, the copy turns out better, but many of these children will tell you that they need to keep their eye on the pencil tip or their hands in order to write. A visual-motor deficiency is a severe handicap.

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Does your child avoid writing if at all possible?

Shoulder Differentiation

  

The child that has difficulty writing and grips his pencil tightly or incorrectly does not have refined shoulder differentiation. This child will often avoid writing if at all possible and may demonstrate one or more of the following when writing:

1. Slowly

2. Small letters

3. Tight grip on pencil, pressing down hard

4. Breaking the pencil lead frequently

5. Holding the paper very close to the body

6. Writing with tension in the face, or jaw; may also include tongue movement


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 A child who does not have refined auditory skills may not be able to process oral instructions and may have poor oral reading skills.  

Auditory Development

  

A child who does not have refined auditory skills may not be able to process oral instructions and may have poor oral reading skills. In class, he may watch or copy others’ work and depend on visual clues. This child may be hyperactive, have a short attention span or may appear to be daydreaming. Some of these children may talk constantly, respond to single words but not sentences, and may respond inconsistently to sounds and words. The child may have difficulty knowing which sound to ignore and when he becomes overwhelmed or frustrated, he may cover his ears or withdraw. he becomes tired easily because he must concentrate very hard. When very young, parents may think their child is deaf or hard of hearing.

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 Laterality is the internal awareness of the difference between the two sides of the body, the coordination between right and left.  

Laterality

  

Laterality is the internal awareness of the difference between the two sides of the body, the coordination between right and left. It is the ability use one side of the body independently without involving the other side. It is also the ability to use both sides of the body in synchrony and the ability to change from the left side of the body to the right side of the body spontaneously.

A child who has a deficit in laterality will reverse letters, numbers or words in reading or writing. They may skip over words, skip a complete line or put words from a previous line into the line they are presently reading. They may read the first few words then become confused when they cross the midline (if you draw a line from head to toe down the middle of your body, this would be the midline). They usually will find cursive difficult to write. They may turn their paper completely to the side in order to avoid crossing the midline. 

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 Waist differentiation is essential to balance 

Good Automatic Balance-Waist Differentiation

Waist differentiation is essential to balance, which includes the ability to sit in a chair without have to sit on legs, constantly squiggling. If a child has balance that is inadequately developed, he will have difficulty sitting or standing quietly. This child may have a short attention span and is most comfortable when he is in motion, his movements may be fast and/or abrupt. The child with poor waist differentiation may also complain of back pain. He may be disruptive in class. This child will work best when on the floor or in a bean bag which supports the body, eliminating the balance problem. Waist differentiation is the prerequisite to adequate balance development.

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 The child who is deficient in upper-lower body synchrony may have trouble with activities such as jumping rope, hopping, and all other jumping activities.  

Upper-Lower Body Coordination

  

When jumping a child should easily be able to jump forward on both feet and land on both feet. The upper and lower body should work in synchrony. The child who is deficient in upper-lower body synchrony may have trouble with activities such as jumping rope, hopping, and all other jumping activities. He is often slow to get up when he falls down and may have to fall or run into someone in order to stop running. This child often has trouble stopping on a ‘target’ such as a baseball plate. He may have trouble adding a column of numbers but can add well if the numbers are in a row.

A child or adult who struggles with learning will most likely have deficits in several of the areas mentioned above. As a person develops, he will learn to compensate for his difficulties, developing ‘splinter skills’ (a singular movement that enables him to do one thing) and might be able to mask the degree of the deficit and the energy required to achieve his goals.  y are.