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Learning disabilities

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
What comes more naturally to us than learning? As babies we were relentless little learning machines, building synaptic highways as fast as our cells could divide (which is pretty fast in babies). The life of a child from birth to school age is a shining example of "showing up," being fully present and engaged in whatever grabs their attention.

I would call this spontaneous learning for learning's sake. It seems to be innate in humans.

What, then, prompts us to believe that adult people need to "learn how to learn?" What happened to the inborn ability to learn in the transition from babyhood to adulthood?

Have you ever seen a baby avoid the work of learning? Would it be proper to even call the baby's learning "work?"

Do babies experience boredom? Do they need rewards and reinforcement to keep their interest? Do they require feedback?

Please help me understand how these little beings acquire learning disabilities that plague them later in life and require intervention from drugs, therapies, and learning specialists.

Are these interventions a bit like a gardener pleading with his plants to "Grow, goddammit!"???

Are the learning experts (for argument's sake, let's place ourselves in this category) resolving learning disabilities or, in the way that the road to hell is paved, creating them through out own clumsy, well-intentioned efforts?
post #2 of 39
Could I maybe throw a suggestion in here...
Do babies believe they are the best?
Are they pschyed up?
Do they fear failure?
Are they concerned about peer group pressure?
Do babies have egos before their parents instill it into them?

But, I believe every day is an adventure for a baby, whereas for those of you who have grown up ( ), every day is another one to make it to the end of.

Would you rather have such a "complete" life that even the most exciting adventure was boring, or such a sheltered existence that even the most mundane task was thrilling?

post #3 of 39
nolo, my hard drive is nearly full

post #4 of 39

Would you agree that as we finish our schooling, our interest in learning new subject wanes? Most U.S. adults don't put the energy into learning that a child does. Then there are the exceptions, like a lot of the folks on this forum; learning sponges. Since starting to teach skiing four years ago, I have been learning new ideas from a constant stream of information. You should know; you have supplied a lot of the sources of that information.

I had a somewhat interesting life. From the time I finished school, until I was around forty, I was like most folks; on the couch. Then I got into ski coaching. I explored different avenues of getting into my inner-self (Tantra, etc), so that I could impart that information to my racers. It was a new interest that has served me well for the rest of my life. Moreover, I was poo-pooed by other coached that I was being too radical and it would not work. Now imaging and focusing is a major part of USSA's Ski Team program.

Learning can be even more of an obsession than skiing. And we think that we really get a rush (endorphins)from skiing? Learning , for me, produces a far greater satsfaction than any physical activity ever did.

Contrary to what Ott says, I just put in a larger hard drive! And being well past retirement age, that is no easy task.

[ April 25, 2002, 10:20 AM: Message edited by: Rick H ]
post #5 of 39
Originally posted by Rick H:

Would you agree that as we finish our schooling, our interest in learning new subject wanes?
I think it pretty much wanes during and because of the schooling.

[ April 25, 2002, 11:26 AM: Message edited by: weems ]
post #6 of 39
Also, Nolo, consider that this may not be a problem, but a normal response to our hardwiring.

The baby learns because it needs to survive. The teenager discriminates about what it learns in order to survive.

The adult who awakens (sooner or later) has the wonderful discovery/rediscovery of childhood's learning pathways reignited.

I don't know if this is all so, but my experience is like that. And this awareness has helped me stop pushing my teenagers to be like babies or like grownups. They're not either. They're somewhere in between, working on their "stuff"--wearing sweatshirts in the blizzard and trying to hold up their pants.

This is why I like teaching skiing, because I can be there for the reawakening and the rebirth of the passion.
post #7 of 39
boy weems, do I agree with you about learning being stifled in school. I love to learn, but I hated public school, too much of it was about learning by rote and memorization, instead of DOING!

Fox Hat, you are so RIGHT ON, about the adult issues that get in the way of learning. I think a lot of that is due to the typical way we experienced ridicule, etc. in the public schools. Nobody wants to go back to that stuff!
post #8 of 39
Thread Starter 
I think the poison in the well is the idea that there is a "right answer." It stifles creativity and makes people easy prey to demagogues.
post #9 of 39
What happened to the inborn ability to learn in the transition from babyhood to adulthood?
At some point during development, some kids begin lose the ability to learn or, more importantly, the desire to learn. There are many reasons for this, both biologic and environmental.

Are these interventions a bit like a gardener pleading with his plants to "Grow, goddammit!"???
In many cases, I'm afraid so. Parental and societal standards can be cruel and many of the demands placed on people are unreasonable. More important than any therapy is to simply accept people for what they are. If one is generally happy, then perhaps the ability and desire to learn will continue throughout life.

[ April 26, 2002, 08:07 AM: Message edited by: BadRat ]
post #10 of 39
For certain things, there is a "right answer".

A is A!
post #11 of 39
Thread Starter 
Can we resist the urge to be clever? This urge is symptomatic of SPLD or "smart person's learning disability," a pernicious problem in our society that originates when one thinks they are already in possession of all the enlightenment that is necessary.

The value placed on the "right answer" has a dark side, and that is the fear, dread, and loathing of being wrong, of experiencing failure, of living with uncertainty. One of my mentors speaks of "work avoidance" as a learning disability. I would also nominate "certainty" as a learning disability.

Our love of "right answers" comes from our great desire to succeed. It invites us to place scales over our eyes in order to filter out data that might undermine our conclusions.

For instance, if I am invested in the belief that I am better than 97% of the skiers out there, I will tune in all inputs that reinforce my belief, while tuning out inputs that challenge my belief. The belief is a learning disability. No one seeks a new way of doing things if they are convinced their way is the "one right way."
post #12 of 39
Unless of course, you happen to be that person with the actual right way.
post #13 of 39
The answer to your query is empathy, which is one of the few things that distinguishes humans from other primates. It is theorised that empathy was developed by primative humans as a hunting skill, to try & think as a prey animal so as to best it.

Babies do not have empathy. Empathy develops at between 3 - 5 years of age depending on the individual. Thus without empathy babies have no real regard to others, & thus their ability to put themselves first & assume the world revolves around them, gives them a strong ability to concentrate on developing and learning.

Look at toddlers, have you ever seen a parent say don't do that what would your friends think? It dosn't work. Teaching them to share is very difficult.

Ever wondered why you see a toddler having a temper tantrum in the middle of a public place? It's because they have no empathy, they are unable to understand how their behaviour is viewed by another individual & are merely trying to assert themselves in a manner to them that seems appropriate.

So as the toddler develops empathy, their ability to learn is clouded by the usual stuff about what other individuals will see/think about their efforts.

Thus babies without empathy learn very very fast, but there is a penalty to be paid.
post #14 of 39
Ok, resisting the urge... :

My last post was not a "crack" or even a symptom of SPLD, I hope. Just an objective comment. I meant no insult. It certainly was not a direct reference to a certain "way". I'm all for open minded discussions, I hope that is obvious. But after a point, if I feel that the discussion is not open minded, well, what's the point of the discussion?

When some people choose sides, taunting begins, and learning from discourse ends. Still learning, being a sponge... How's about the rest of you?

Right on, IceKing.

[ April 26, 2002, 07:55 AM: Message edited by: SnoKarver ]
post #15 of 39
I would also nominate "certainty" as a learning disability.
Absolutely! Many of the commonly held "right" answers are merely best answers, subject to revision upon further enlightenment. I admire those who seek out better answers, methods, or ways.

As for the skiing example, do you think most, or many, skiers feel that they are better than they really are? This would certainly be an impediment to learning and must frustrate instructors to no end.
post #16 of 39
Nolo, this topic makes me think of why I often find myself skiing by myself.

I welcome the quiet time for self-teaching.

post #17 of 39
I agree with WTFH. Lets face it, the school system in the US is a production line. FTEs reign supreme. Most kids start school at the same age, ready or not.

When we are willing to raise the status of teachers, pay the good ones well, give them the support neeeded and move the misplaced ones out of the system, good things will happen.
I think the current production line system, designed for production line workers, knocks the creativity out of kids at a fairly early age.
post #18 of 39
Thread Starter 
Weems, you are being silly. SK, I bear no malice to you or your views. My whole point is about how our culture has shackled the entirely joyful experience of learning in exactly the chains that impede it. Our culture values knowledge more than learning, even though, as one wag put it, our knowledge is merely the portion of our ignorance which we have so far identified. Knowledge is a compendium of "right answers." It's such a crock! All knowledge is tentative, conditional, and fabricated. What passes for knowledge is just the story that has the most market appeal.

Remember in The Matrix how the hero learned by linking his brain with a hard drive and downloading a body of knowledge? That scene is just an extension of popular notions of education. The metaphor is a computer download. Instant gratification. No muss, no fuss, no bother.

In reality, learning has a bonking point. It is this fact that must be acknowledged to influence retention (being the intent to return for another go) and gain market share for our beloved industry.

My friend who runs and skis endurance races talks about it. It's the point when your physical and mental resources are depleted--when you either give in to your despair or rise above it, also known as hitting the wall.

I see it in learning. This is where we lose people. This is where things become "too hard." You may not like my example of the baby, but consider the persistence we all showed in learning to walk. How many failed attempts? I believe we can learn something from the baby about learning.

One, it is goal-oriented. Learning needs vision first and foremost.

Two, it is a negotiation between what I have (resistance) and what I want (readiness).

Three, it is experimental. Rick H. would call this divergent production leading to convergent discovery.

Four, it fails without any lessening of the desire to "get it."

Do YOU think people need to learn this in order to achieve mastery at skiing?
post #19 of 39
"learning has a bonking point". Is that a spelling mistake? "bonking" in europe has only one meaning, & it's sexual.

You cannot use a baby learning to walk as an analogy with an adult. Walking for human beings is something genetically programmed into us, it is a survival trait from our ancestral past. Our bodies desire the skill so strongly all the failed attempts before success are as nothing. Skiing in contrast is not something we were required to do thousands of years ago to continue successfully as a species, & thus requires learning.
post #20 of 39
Walking for human beings is something genetically programmed into us
This has not been shown. If a human infant is raised by wolves, I'd bet the kid would get quite good at running around on four limbs.

learning has a bonking point
Bonking, by the European definition, must be learned, too, at least if one wants to be good at it.

[ April 26, 2002, 10:02 AM: Message edited by: BadRat ]
post #21 of 39
Thread Starter 
I believe you mean boinking.

I believe learning to walk is a valid example, because my argument is that learning is similarly hard-wired into the species. The interference (disability) is cultural.
post #22 of 39
After spending some quality time alone while working on my skiing, I find that I will get more out of guided learning.

Homework! Gotta do your homework before you can practice the new stuff.

So, I say don't agonize too much over great break-through teaching. Guided learning is a shared effort between student and teacher.

[ April 26, 2002, 11:17 AM: Message edited by: PinHed ]
post #23 of 39
my argument is that learning is similarly hard-wired into the species
Nonetheless, there is still variability in how each person is hard-wired. Although some of this is influenced by postnatal cultural/environmental factors, a significant aspect is directed by prenatal factors as well as one's genetic complement, regardless of societal input.

Under the same circumstances, some people are going to be "better learners" than others.
post #24 of 39
Nolo sed: Please help me understand how these little beings acquire learning disabilities that plague them later in life and require intervention from drugs, therapies, and learning specialists.
Here's how to understand...
I'm calling crap on the whole learning disability thing (at least in most cases.) "Mr. and Mrs. PinHed, your kid has ADD."

We could just simply stop feeding our kids sugar and processed carbohydrates 11 different times a day. How can we grow into good learners if we're bouncing off the walls because of bad nutrition? I think ADD is often an acronym for plain old bad parenting.

What about structure and diversity in our daily lives? How many kids watch TV everyday. They watch the same crap day after day without knowing when they'll turn the box off (grown-ups too!) Do you think structure and diversity could go a little ways towards being a better learner? Oh, and there's more. Lots more. I'm practing ranting skills. :

Go ahead and wonder why some students just can't get it while other do just fine.

I'm telling you. We have a bigger problem with learning to learn than learning to teach.

[ April 26, 2002, 11:45 AM: Message edited by: PinHed ]
post #25 of 39
Pinhead, I wouldn't argue against any of that.

Are you named after a ski sport? Or are you named after my favorite cartoon character, Zippy the Pinhead. You have brilliant elements of both.
post #26 of 39
Thread Starter 

Let's change the topic slightly. Take two people, both of whom have never skied before. One is at home in Ft. Lauderdale watching the game and the other is at Mt. Sunapee standing in ski boots and holding onto a pair of rental skis and poles waiting to be introduced to her instructor.

Which one is sold on going skiing?

If you said the one in ski boots, you are correct. My point is that this person comes to the lesson with a positive affect about the sport he or she is going to learn. The desire to learn to ski got them there!

Here's the facts: out of every hundred of these motivated buyers, only 15% like it enough to return for more.

A "learning experience" has taken place for all the participants, whether they are "good" or "bad" learners. Some learned they liked it and some did not.

Those of you who actually teach skiing, answer this one: which level of lesson is the most unimaginative and "one size fits all"?

Of course there's more to the beginner's learning experience than just the lesson. How do the other local systems fan or douse the flames of desire that motivated the person to try our sport?

Sometimes "learning disability" refers to how the system acts against learning--by teaching people not to like it.
post #27 of 39
There are many impediments to learning. One of the first and foremost of these is fear. Fear of failure, fear of injury, fear of not living up to our own expectations or beliefs, fear of not living up to the expectations of others.....

I find skiing to be alluring, in part, because I don't think it promotes fear of failure to the same extent that many other sports do. That doesn't mean it isn't present, only that that the relatively non-competitive nature of free skiing combined with the numerous rewards obtained from participation in the winter mountain environment with simulation of free fall can help reduce our focus on success or failure.

In coaching my kids in tennis (and life) I talk about the difficulties arising from excessive measurement of oneself. Measurement is the tool by which we determine whether we succeed or fail and as such goes hand in hand with the fears that can be such great impediments to learning.

One of my mantras is along the lines of "don't measure yourself, express yourself." While people (myself included) in this forum may focus on impediments to learning relative to skiing I always try to remember that skiing provides a unique learning environment that with proper carryover and recognition can help us become better learners in all aspects of life. I find that learning related to skiing provdies me with a unique and valuable means to express myself while at the same time helping me to appropriately reduce self measurement in a very positive manner. I like the focus of trying to better express myself than measuring whether I have succeeded or failed and think that skiing offers a unique environment to learn how to do this.

I would be very interested to hear from others about they their own ways of doing this (if this even makes any sense).
post #28 of 39
Nolo and BR

This was posted to weems on the rant topic, but sure fits in here.


The same. Chip and Maggie

I met them there. Nice as can be! There are good people everywhere!

In response to your admonishment to "take 'em skiing", there has been an issue bothering me for many years.
perhaps you can console.

As a Vermonter, where skiing is a right and not optional, our local schools bargin with the local ski areas to see
which one of them are willing to see a bus load of kids pull up every Tuesday afternoon for six weeks after the new
year. The Areas are always very responsive and in fact, chaparoneing (sp) these "winter sports" was how I got "back
into skiing".

The package for the kids (50+ from our little school) has usually included "lessons" I think mostly to keep these
various bus loads of crazed youth from getting into one sort of trouble or another. (first three days this year, three kids
with broken bones )
The Kids go with the instructors while the adult chaparones go ski. A good thing, wouldn't you agree?

Now here is the problem.

I have three kids,10-16 years old, all who have and do participate in these programs over a 10 year span. They, and
all of their peers absolutly HATE the lesson. I have to force them to attend. This is not good from the standpoint of
most listers. These kids, Hundreds of them, are being turned off by the "lesson, while being turned on to snow riding.

I would blame the SS and the directors and anyone else I could point a finger at, But I think the root is elswhere. I
doubt the same people have been at the three different mountains the program has been. Mostly, the lessons are
viewd as a waste of time.

( insert space for open question in hopes to solicit useful responses)


From Weems' response, I conclude that both the kids and the first year instructors are "required" to participate in an activity neither have any desire for. i.e. the lesson, though both groups share the excitement for the subject. Snow riding/ skiing.

Solution?, Don't make it a requirement of first year instructors to provide agonization to unwilling young students. Some dogmatic requirement that new instructor serve time with youngsters that have no appreciation for the "learning" just could be part of a large injustice to our on snow experience.

I am sold on this solution and as a parent and a school baord member, I will lobby for the change for our next school year.
post #29 of 39
A "learning experience" has taken place for all the participants, whether they are "good" or "bad" learners. Some learned they liked it and some did not.
The "good learners" in general will get far more out of their introduction to skiing than the "bad". For them it will have been a positive experience. They understand the challenge and will be more likely to continue.

Sometimes "learning disability" refers to how the system acts against learning--by teaching people not to like it.
This sentence remains enigmatic, even on fourth reading.
post #30 of 39
CalG. Don't get me wrong. Please reread that it is "some" of the pros that are undermotivated for the job. Most are not--at least where we live. More of the new pros than not, tend to discover the magic of the kids as they go, but the kids still don't like the structure.

"Most of those classes are really terrific--but some of them alas are not, because they are taught by undermotivated pros."

The reason I protest here is that I really do respect our pros and I really respect our hiring process. We wouldn't put out pros that we don't have faith in. But occasionally we need some "re-coaching".

Nevertheless, your post in this thread is really relevant and your conclusions may be correct in the system you're in.

Read my new direct post to you for another solution.

[ April 27, 2002, 05:45 AM: Message edited by: weems ]
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