Extremely Concerned Parent

Dear Power Tools,
I am the mother of a five year old boy who I suspect is a Visual-Spatial learner. He has not participated in any psychological testing, therefore his definite learning styles and IQ are unknown. I am certain I am a Visual-Spatial learner based on my research.
About my son: All through preschool he was very active and had a short attention span. The preschool teachers reported that he was good at puzzles and liked to look through books for long periods of time. When the teachers introduced him to alphabets, he did not learn them in the traditional manner. Instead, during the summer before he entered kindergarten, he worked on StarFall.com and learned the Upper and Lower case alphabets, including the sounds, within two weeks. He learned his colors by spelling them (Through listening to Frog Street) within one week. He started to read at the age of 5 years and 2 months. Many of the concepts that were covered in kindergarten, he mastered before entering kindergarten. This was exciting to my husband and me; however, during the course of the school year, his report card did not reflect his knowledge. During the school year, the teacher complained of his inattentiveness and energy. At home, he has to stay occupied and tends to like to put together different equipment. He stays focused for long periods of time when he is engaged in these sort of activities or working at the computer. Because of his age, (he entered kindergarten at 4 years & 11 months) and perceived learning styles, we are repeating him at a Montessori school next school year. Are these characteristics of a young child who is a Visual Spatial Learner? Will the Montessori school address his learning style more adequately than the traditional public school? Any information that you can provide me with will be invaluable.
Thank you in advance,
Extremely concerned parent
Dear Concerned Parent,
It certainly sounds like your child is a Visual Spatial Learner. You seem to be staying on top of it very well, and thank you on behalf of my readers for offering the program suggestions that worked with your son.
In general, Montessori Schools do a wonderful job of teaching VSLs because of their hands-on, experiential philosophies. They focus on math concepts instead of math calculation, they allow the children to participate in understanding process, rather than just dictating step-by-step ways of doing things, they usually have more kinesthetic approaches to taking in information (which sounds like it might be perfect for your son).
His activity level might be related to a number of things: if he is gifted, he might be bored; if he is a tactile-kinesthetic learner, he might need a more hands-on approach to learning; if he has some AD/HD, he will be more challenged when faced with sitting in a chair and attending for long periods of time; he is a young kindergartner, so it might be a function of maturity, so repeating kindergarten will give him a chance to accomplish that.
If he continues to have problems, an assessment would be the best way to evaluate this, but academically, he sounds advanced, so, just be careful not to mistake boredom (by repeating Kindergarten, he is relearning things he knew when he started school a year ago) for other problems. Perhaps the teacher can be enlisted to monitor his interest and suggest ways to engage him, when he already knows the material. Many factors must go into the decision on whether to repeat a grade-- size of child, social adeptness, maturity, academic abilities and achievement. Gifted boys are often considered immature because they are sensitive and cry when hurt; in fact, that is typical of gifted boys because their sense of justice, perceptions and feelings are fine-tuned, so they are easily hurt.
Hope this helps,
Best Regards,
Linda Powers Leviton MA MFT
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