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Essentials Skills for Learning Effectively

By Joan Smith, Ed.D., for
You probably would not build a home without a base or a foundation. Yet, we frequently attempt to teach our children without recognizing that there are essential skills that are the basis for learning effectively.

The basic processing skills are:

  • memory - visual, auditory, and motor;
  • attention - sustained, filtered, and speed of recognition;
  • visual and motor coordination - balance, rhythm, sequencing, and language skills.

When these skills are developmentally advanced children learn to read automatically, spelling develops along with their reading vocabulary and experience in seeing the words, and they have an concrete understanding of numerosity. When any of these skills are lagging children experience difficulty in building on their learning foundation and may have difficulty in reading, math, and/or writing.

The reason these foundation skills are so critical is that we base our learning strategies on their presence. For instance, we can visually recognize a word because we have good visual memory and have recorded that word from seeing it previously. We often use the skill of re-verbalization or talking to ourselves through our inner voice. This is the skill we use for comprehension, for organizing and dictating a story to our selves, or for analyzing a situation or solving a problem. These skills are interconnected by the time we are learning efficiently.

If you have any doubt that you use your visualization and inner voice skills in a connected manner try this exercise ~ image the number one, two, three, up to ten....did you notice that you said the number as you were attempting to image it??? The only way to disengage your inner voice is to assign it another label the numeral with a color and say that color as you image the numeral. Still you are connected between your visual images and language.

When we have a delay in developing skills such as memory, we miss the developmental activities which put the skills in place. Just because we develop the ability to recall six or seven digits through therapy exercises does not mean that we can automatically adopt the appropriate strategies for using them for learning. The integration of the strategy has to be taught just like the memory needed to be built.

It is the basic processing skills and strategies that allow us to develop strengths in our academic skills - reading, comprehension, spelling, writing skills, and calculating.

Remember to build those basic skills and teach the strategies for using them before you expect academic success.

Joan M. Smith, Ed.D. of Training Programs for Parents and Teachers To Remediate Learning Disabilities, ADD, Dyslexia and Reading Problems. You can reach Dr. Smith by contacting her at: or by phone at:(831) 484-0994. .

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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