Mary MacCracken opens the door on her private tutoring sessions with learning disabled children via her book, Turnabout Children. Mary is a learning disabilities specialist and has devoted her career to helping children who face such challenges as dyslexia, language processing disorders, attention deficit disorder, and the like. Because she has struggled with and overcome her own learning challenges, Mary brings to the table extraordinary compassion. I can't help but feel that the love that shines through her every action is the secret of her success. This does not negate, however, her obvious giftedness and patience in the area of teaching.
I knew I would like this lady, when, in the very first chapter she says, "The label is the least important part, and I have finally stopped fussing over which term is best. It is the child himself who matters."
Mary does use a battery of tests in order to pinpoint a child's strengths and weaknesses. Once that is done, she sets about helping the child to use his/her strengths in such a way as to compensate for the weaknesses. Often, organizational skills are the first thing to be addressed. This also gives the child a tangible way in which to take responsibility for their own learning; at no time does Mary spoon feed these children; they are called upon to put forth a great deal of hard work.
Throwing themselves heart and soul into that work has a side benefit. It redirects the anger that often shows itself in the child who is challenged. Another quote:
"...with children who have very mild learning disabilities. The problems are so subtle that they go undetected until the child herself or himself begins to feel that something's wrong, and then the emotional problems set in and grow and grow until they disguise the original learning problem."
YES! Subtle problems like not reading facial expressions, difficulty remembering right and left, not getting inferences in reading~~~although these things may be classified as "mild" problems, they can elicit emotions that are anything but mild. Especially when you consider that a child often recognizes they are "different" at about the same time adolescence hits.
Each chapter in this book introduces us to a different child and the unique approach taken to strengthen that child's abilities. I found it fascinating.
Although there are no sure-fire, magic pills to cure these problems, Mary closes by giving us her wise philosophy in these words:
"Love, help from someone specifically trained to remediate learning disabilities, ending every session with success, and a safe place."
And how would you define a safe place? This is how Mary defines it:
- A place where people are kind
- A place where there is laughter
- A place where there are a few, fair rules
- A place where people listen to each other
- A place where the adults are examples to the children
I suspect this book has a bit of dated information and terms, having been written in the 1980's before there was a plethora of information available on learning disabilities. But love is never dated. The world needs more teachers like Mary MacCracken.