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Q&A with Katey Alexander, educational therapist

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager
Ms. Alexander shares her knowledge on learning differences and what parents can do to support their child.
Everyone learns differently; there is no right or wrong way. One mind trick that works for one person may only clutter the mind of someone else. Katey Alexander, an educational therapist in the Learning Resource Center, discusses the importance of accepting the distinct way each child learns and ways to provide meaningful support to children throughout their educational journey.

Learning differently doesn’t mean a learning disability. Can you explain?
Katey Alexander: I think we need to remember that each of us learns differently and children might have different learning styles than their parents and/or siblings. Be really curious about how your child learns. Be open to how they learn and gather that information without judgment of it being better or worse.

What I've noticed is some students interpret the instructions very differently than I do. Once they tell me how they've interpreted it, I can see it from their point of view. When I think the answer is going to be incredibly easy for them, I look at the way that they read the question and I understand why it may be hard to find an answer.

It's great working with students who learn differently because it forces me to find different ways of looking at information and understanding it. It gives me a richer understanding of the world.

How can parents provide support to their child?
KA: It’s important for parents to offer support without the expectation of a certain grade. Try looking at grades as feedback. They’re not a definition of who the child is as a person. You can have grades that you're unhappy with, but it doesn't mean you're not evolving or learning. The ultimate goal is evolution. Look for those successes that apply to your child.

What are some practical tips?
KA: It may be as simple as finding the best time to do homework based on your child’s rhythm. Some children do their best work before dinner. After a long day of focusing and learning, some children need to give their brain a break and will work better after dinner.

If you feel that your child is having trouble navigating school, maybe they just learn differently. If they are really struggling to be successful, then one of the first things to do is get an evaluation on that child. Talk to their teachers, see if they're seeing the same kind of struggles. Sometimes the teachers will contact you first because they'll be aware before you are.

What’s important to keep in mind when a child is struggling?
KA: As parents, we have to keep the big picture in mind. Children are only in school for 18-22 years. That's such a small part of their life. What’s most important is: are they curious, are they kind human beings, are they forgiving of themselves and others? Don’t let a bad grade diminish their curiosity.

The world is really changing. It used to be that things were pretty predictable, and if you got the good grades and got into a good college, you would land that good job. We knew what the system was and how it worked, but it's a really different world now.

We need different thinkers and these different operators that can find wonderful places to be successful. I don't think when I was growing up that was as obvious. People really thought there was a definite formula you had to follow to be successful. I think we realize that's not really true anymore.

Any last words of wisdom?
KA: Just love your kids however they are because that's what’s going to be the best for them—unconditional love and acceptance. If you can, love and accept yourself as well. As a parent, it can be really difficult. We're constantly judging ourselves based on our own children's success or failure. If our kids are loving and curious, I think that's all you really care about, ultimately.

For more tips and information, please click here for Ms. Alexander’s “Lessons From the Learning Center” presentation.

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