Vail education expert analyzes ‘different learners’ |

Vail education expert analyzes ‘different learners’

Nicole Magistro
Community Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyVail author Jane Healy is an internationally recognized education expert whose latest book is "Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems."

VAIL, Colorado – Parenting is harder now than it ever has been in the history of the human race. Even in an age of polio vaccines and parent-teacher conferences, raising children to be well and whole adults is a daunting challenge.

But Jane Healy empowers parents nonetheless.

“There is so much encroaching on childhood and the relationship between children and parents,” says Healy, a Vail author and internationally recognized education expert. “Our culture undermines the role of parents and is setting kids up for learning difficulties.”

Solutions to those problems, many of which take root during a child’s development, are Healy’s passion and the subject of her newest book, “Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing and Treating Your Child’s Learning Problems.” Healy will discuss the book on Monday night at Battle Mountain High School.

“My life passion has been the kids who don’t quite fit into the “normal” curve,” says Healy. “There are far more different learners than anybody really realizes. We all are different in one way or another.”

Healy’s career, spanning more than 40 years as a parent, teacher, researcher and educational psychologist, has demonstrated the need to look at each child individually and to get an early start on learning issues – whether academic, social or behavioral.

Prevention is the key. Take one of Healy’s former students, whose father had a really difficult time getting through school. Before the couple got pregnant, they began Healy’s “brain cleaning” regime – reducing toxins in their home, tackling destructive lifestyle choices, and learning to run a household rich in learning experiences for everyone. The result?

Despite a genetic disposition for dyslexia, the child developed only mild learning problems rather than the more serious ones of his father. Healy says the lesson is simple.

“You’re not going to change your genes completely but you can nudge them around,” she says. “If you understand this stuff, there is a lot you can do to improve your child’s success in learning and in life.”

One piece of Healy’s research focuses on the diversity of situations in which children learn. Children begin learning at home from those people who are raising them. Those patterns are then replicated and modified once the child starts to interact with other children and adults, and eventually, goes to school.

Even the most gifted and talented students often end up with learning problems, she says.

“Learning is not just what you do in school sitting at a desk,” says Healy. “It is learning to be with other people, learning to regulate yourself, learning to manage your own emotions, learning to pay attention. Failure in any of these areas may end up as a diagnosed learning disorder.”

If the home environment – or the classroom – is not conducive to that type of activity, there are many opportunities for breakdown. And since you can’t pry into a child’s brain with a vacuum cleaner or a dust rag, says Healy, it’s up to the adults in a child’s life to tidy up the intellectual environment.

Setting limits – on media use, over scheduling, excessive sensory stimulation such as noise – is a start. Also critical is recognizing each child’s unique learning style and needs.

“Parents themselves have a real clear need to take the situation in hand, take a strong and informed role in creating a successful environment for their child,” she says. “For example, even simple things like a shortage of outdoor play and inadequate sleep have been linked to attention deficit disorders, and the wrong kind of teaching can cause reading problems, so parents really need proper information.”

Healy will discuss the genetic and environmental causes of various types of learning problems and how to recognize symptoms, along with concrete tactics for parents and teachers, leaving plenty of time for specific questions from the audience. Her hope is to spread and strengthen her message of empowerment.

“This is an especially important message to hear if you’re trying to get ahead,” says Colleen Gray, executive director of The Literacy Project of Eagle County, a nonprofit that offers free tutoring to adults and children who wish to improve their literacy and English language skills. Healy’s talk will benefit The Literacy Project, with proceeds from tickets and book sales going directly to programming.

“Our family literacy programs are in the greatest need right now,” says Gray. “Jane’s research and life’s passion directly speaks to the importance of valuing education and improving the learning environment for our kids.”

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