May 05, 2007

Book Review: The Mislabeled Child


Being a homeschool mother has made understanding the workings of my children's brains a necessity. Learning potential can be maximized by gaining knowledge about your child's learning styles, understanding learning difficulties and why they may present themselves, and in finding the best fit for your child in regards to educational environments. No two kids are the same. Even kids with "learning disabilities" or "attention deficits" can grow to be some of the best students and most brilliant thinkers out there. We, as parents, just need to find the key so we can "Open the Door to Success" for our kids. I think 'The Mislabeled Child' is one of those keys... helping to educate the parents - so we, in turn, can educate our kids in the best way possible.

The Mislabeled Child
How Understanding Your Child's Unique Learning Style Can Open the Door to Success
~ by Brock Eide, M.D., M.A. and Fernette Eide, M.D.
(Founders of the Eide Neurolearning Clinic)

Some time ago, Doctors Brock and Fernette sent me a book to review. My reading time being limited, it took me a good while to pick it up and get started. Once I did, I knew it was one of those books that every parent, educator, and children's physical or mental health-care professional would need on their shelves. In this day and age, there is almost an epidemic of children hooked on medicines to help them 'fit in' with the rest of the 'normal' world. 'The Mislabeled Child' aims to help parents better assess their children, help doctors better assess their patients, and to help everyone better understand WHY we all are so unique. We need to be designing programs of education that help our children learn and achieve to their greatest potential (instead of labeling them as faulty kids and lowering our expectations). The Eides aim to get the message out that kids today are being mislabeled by doctors, teachers and parents. It is time all of us throw out 'our one-size-fits-all' labels and really do some research into truly HELPING children (not just automatically drugging them and giving them a label for the rest of their life).

To start out, The Mislabeled Child offers the layman an understanding of brain functions. They explain how our nervous system thinks and learns. They take us through the intricacies of 'information input', 'pattern processing', 'output for action' and 'attention'. They discuss how good assessments of children's strengths and weaknesses make a 'complete learning profile'. Understanding the connections that need to be made for learning to take place helps us to figure out where there might be a problem.

'The Mislabeled Child' goes into vivid detail about how evaluation might help to narrow down any learning challenges. They explain how the goal is not only to find out where a child encounters problems, but also to identify particular areas of STRENGTH so that interventions can be used to help the child OVERCOME challenges.

Here's a particularly lucid quote from their chapter on "How to get the Most of this Book":

"People who are worried about giving special learning advantages to children need to rethink their whole perspective. We should be trying to provide as many learning advantages as we can to all children. This does not mean relieving any child of the responsibility of making the kind of diligent effort that is needed to learn, but it does mean lessening the burden imposed by learning challenges that make certain kinds of work essentially impossible and channeling a child's energy into more beneficial forms of work."

The Eides cover issues regarding memory, vision, hearing, communication, attention,

It seems that there is 'no child left behind' which could not benefit from the knowledge this book aims to impart to their care-taker.
autism (and autism-like disorders), sensory processing, dyslexia, writing, math, and even challenges facing gifted children. It seems that there is 'no child left behind' which could not benefit from the knowledge this book aims to impart to their care-taker. They include detailed 'signs of difficulties' lists that help you get an idea of what types of behaviors to look for in assessing your child. But they don't stop there (and that is the key to how great this book is!). They go on to give you a LIST OF HELPS for each problem that will boost your ability to actually overcome the problems at hand. Knowledge indeed is power.

For instance... did you know that studies show that "approximately one-third of kindergarten-age children have an auditory memory span of nine words or less"? Yet many instructions given orally by teachers and educators for school-work and tests have well over this number of words. Even parents may use sentences that are too long in giving children direction.

The Eides write:

"Good teachers have always known this. Think of the slow, clear "teacher's voice" used by most skilled and experienced elementary teachers (and day-care workers, children's therapists, pediatricians, etc.). These professionals did not grow up speaking this way, nor did they gravitate toward their professions because they had a certain kind of voice. Instead they've learned over time what style of speech children best respond to, and they have adopted this style as their own."

The Eides provide teaching tips and memory enhancement strategies that no educator should be without in their chapter on memory entitled, "Gone in Sixty Seconds". I made so many notes and drawings in the margins of my book that I might as well have just underlined EVERYTHING in the chapter. Some of the VERY BEST advice in the chapter, however, I feel needs to be shared with everyone... especially those who aren't going to go and pick up a copy of this book for themselves:

A Final Key to Learning: Incremental Challenge

In addition to making use of a child's optimal learning style, parents and educators can maximize a child's learning potential by making sure that challenges are presented in a stepwise, incremental fashion. Research on motivation has demonstrated a critical relationship between success in learning and continued motivation: When children fail to achieve sufficient success or experience a sense of progress, their motivation plummets and they simply stop trying. Often children are diagnosed with attention and behavior problems when, after repeatedly facing challenges that demand unmakeable leaps rather than incremental steps in their exercise of skill, they simply lose heart and give up. But even thoroughly discouraged children can be reinvigorated by success. ... Success breeds success by developing a taste for mastery. Research has shown that mental focus increases dramatically even in children who've been diagnosed with ADHD when they're given MEETABLE CHALLENGES, and deteriorates both when challenges are unmeetable, or -crucially- not challenging enough. The desire to achieve mastery is natural; apathy is learned."

Another interesting note made by the Eides in 'The Mislabeled Child' is that there is a frequency in the misdiagnosis of children who have certain types of hearing disorders. Children who have hearing disorders often miss a speaker's intent. There are children who have problems with hearing the "musical aspects" of speech which cause them to display similar symptoms to autism spectrum disorders (such as Aspergers). There are also a great many of hearing disorders that will be nearly undetectable with school tests due to the fact that the child CAN HEAR, but they hear differently than other children. Children with "sensitive ears" may show no other signs of a hearing disorder. However, their brains may be unable to drown out background noise and differentiate between what is important to listen to. Children with these types of disorders might score 100 percent on a written test while scoring only 45 percent on an oral one in a noisy classroom. Understanding why a child may have problems in social arenas if they are challenged with physical learning barriers can help educators and parents empathize with the child and not discourage them with negative feedback. It can also help the child learn if the caretakers are willing to put in practice some of the beneficial tips the Eides give to remove those barriers and encourage the child.

Understanding what your child's learning style is may be a key to unlock their weaknesses. If they are strong in one type of learning style, it may indicate that they have a barrier in another area. An amazing fact given by The Mislabeled Child in the chapter on Communication and building language skills was that nearly 60% of English words have multiple meanings. Of course, most educators know that the "broader and richer a child's exposure to language (and the better her ability to process language patterns), the richer her network of associations will be." If there are structural problems in various brain regions, certain types of words might be difficult to understand due to the different areas words are stored. The Eides make the case that if your child has language barriers, a language specialist should be employed in the assessment of their issues. Reading about the different brain regions and storage methods for grammar, word groups, concrete and abstract words, etc. was very interesting. Do you have a child that has trouble with finding words for their ideas and yet you KNOW they understand the topic they are trying to discuss? They may be a visual-spatial thinker (one who thinks in words and has a hard time with sequencing in an orderly fashion).

Understandably language barriers "pose a threat to ALL aspects of a child's education". Brushing up on your understanding of how the brain stores and retrieves language data is an invaluable tool for better teaching. The Eides data seems to reinforce the Charlotte Mason idea that children should be provided with "Living books" (as opposed to material specifically written for children that has been "dumbed-down"). Charlotte Mason called fluffy, re-written and abridged children's books "twaddle". Ironically, the Eides suggest that over the past forty years, children's language skills have declined significantly (despite being exposed to MORE talking, singing and sounds than ever before via television and daycare). They assert that it is due to the fact that face-to-face verbal exchange in a relatively quiet background is not used as much in teaching anymore.

They state:

"Children who spend the bulk of their formative years receiving auditory stimulation primarily from TVs and music players, or through early group exposures in day care, may be receiving more noise stimulation than language stimulation. In fact, too much noise can actually serve as a barrier to language development and create a condition of communication deprivation."

The Eides have some excellent communication skills advice for parents and teachers in their chapter entitled "The Communication Gap". They are big advocates of reading aloud together. They also suggest that you NOT "fill-in-the-blanks" when your children are having a hard time getting

Tapping, hand-wringing, pacing, rocking, or other physical movements that seem distractive on the surface... are actually HELPFUL.
their thoughts in place to verbalize something. Sometimes we parents tend to finish their sentences just to save time. They suggest that this is detrimental to progress. Instead of giving them correct answers to help them finish off thoughts, they suggest instead to insert off-the-wall ideas that do NOT fit the sentence if your child seems to be stuck and unable to move forward. Sometimes the humor of a wrong answer might be the key to bringing forth the correct one in the child's mind.

One of the things I found interesting in their "helps" sections that span many different learning blocks was that sometimes the use of body movement can help a child to think better. Tapping, hand-wringing, pacing, rocking, or other physical movements that seem distractive on the surface... are actually HELPFUL. Movement is one of the keys to diagnosing many different learning barriers. Children with Hyperactivity disorders, impulsivity disorders, autism spectrum disorders and sensory processing disorders all have tell-tale issues with lack of movement or too much movement.

The Eides share this amazing fact:

"Recently researchers have shown that engaging in various types of physical movements can improve baseline levels of alertness and attention. Even minor body movements like finger tapping can activate various brain regions associated with learning and attention, including an important part of the brain that's associated with auditory sentence comprehension, visual search, and spatial attention. We may actually learn better if we engage in minor movements."

Now I bet you don't feel so bad about that kid you have at home with the wiggles, do you? Research like that seems to encourage the 'hands-on' learning methods that KONOS Curriculum (which we use) employs in their unit-studies.

The section on Gifted Children is one you will want to re-read when you are done. The Eides provide exceptional help ideas for the most exceptional kids. If you have an introverted or fiercely independent learner, or suspect that your child might be gifted, this section is a must-read. I especially loved their homeschooling section and the descriptions of different types of attention styles (the "python" who learns best from intense and prolonged "digestion" of a single topic and the "hummingbird" who prefers frequent little "sips" from many subjects). They make the case that homeschooling is a great educational environment for children who have varied strengths and weaknesses in different subjects, who have issues with background noise, who have signs of giftedness, and even children with certain learning blocks which can not be easily accommodated in a classroom environment.

I could go on and on about every chapter in the book, but that would not be fair to the Eides who took the time to research and compile this data for you in one place. Whether your child has the "Midas Touch" or their "Numbers Won't Add Up"... there is a wealth of information waiting for you in "The Mislabeled Child". I hope you will pick up a copy and increase your knowledge for the sake of your child.

Buzz Words: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that review. I'll be adding this book to my reading list.
Have you heard of Mel Levine's books? Right now I'm reading A Mind At A Time. Although it is not focused towards homeschoolers, the book contains lots of good information.

Here is his organization's website, All Kinds of Minds, Understanding Differences in Learning.

Thank you for your insightful posts.
I don't have a blog myself, and hope you don't mind me commenting. Your blog is in my favorites, and I check in for inspiration frequently!
The bee theme was great!

Thyen Party of Four said...

THANK YOU for the book review and recommendation. Definately on my 'to purchase' list!

Thank you also for your great resource! I stumbled across your website via 5 minutes for moms - and very glad I did as I am in the process of researching homeschooling for my 4 year old.

"My Little Wonders" said...

Thank you for the great information. I always enjoy your insitefulness. Keep up the good work. God Bless

Amy said...

Thanks for reviewing this book. I am grateful for your attention to detail and I respect your opinion on these topics and will now be sure to include this book in my home library.

I also wanted to mention how true some of these things are since I have had personal experience with them....

I had my youngest son in public school for only the first half of his K5 year. I was still warming up to homeschooling my oldest son and just hadn't taken the younger two out yet. This was a huge mistake on my part. He was suspended THREE times for disruptive behaviors; tapping his fingers on the desk, kicking his feet, popping his pencil on his cheek, breaking colors, swaying from side to side in his desk, etc. etc. After the third time they told me he had been evaluated by the parish counselor, without my permission, and that he was thought to have ADD!

What is funny is that he did better than 99% of his class in the standardized tests. In fact, he did the best in a few areas. Yet, they wanted me to put my child on meds. I think not. I decided to no longer prolong their demise in the public school system and took my youngest kids out to homeschool them with my eldest.

I let him be disruptive during class time. It helps him to comprehend. Thanks for introducing me to a book that proves my child is normal.

Amy Grant

"My Little Wonders" said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bunny Trails said...

Wow, Heather! Thank you for that indepth review. This book is definitely at the top of my list. Our library doesn't have it, but I suspect that this is one I'll want for my own collection. It sounds like this has information that would really help with my younger son.

Dianne :-)

Sprittibee said...

Thanks Lisa. That sounds like a great book, too. I am intrigued by how the brain works. A friend of mine just had brain surgery to have a large tumor removed. I'm eager to hear that she is recovering fully. Her web address is:

thyenpartyoffour - You are most welcome. Have fun researching and even more fun homeschooling. Those are the most sweet and precious years homeschooling. Check out my Homeschool Series linked in my favorite posts on the far right sidebar for all the stuff we did during those years (preschool through the present).

Amy - :) What a great story. I have also found it to be true. My son likes to stand up while he thinks. He will stand up in between some of his math problems and bend over to write. He also told me that he would prefer that NO PICTURES be on his worksheets because they are distracting to him. I believe that both my father, myself, and my son all have a version of what many people today call "ADD". Not sure about the "hyper" part of it... but certainly the attention issues. We HYPERFOCUS and are easily distracted. :) Makes for an interesting school day when Mommy and Son are both this way! :) The great thing is that I know that I know that I know how smart he is! No other teacher would be able to put up with his behaviors in such an understanding way... that is why homeschooling is so great: the teacher LOVES YOU.

Bunny Trails - Yes, I was very excited once I started reading it. It confirmed a lot of what I already felt in my heart about ADD and really helped explain a lot better what the problems with some of my friend's children are. I think everyone who deals with kids should understand these issues better so that the CHILDREN are not looked down upon as if they are freaks. They are usually GIFTED and bright kids - the ones who have some of these disorders! We should DELIGHT in trying to help them find the best possible way to learn and be thrilled when one day they are "creating" and "inventing" and "designing" and LIVING. ;)

Thehotrod5 said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful review of the book! I have recently been asking many of the same questions that were posed in the article. We are headed to the library tomorrow to put this book on hold!

mamato3haitibabies (from the KONOS list)

Sprittibee said...

You're welcome Angela! Nice to see you in here! ;)

Rhonda said...

I can't WAIT to read this book. I was telling Griff about your review. I got a lot of "uh-huh"s and eyes glazing over, but I have a plan. I know that if I leave it strategically out by where he sits on the couch, he'll pick it up and read it.

I'm tricky that way. :)

Anonymous said...

I MUST read this book! Last year when our 7 year old was in kindergarten, his teacher was convinced he had a processing disorder. We homeschooled this year, and he has excelled without problems. Huh, go figure.

I'd love for you to visit my new blog. After being addicted to yours for a year, I've finally taken the plunge. I'd love to see what you think, and give any advice!

Kathy D.

Alexandra said...


Ds has got the same thing going on with the learning: stands up to write(sometimes) and no pictures in books. He chose Mennonite/Amish published books because they are plain(no color and minimal pictures), and he loves them! He found color and lots of illustrations distracting.

Sherry said...

Fantastic review. I definitely want to read this one. Another book I've found really helpful is Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World by Jeffrey Freed.

Sprittibee said...

Rhonda... I will let you know when I get the copy sent. Money is tight right now... so I haven't gotten to it just yet. :(

Kathy - Sounds like you do need to read this book. :) I hope it will shed some light on whatever issues you have. It was a great book.

Alexandra... that's neat that Kaden isn't the only one out there that is always standing in his hair and distracted by the colorful drawings. He has enjoyed the fourth grade materials from A Beka for Math a little more since there are fewer graphics. Third grade nearly killed us!

Sherry - Hope you like it. I sure love those bluebonnets. I have heard of that other book, but haven't read it yet. :)



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