On November 19, ‘Westchester Parent’ is proud to present Dr. Mel Levine in an exclusive all-day appearance designed especially for parents and educators of children. See box for event information.
For parents of children who struggle in school, it is often difficult to figure out the reasons why they are having problems and daunting to find ways to remedy the situation. To these parents and many others, Dr. Mel Levine is something of a guru. Over the past 30 years, he has devised innovative programs to evaluate children and young adults with learning, developmental, and/or behavioral problems.
Dr. Levine, author of The Myth of Laziness and the bestselling A Mind At A Time, graduated summa cum laude from Brown University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He later graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed his pediatric training at The Children's Hospital in Boston. Dr. Levine is currently professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School and director of its Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning. In 1995, he founded All Kinds of Minds, a non-profit institute based in North Carolina that helps families, educators and clinicians understand why children struggle in school and offers practical strategies to help them become more successful learners.
Why Some Children Struggle Children who have difficulty in school may be labeled “dumb” or “lazy”, which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dr. Levine believes that different children have different ways of learning and being successful, and that they may have difficulty in school as a result of the unique strengths and weaknesses of their minds. While adults are fortunate in that they are usually eventually able to find work that suits their strengths and weaknesses, children are unrealistically expected to be competent in all areas of school: reading, writing, math, speaking, art, music, gym, socialization, etc. However, Dr. Levine writes, “Each of us is endowed with a highly complex, inborn circuitry — creating innumerable branching pathways of options and obstacles… we all live with minds wired to excel in one area and crash in another.” If children have difficulty in certain areas and their problems are not addressed, they can develop a negative self-image and suffer loss of self-esteem and motivation, which could have lifelong consequences.
How Parents Can Help Dr. Levine advises parents to pay close attention to their children as they progress through school — and monitor their ability to master skills, acquire facts, deepen understanding, approach tasks systematically, and cope with the rate and amount of demand. They should watch their children for signs of difficulty in writing, doing school projects, making presentations or completing homework. Sometimes children seem to be competent students at first and it is only in middle school, when academic demands increase, that their vulnerabilities become apparent.
If a problem is suspected, Dr. Levine urges, “Parents must read up and educate themselves. Too often, parents allow evaluations to be done as fishing expeditions. They simply accept whatever the evaluation says. I want parents to go into an evaluation with a description of their child’s breakdown and an analysis of his weaknesses.” Once parents understand where their child’s weaknesses are, they can work with the accommodations and interventions necessary to restore the child’s confidence and support his learning.
The system Dr. Levine has pioneered analyzes variations in the ways children learn and promotes specific strategies using individual children’s strengths so that they can experience more success as students. His mission is to educate teachers, parents, educational specialists, psychologists, pediatricians, and students about learning differences, so that children who struggle in school because of the way they are “wired” are no longer misunderstood.
Training Teachers All Kinds of Minds runs the Schools Attuned professional development program that educates educators about learning styles, and gives them concrete ways to help children who are having trouble in school. Many teachers in our area have already gone through the Schools Attuned program through the Bank Street East Coast Regional Training Center in Manhattan. Kathryn Perry, a Spanish teacher at Rippowam Cisqua School in Bedford Hills, explained the program: “Schools Attuned is a finer breakdown of problems based on behavior that you see, and because it’s more precise, it’s more helpful for teachers… It’s a lens through which to look at kids’ behavior so you can play to their strengths and give them hope. It gives kids a reason to keep struggling.”
In May of this year, All Kinds of Minds announced the opening of the New York All Kinds of Minds Institute in Union Square in Manhattan. The new center will bring the Schools Attuned professional development program to 20,000 New York City public school teachers, and includes a Student Success Center to provide in-depth assessments of students struggling in school. "Having experienced the Student Success Center both as a parent and a pediatrician, I believe there's a real need in the New York area for this distinctive assessment model," says Dr. Paul Yellin, national director of the Student Success Program, who will lead the professional clinical staff conducting in–depth assessments of students. With its accessibility to families in the tri-state area, the center will double the capacity of the Institute to help students.
Dr. Levine’s unique approach enables a child struggling in school to learn with less frustration and achieve greater success. Consequently, the child will experience more self-confidence and self-esteem, and feel more hopeful about the future.
For more information about Dr. Mel Levine and his programs, come hear him speak on November 19, or visit the All Kinds of Minds website at www.allkindsofminds.org.