Posted by: malibulearning | September 28, 2011

Baffling Behaviors – Part 1: Laziness

“Trigger words.”  In your work, are there certain words that, when you hear them, something connects inside of you?  The word may be quite ordinary, but when you hear it, your training and experience tell you that something deeper is happening.

In working with struggling students, we have developed words and phrases that we listen for.  When we hear one of them we know to look deeper, to probe around, to check specific skills.

For us, LAZY is a huge trigger word.  As soon as we hear it we know that there are underlying skills that need help.  BUT, here’s what parents see:

Slouching over his food at the dinner table, Mark has become a constant frustration to his parents.  They love him dearly and know how smart he is, but he just doesn’t seem to care about anything…especially school.  They’ve tried talking to him.  He kind of grunts so they know he’s heard them.  Finally he agrees to “try harder,” and then goes back to the old, “I don’t care about anything” lifestyle.

School has always been a struggle.  Now it’s worse than ever.  It used to be that he got his assignments wrong all the time.  Now he seldom even turns in assignments.  He’s flunking everything except PE.

And that posture just confirms everything that mom and dad are feeling.  He doesn’t care!  He’s just lazy.

What none of them know is there can be other reasons for these behaviors.

Often parents don’t call us for help when they believe their child is “just lazy.”  All they see is “I don’t care,” or “I’m too cool to do anything.”

“Lazy” seems like a behavior / attitude issue, not a learning problem.

But here’s what’s really happening. 

There is an entire continuum of skills (underlying skills) that make learning (and life) much easier.  In good learners, these skills are automatically in place and work together, almost invisibly, to allow reading, spelling, comprehension, etc.

But in about 30% of bright children (and adults also) some of these skills are either missing or inefficient.  Those students can keep trying and trying and trying, but they just don’t ever quite “get it.”

Here are just four of the common learning problems / skills that look like lazy:

  • Retained Primitive Reflexes.  These reflexes should have disappeared by about 12 months of age, but often they don’t fully integrate.  One reflex keeps people from being able to sit still in a chair (it makes them wiggle) while another is responsible for the “teenage slump.”  Reflexes are automatic.  They can’t be overcome by “force of will.”  They can be integrated using very specific training.
  • Poor working memory skills – can cause a student to miss steps and pieces of instruction.  It causes them to be very inconsistent in performance.But they look careless and lazy.
  • Poor visual processing – They might refuse to use a planner or say that lab charts or maps are stupid and then don’t complete them.But the reality is they can’t make sense out of what they are looking at.They may not even understand the visual organization of a common written page.
  • Poor phonemic awareness – This can cause a student to read a word at the top of the page and not recognize the same word at the bottom of the page.It looks as if they’re not trying.Others may be able to read enough to sound like they can read, but reading is so inconsistent and difficult that they no longer want to put in the effort – especially the older they get.

The hardest part is kids themselves don’t really know what is going on.  They don’t know that they have weak learning skills. They just know they do all they can and it doesn’t work…and they get called lazy.

There is hope – Brain research has proven that brains can make new neuro-pathways.  With the right kind of intense brain training, these skills can be developed, strengthened, and work just like “normal.”

Most schools and tutors don’t do this kind of work.  But there are a growing number of trained professionals who have been trained to help fix these learning skills.

So the next time you hear a parent or teacher use the word “lazy” to describe a kid, tell them the good news.  It can probably be fixed!


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