Thursday, December 08, 2011
Teaching can be difficult because not all students learn in the same way

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Most people know the story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. Annie Sullivan was able to understand Helen Kellers learning abilities. She was able to help her learn despite her blindness and deafness. She was the perfect teacher for Annie Sullivan. I deal primarily with children with ADHD and learning disorders. I will often hear parents complain about the teachers. Parents expect teachers to meet their childs exact needs not realizing how impossible this task is. Each and every one of us learn differently. We have different strengths and weaknesses in our learning skills. There are 7 major areas of learning. They include two input pathways - the visual pathway and the auditory pathway. Some people are better visual learners and others are better auditory learners. The skills have nothing to do with an individuals actual vision or hearing. For example, the auditory pathway has multiple components. One of these is known as continuing vigilance which allows us to continue paying attention to a speaker once they start speaking. Think of how long we pay attention to the preacher in church. The length of time depends on the topic and how interesting the speaker is. It might depend on how much sleep we got last night. A related skill is reinforcement of attention which refers to how long we are thinking about other things before we come back to the speaker. There are some people who cant hear the speaker because the background noise volume is too loud. There are others that tend to focus on the background noise instead of what they are supposed to be hearing. Some people hear the spoken word at a slower rate than others. For them everyone speaks too quickly for them to understand. Some people hear things wrong (like interpreting get me the broom as go to your room). Others have issues with understanding the meaning of words. Still others have issues getting the meaning of a sentence. Some people will hear all the words and sentences but not get the actual gist of what is being said. All of these people have auditory learning problems. Most of them tend to be visual learners. There are similar issues with the visual pathway. Two other areas of learning are speech and motor (writing) skills. We all know people who have a variety of speech problems. The most severe is the individual who has a stroke and can no longer speak. There are some individuals who have related speech problems from birth. We often notice problems with coordination. The other three areas of learning are processing skills. These include attention skills, organizational skills and memory skills. Each of these can be further broken down. For example, memory skills include short term and long term memory issues and recognition memory issues (cant take multiple choice tests). They include memory for names or faces. The bottom line is that we are all made up of some learning skills that are very good while other skills are very poor. Most of our learning skills are average. A teacher has a classroom full of students that have complex learning skills. Some learn well by one means. Others learn well by another. For that reason, teachers will need to use multiple methods to teach the class. However, the likelihood is that no matter what method is used, there are bound to be some students that need to learn in a different way. They might need an Annie Sullivan to figure out what their particular learning skills are. That would mean finding an individual teacher for each student. It would also mean having that individual learn enough about the student to see just exactly how he/she learned to create a learning environment specific for that student. Unfortunately, this is not a practical way of teaching. We need to recognize the fact that teachers do indeed use a variety of methods to reach all of their students. If there happens to be a student in their class for whom their particular methods do not work, it is not a teacher issue. It is a learning issue. With learning being as complex as it is, there are some students whose learning abilities result in them having special educational needs. The challenge is not for the individual teacher to decide how to teach them in a classroom full of other students. It is to recognize those students whose learning skills are unique enough to warrant the extra assistance that they cannot receive in a typical classroom setting.

Alzheimers Support Group offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals next Alzheimers Support Group meeting is at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at LifeCare at Lofland Parks, first floor Resident Lounge, 715 E. King St., Seaford. This group provides support and information about Alzheimers and dementia to families, caregivers and anyone who is affected by this disease. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact LifeCare at Lofland Park at 628-3000, ext. 8302.

CPR classes at Nanticoke Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform the basic skills of CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child or infant who is choking and use of the AED. This classroom-based, video, and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friends,and community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants 12-years-old and up. This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. The target audience is those who have a duty to respond to a cardiac emergency because of job responsibilities or regulatory requirements. Cost is $40. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class.

Late registrations may be accepted if seating is available. To register and to obtain a listing of class dates/times, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.

Stroke Support Group meeting Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals next Stroke Support Group meeting is at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Seaford Library. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. Modeled from the American Stroke Association, the hospital is engaging with speakers to provide education, community resources and emotional support to those who have been affected by this life-altering event. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support, and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 8626.

NAR-ANON support group Take Heart, Be Strong is a support group available to those family members and friends who are concerned about the drug/alcohol addiction of a loved one. We find people in NAR-ANON who understand what we are going through and are ready to share their experience, strength and hope to help us. This group meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the Youth Room at Crossroad Community Church, 20684 State Forest Rd., Georgetown. If you are interested or know someone who might be, call Beth at 302-745-0466. This is an anonymous program and there are no obligations. Attendance is welcome with no prior arrangements. For more information and other meeting locations, visit

Relay for Life fundraiser Dr. Marie Wolfgang is again sponsoring a 12 night Winter Getaway Cruise to the Southern Caribbean as a fundraiser for Relay for Life, sailing from Cape Liberty, N.J. on Feb. 10. The itinerary includes St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Johns (Antigua), St. Lucia and St. Maarten (Philipsburg). Transportation to and from the dock is available. For a brochure, call or visit Dr. Wolfgangs office at One Cedar Ave. in Seaford, 629-4471. Space is limited.

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospices New Beginnings bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program.The location rotates each week of the month throughout Sussex County. New Beginnings luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required. There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Midge Dinatale or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.

New depression support groups If you have been diagnosed with depression, are currently receiving treatment and need extra support, join the Mental Health Association in Delawares newest depression support groups. The support groups provide a safe and comfortable environment for adults who may be struggling with depressionto find others who may be going through similar experiences, learn coping skills and take back control of their life by being proactive. A support group meets in Seaford every Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The location of the meeting is provided only to registered members. To register, contact the Mental Health Association in Delaware at 302-654-6833 or 800-287-6423. These new groups are made possible due to a grant received from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delawares BluePrints for the Community program.

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. To learn more, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

First influenza case for 2011-2012 Delawares Division of Public Health (DPH) reports the states first laboratory confirmed case of influenza for the 2011-2012 flu season. On Nov.29, the Delaware Public Health Laboratoryconfirmed influenza type A/H3 in an 11-year-old boy from Wilmington. The childis recovering at home. Influenza A/H3 currently accounts for 30 percent of the flu cases that have occurred nationwide this season. Beginning in October each year, DPH monitors the occurrence of influenza-like illness in hospitals, selected long term care facilities and medical clinicsto track flutrends in the state. Reports so far do not suggest that influenza is widely circulating in Delaware. Flu seasons can be unpredictable and immunization is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from infection, said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director.This years influenza vaccine provides protection against this A strain of flu. Because it is not yet widespread, there is still time to be vaccinated. DPHurges all Delawareans 6 months of age and older who have not yet been vaccinated against the flu to get a vaccine as soon as possible. The vaccine is readily available through medical providers, pharmacies and some grocery stores. DPH will conduct public flu clinics with evening hours Dec. 1 at Greenwood Fire Hall in Sussex County. For more information, go to It is also important that health care providers get vaccinated.