Are Your Kids Shut-Down Learners?

Geek Culture

The new academic year nearly always holds a lot of promise for parents. While the kids figure out what to wear the first day and have the excitement of meeting up with friends they haven’t seen for a while, that excitement soon wears off. For some kids, that’s when they start moaning about homework, disliking school, and looking for excuses. It might be that instead of just lazy or unmotivated, you might have a shut-down learner.

I got a review copy of The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child by Dr. Richard Selznick a couple of months ago, and thought the beginning of an academic year was a good time for a review.

In Dr. Selznick’s words, a “Shut-Down Learner” typically comes in two styles:

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  1. Disconnected, unmotivated and difficult
  2. Pleasant and terribly insecure

Where the first style disconnect and give an attitude of not caring, the second style is more social but rarely participates. General signs of the shut-down learner:

  • disconnected
  • fundamental reading, writing and spelling skill weaknesses
  • increased avoidance of homework
  • dislike of reading
  • hatred of writing
  • little/no gratification from school

A student may have a poor vocabulary, poor listening skills, give short and less-developed responses to questions, get overwhelmed by too much verbal input, and possibly exhibit weak reading comprehension.

However, where the children thrive and succeed are in the spatial-based areas. Typical characteristics include: being a “Lego kid,” loving puzzles, engaging for hours with hands-on activities, loves taking things apart, good visual detail and recall, and enjoying movement-based tasks.

Any parent of children beyond early elementary years knows the tasks and work become less spatial-based and more language-based. The first fifty-four pages go through the description of a shut-down learner. The remaining one-hundred or so pages go through working with a shut-down learner.

At this point I should say that I believe I have two children who (to varying degrees) are less language-based and much more spatial-based. I’ve seen some of the characteristics of the shut-down learner in their approach to school and school-work.

Dr. Selznick gives several good suggestions for diffusing the tension that may build in the home, how to find help getting a good evaluation of your child’s skills, and suggestions for how work with teachers and others in your child’s academic environment. Dr. Selznick interviews a few students to show their struggles and eventual successes.

I liked the non-technical writing style, and found it an interesting and quick read. The care and concern for students struggling in school is evident through the suggestions and examples that Dr. Selznick provides.

It will be a book that I share with teachers this academic year – I wish that I had this book a few years ago.

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