The Mission The All Kind of Minds’® mission is to help students who struggle with learning measurably improve their success in school and life by providing programs that integrate educational, scientific, and clinical expertise.
Observable Phenomena Scientific breakdowns in learning manifest themselves in observable phenomena. Observable phenomena are behaviors that are seen everyday – both in the classroom and at home. For example, students may have trouble finding words to express their ideas or have difficulties with handwriting because of poor muscle control. Such behaviors may or may not show up in a formula or in a series of test scores, but observable experience proves they exist.
By becoming aware of the critical observable behaviors of students in a content area or at a grade level, educators will be better able to recognize and attend to learning breakdowns. As such, third grade teachers watch for language processing breakdowns as children read aloud, while high school physics teachers look for classroom behaviors that indicate problems with non-verbal concept formation, and athletic coaches pick up on sports performances that relate to both muscle and memory difficulties.
Looking for observable phenomena is a model that avoids labeling students, classification, and loss of individual richness. Labels on students can be reductionistic, pessimistic, and can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Instead, the focus is on labeling the phenomena. This model is much more precise, specific, and less stigmatizing.
The Approach Too many children struggle and fail needlessly simply because the way in which they learn is incompatible with they way they’re being taught. Schools are filled with students who give up on themselves, are convinced they’re “losers,” and conclude they’re just dumb.
When students are having difficulty with a particular academic skill, the task of parents, teachers, and clinicians is to pinpoint the areas of difficulty, to specify the weak sub-skills, and to create a plan for strengthening strengths and areas in need of improvement. There is a need to ask: Where is the breakdown occurring? And within that sub-skill, which related functions are not operating well? For example, students with strong vocabulary skills and memory abilities may still have problems remembering words. In this case, the difficulty might lie with their word retrieval ability, a very specific sub-skill that enables students to remember words on the spot.
At any point in life, students come to school with “neurodevelopmental profiles.” Such profiles are, in essence, balance sheets of individual strengths and weaknesses in the various neurodevelopmental functions. Each profile facilitates work in some areas, while hindering work in others. Some students have strengths that make them strong achievers at six years old, but weak performers in high school. Others may have early difficulties and find success in later years. Just as expectations change over time, so do students’ performances.
Attention: Attention is more that just “paying attention.” It includes such aspects as the ability to concentrate, to focus on one thing rather than the other, to finish tasks one begins, and to control what one says and does.
Spatial Ordering: Closely related to the functions of time and sequence, spatial ordering is the ability, for instance, to distinguish between a circle and a square or to use images to remember related information. On a more complex level, spatial ordering helps musicians, for instance, to be able to “see” a piano keyboard, and enables architects to “imagine” the shape of a particular room.
Temporal-sequential Ordering: Whether it’s being able to recite the alphabet or knowing when to push a button to give a response on “Jeopardy,” being able to understand time and sequence of various items or pieces of information is a key component of leaning.
Memory: Even if, in the moment, people are able to understand, organize, and interpret the most complex information, if they cannot store and then later recall that information, their performance often suffers dramatically.
Language: Being able to articulate and understand language is central to the ability to do well as students and learners. Developing language functions involves elaborate interactions between various parts of the brain since it involves so many separate kinds of abilities - pronouncing words, awareness of different sound, comprehending written symbols, understanding syntax, and telling stories.
Neuromotor Functions: Whether students are trying to write their first words, catch a football, or punch away at a computer keyboard, their brains’ ability to coordinate their motor or muscle functions are key to many areas of learning.
Social Cognition: One of the most often overlooked components of learning is the ability to succeed in social relationships with peers, parents, and teachers. Students (and adults) may be strong in other construct areas, and yet have academic difficulties because of an inability to make friends, work in groups, or cope effectively with peer pressure.
Higher Order Cognition: Higher order cognition involves the ability to understand and implement the steps necessary to understand and implement the steps necessary to solve problems, attack new areas of learning, and think creatively.
The Process All Kinds of Minds® has developed a variety of programs to help parents, educators, clinicians, and children understand and manage learning issues. All are based on a neurodevelopmental approach to learning, a method of identifying the specific brain functions that affect the ways a student learns and performs in school.
Step 1: Profile Description Our process starts with in-depth assessment by parents, teachers, and/or clinicians to develop a comprehensive learning profile – a kind of balance sheet that accounts for the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. This approach also allows us to pinpoint the exact breakdowns in leaning that are interfering with an individual’s school success. We look carefully at each of the functions of the brain that can affect a student’s learning and performance, including memory, language, attention, and the ability to organize information. We also access neuromotor functions such as fine and gross motor skills or physical coordination, as well as social cognition- the ability to understand as well as have successful social interactions, and higher order cognition- being able to solve problems, think critically, or reason about oneself and the world.
Step 2: Demystification Through a process called “demystification” we help children (and their parents) understand specific differences in learning. We provide children with both the language and insight to deal more effectively with their strengths and weaknesses. This empowering and respectful process makes children part of the solution team and helps them fell better about themselves. It encourages optimism and collaboration between children, parents, and teachers, and restores motivation by giving students a positive vision of their futures. “Demystified” students are far better prepared to implement bypass strategies or direct interventions. They can also better recognize and appreciate individual differences.
Step 3: Management by Profile Based on their understanding of a child’s profile, parents, educators, and clinicians can help the child devise methods to become a more productive learner. Ideally, all parties collaborate to create a practical action plan that the student can easily implement at home and in school. In addition to the tactics developed by All Kinds of Minds®, other provisions might include medication, tutoring, counseling, and additional services.
Below are types of recommendations All Kinds of Minds® has developed • Bypass Strategies (Accommodations) – Bypass Strategies help the students learn how to work around a weakness, so that she can experience success. One such strategy might allow a student to do extra work in an area of strength, while reducing demands in an area of weakness (e.g., write less, but read more than classmates; write compositions using a word processor versus paper and pen; compose a song rather than build a model. • Interventions at the Breakdown Points – Interventions involve children in activities specifically designed to strengthen an area of weakness. For a student having difficulty organizing his thoughts for an essay, for example, interventions such as applying pre-writing strategies, breaking the task into steps, or working with a checklist can lead to better written output. • Strengthening of Strengths – These are strategies that allow children to keep on using and improving the parts of their minds that work especially well for them. • Affinity Development – This is a process of helping children discover and deepen their natural interest in particular topic or subject areas (such as cars, horses, or nature).
Step 4: Follow-Up Armed with a learning profile and action plan, the child and her/his parents can put them into practice at home. As in all efforts to bring about change, the child’s profile and plan are reviewed periodically, in order to monitor progress and make adjustments accordingly.
What is Schools Attuned? • The purpose of the Schools Attuned Program is to equip education professionals with new knowledge, skills, and strategies so that sound judgments may be made about instructional practices to meet the diverse learning needs of all students in the classroom. • Schools Attuned reflects the most current research-based principles of professional development that enhances teaching practice and has a positive impact on student outcomes. • The Schools Attuned Program focuses on the work of Dr. Mel Levine and developed by the All Kinds of Minds Institute in North Carolina, a non-profit institute dedicated to the improvement of an educator’s ability to understand learning differences among their students and find tools to bring success to each student.
Schools Attuned® Process • Data Gathering • Teacher observes student and completes teacher views • Counselor interviews student to complete student views • Case manager interviews parent/guardian to complete parent views 2. Data Consolidation • Trained staff member/case manager inputs and prints out teacher information • Teacher collaborates with trained staff member to consolidate information 3. Management Plan • Teacher collaborates with trained staff member to create management plan 4. Demystification • Teacher collaborates with counselor to demystify student using management plan and demystification guide • Implementation • Teacher implements accommodations/interventions from management plan • Follow-Up • Teacher adapts or changes accommodations/interventions as student progresses • Student is demystified as often as needed to support ongoing progress
1. A Positive View of Neurodevelopmental Diversity: Children vary widely in their neurodevelopmental strengths and weaknesses, and this variation has powerful implications for educating all kinds of minds. No one can be good at everything. Many students possess highly specialized minds and deserve to be recognized for their abilities, while not being declared defective for their shortcomings. Deficiencies need not be considered abnormal or somehow pathologically deviant.
2. A Stress on Neurodevelopmental Profiles: All of us have highly individual neurodevelopmental profiles (our current but ever-malleable spreads of strengths and weaknesses), which might work well at some ages and under certain circumstances, but not as well at other times or places.
3. A Quest for Specificity and Individuality in Understanding Students: We can and must achieve a high level of specificity in our understanding of children’s strengths and weaknesses, penetrating well beyond labels – which are overly simplistic, pessimistic, and therapeutically ineffective, as well as potentially hazardous, self-fulfilling prophecies. The more specific we are in our descriptions of a student’s profile, the more effective we can be in helping him/her find success. It is misleading to maintain that there are a small number of syndromes or patterns within which all or most children with learning differences can be categorized. There are innumerable ways to be different.
4. A Policy of Labeling Observable Phenomena Rather than Children: Teachers, in particular, have unique access to day-to-day observable phenomena and behaviors that are windows on learning and neurodevelopmental function. They are in a unique position to identify underutilized strengths and interests, as well as breakdowns in the learning process. Knowing what to call and how to describe a particular phenomenon greatly facilitates a teacher's understanding and management of that phenomenon in the classroom. For this reason, we label the phenomena rather than the students.
5. A Commitment to Collaboration among Professionals, Parents, and Children A student’s optimal education is likely to be realized when teachers, parents, clinicians, and the child collaborate meaningfully. No single source has all the answers. Therefore, the valid understanding and management of a student’s ways of learning entails the search for recurring themes and perceived needs as discerned by multiple informed participants.
6. A Desire to Strengthen the Strengths and Affinities of Children: It is as important to strengthen a child’s strengths and affinities, as it is to remediate his weaknesses.
7. A Belief in the Value of Demystification: Children have a need and right to be “demystified” or made aware of their specific breakdowns in learning as well as their strengths and affinities. It is especially critical for them to be able to talk and name the functions they are working on, since it’s hard to improve something when you don’t even know what it’s called.
8. A Consistent Effort to Help Learners Learn about Learning Students should be learning about learning and gaining insight into their own minds while they are engaged in learning. Teachers should instruct explicitly about learning while they are teaching traditional subject areas.
9. An Infusion of Optimism for Kids with All Kinds of Minds® The adult world accommodates, needs, and values all kinds of minds to fill all kinds of roles. Therefore, every child should be helped to see his or her special possibilities for a life that can be fulfilling and gratifying. The cultivation of childhood optimism and excitement about the future is both healthy and realistic.
Commonly Applied Models Tendency to consider only a narrow age range or to assume that a particular learning disorder is similar in all age groups. Fragmented assessment heavily based on test scores in specific performance areas. Usually those in which specialists have expertise. Heavy emphasis on negative traits or weaknesses. Diagnosis focused on meeting specific learning disability criteria or test-score cut-offs. Application only to children with certain learning problems. All Kinds of Minds® Model Developmental view in which learning disorders are thought about in terms of age, grade, and current contexts. Single unified assessment based on multiple sources of information about a child with strong emphasis on direct observation. Upbeat emphasis on a child’s strengths, specialties, and natural strong interests. Assessment focused on identifying specific neurodevelopmental gaps or phenomena and their effects on learning. Relevance to ALL children. HOW DOES THE ALL KINDS OF MINDS® MODEL COMPARE TO OTHER MODELS?
Real Life Thoughts About Schools Attuned® “I am currently the Educational Resource Coordinator after having been a classroom teacher for 30 years. I had the unique opportunity of attending the Schools Attuned week-long workshop in 2000 and again in 2005. I remember the 2000 week as an intense whirlwind of information, and I couldn’t wait to apply my newfound knowledge. Now, after my 2005 experience, I’ve come away with a clearer picture of what “attuning” is all about and how to look at each child’s strengths and weaknesses. I realized that labeling children interferes with our ability as educators to effectively teach them. Also, I really came to see over the past five years how important demystifying a child about their own learning skills can be.” - Stephie Bregman “During the Schools Attuned Core Course, a sense of adventurewashed over me as I began to visualize all the children I could help with these techniques. With Schools Attuned, I’m able to pinpoint what I need to focus on and come up with several strategies to help my kids. Schools Attuned has transformed me into a better teacher.” - Seema Gersten, teacher & Schools Attuned facilitator
All Kinds of Minds®www.allkindsofminds.orgSchools Attuned® www.schoolsattuned.org