Understanding Your Child's Learning Style
Knowing your child's own learning style can assure academic success. Here's what to look for.
Don't panic if your son has trouble spelling or your daughter can't sit
still during history class. It may be that he or she simply has a different
Every child learns in a slightly different way, experts say, and figuring
out your child's own learning style can help assure academic success. In some
cases, it may even help do away with labels, like "attention deficit
disorder (ADD)" and "learning disabled (LD)."
Here's a step-by-step guide to identifying, understanding, and making the
most of your child's learning style.
Learning Styles: Identifying Your Child's Strengths
Parents need to keep their eyes and ears open to figure out what works best
for their children when it comes to learning, says Mel Levine, MD, co-founder
of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit institute for the study of learning
"Some children are hands-on, while others work best through language and
do well with reading," says Levine, a pediatrics professor at the
University of North Carolina Medical School. "Some children understand
things better than they remember them.
"There are many different patterns of learning, and the best thing that
a parent can do is step back and observe what seems to be happening and what
seems to be working with their child."
Levine suggests that parents begin evaluating their child's learning style
at age 6 or 7. Learning styles really start to crystallize during the middle
Understanding your child's disposition can also help you determine his or
her learning style, says Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, MS, a learning coach based
in Ventura, Calif., and author of Discover Your Child's Learning
For example, is your child adventurous? Inventing? Or thinking/creating like
a poet or a philosopher?
"An adventurous personality really has to move to learn, so sitting at
desk all day doesn't do it for them," she says. By contrast, "a child
with an inventing disposition asks a million questions, such as 'How does this
work?' 'What about this?'"
Another factor to observe is your child's "learning modality", she
says. This refers to which senses your child best learns through. Are they
auditory (listening and verbal), visual (picture or print), or
tactile-kinesthetics (hands-on, whole-body, sketching or writing)?
"Some people are more visual and need pictures to learn, while print
learners need print," she explains.
Another aspect of learning style involves the environment, she says. For
example, noise, temperature or lighting may affect some children's ability to
"For one child, temperature might not make a difference, but some
children can't concentrate if it's too hot, and/or lighting can be a crucial
factor for some people if fluorescent lighting causes eyestrain," she
Learning Styles: Playing to Your Child's Strengths
Once you have identified your child's learning style, you can begin to build
on his or her strengths to compensate for learning weaknesses -- without