Those of you who have been following this blog or other Shut-Down Learner stuff for some time know that I have somewhat of a preoccupation with those kids I’ve  referred to as “Lego Kids.”

Even though I have assessed a few thousand kids in my career (yes, it’s true), I continue to be amazed by this style of child, their incredible strengths as well as their inherent weaknesses.

On average, these children excel with tasks that are nonverbal in nature.  They love building, organizing, tinkering, imagining, all in nonverbal ways.


They are our future engineers, architects, designers, landscape engineers, and builders.

There’s just one problem.

Quite often, they don’t read, spell or write very well.

There’s nothing wrong with their brains; they’re just not wired to excel in the domain where language functions predominate, such as with reading, spelling and writing.  They’re not sensitized to the way words are made up of individual sounds.  So if you ask the child to add or remove sounds to words (e.g., “Say flat.”  Now say flat without saying the /f/ sound”), they look at you blankly or just guess with little understanding.

Take, young Chris, age 6, who is not progressing well in the basics of reading, spelling and writing.  Continual reports about his inattentiveness are coming home with the implied message that he needs to be seen by a neurologist and put on medication.  The parents are told that Chris can’t pay attention and while the school personnel freely state that they can’t diagnose, they give strong signals in other words that Chris needs to be put on medication.

When I meet Chris he doesn’t look thrilled about the idea of the evaluation, but when the blocks break out to match them to complex patterns and he is given puzzles tasks, he becomes a different child.  He goes from disengaged to engaged in seconds. (With his rapid change of demeanor, some might even ridiculously start thinking he was bipolar!!!).

When I ask Chris to perform the tasks that involve language like the one above described his demeanor changes again and he starts to complain and rapidly falls off-track.

When Chris was done the testing, he involved himself with a very creative drawing at the white board, with a fully elaborate story with the pictures all connected in an imaginative sequence.

I don’t think we get these kids who are wired for the nonverbal.  Too quickly we think of them as “disordered” or “disabled.”

Even with all of the training initiatives taking place around the country, it’s my sense that we still are light years away from truly understanding them.


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