Special Needs Students

These checklists show some of the characteristics that a child exhibits when a learning gate is not working properly. Also included is a list of informal evaluations that you can perform at home. In addition, you will find some resources for correction that can be done at home, or with a professional. Learning is all about energy output. Read the following characteristics and see if you can find where your child is experiencing an “energy leak.”


Before you begin evaluating your child, you should know that once the process is complete you might face a fundamental choice: compensation or correction. Many educational experts debate whether it is more beneficial to help a struggling learner compensate for the learning processes that are difficult, or if time and effort should be spent in the pursuit of a correction of the processing problem.

An example of compensation would be for a child to use a keyboard at a very young age to write papers when he or she struggles with handwriting. A correction would be to do a handwriting exercise that eliminates reversed letters, for instance, and helps the child write more neatly. Another common compensation is to reduce the spelling list required at a grade level for a child who is struggling with spelling. A correction would be to train the child’s photographic memory so that the task of spelling is easier.

Many times this does not need to be a debate. One can easily pursue both compensation and correction simultaneously. Compensation makes the learning task easier while the correction reduces the stress in the child’s learning system so that learning can flow. We call this “opening up the child’s learning gate.”


Many times a child who appears to have great difficulty with focusing and attending to a task is really struggling with a sensory processing problem. The child’s sensory system is not functioning correctly, resulting in errant signals. An example of this would be a malfunctioning sensory system that shouts “pain,” when a tag on a shirt touches the skin. Another example is when a child covers his ears at fairly minor unexpected sounds, because the sensory system is giving the errant signal that the sound is too loud. This child is not just distracted by his outside environment, but is distracted by his inside environment as well.

The following are some of the typical symptoms of sensory dysfunction:

  • Auditory:
  • The child displays sensitivity to loud noises.
  • The child struggles with language skills.
  • The child dislikes being in a group to the point of avoiding most group situations.
  • The child struggles with transitions and changes of any kind.
  • Taste/Textures:
  • The child is bothered by certain food textures, such as lumps in yogurt.
  • The child won’t eat meat.
  • The child id a very selective eater, preferring mostly carbohydrates.
  • The child dislikes it when food on the same plate touches.
  • Touch:
  • The child finds clothing tags an irritant.
  • The child dislikes nonsoft clothing such as jeans.
  • The child insists his socks have to have the seam “just right.”
  • The child grinds his teeth.
  • The child walks on his toes for an extended period of time.
  • The child dislikes his hair being touched, combed, washed or cut.
  • The child finds visits to the doctor to be very hard.
  • Evaluations
  • Pediatricians may have some insight into this, or they may refer parents to an occupational therapist for an evaluation. With a referral, insurance plans are more likely to cover these visits.
  • For further checklists, see Carol Kranowitz’s book, The Out of Sync Child. RESOURCES FOR CORRECTION
  • The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun: Activities For Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction by Carol Kranowitz
  • Occupational therapy.
  • Nutritional therapy (very helpful).
  • Brain integration therapy.
  • Music therapy (as described under Auditory Processing Dysfunction).
  • Chiropractic services.


You may have noticed that your children have totally different learning styles. Your left brain child tends to like workbooks and working on his own. The right-brainer, on the other hand, likes discussion, prefers projects to workbooks and tends to be a little higher maintenance during the school day, requiring more of your interaction time.

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