MANILA, October 15, 2005
 (STAR) Every child has his own unique strengths. These strengths must be discovered and harnessed to help the child attain his maximum potential and achieve success.

Children with learning disabilities are not really disabled, but are just "wired" differently. Thus, it is a big mistake to treat everyone equally when it comes to learning.

These are some nuggets of wisdom from one of America’s experts in developmental pediatrics, Dr. Mel Levine, who recently came to the Philippines as the resource speaker in a two-day seminar workshop entitled "Educating All Kinds of Minds."

The conference was made possible by Wyeth Philippines Inc., maker of Progress Gold, as it underlined its thrust in helping accelerate children’s brain and body development.

Progress Gold is the only growing-up milk that contains the Gold Brain and Body Formula – a breakthrough blend of 25 essential nutrients plus DHA, AA, carotenoids and zinc.

A pioneer in evaluating children and young adults beset with learning and development problems, Levine has co-founded and co-chaired a non-profit institute in the US called All Kinds of Minds.

He has written several books, which includes A Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness, and Ready or Not, Here Life Comes.

"Schools and parents share the job of ensuring the healthy growth of vital neurodevelopmental functions," Levine said, adding that mental functions can be sorted into eight manageable categories, which he referred to as "The Eight Systems of a Mind."

• Attention control system

This is the "administrative bureau" of the brain, the system that dictates focus, alertness, planning and completion of tasks. In school children, attention keeps them focused on the lesson while filtering out distractions. Your child should practice behaviors that help him concentrate like finding a comfortable place and going through a task at his own pace.

• Memory system

After a child understands an idea, this system helps him store the information and then retrieve it. It is also the system that is often given the most strenuous exercise in school. Although not everyone is wired with a photographic memory, each person can still make the most of his own strategies in remembering things.

• Language system

The language ingredients of learning include, among other things, the ability to comprehend, decipher and use a wide vocabulary, to express thoughts verbally and on paper. You can help develop your child’s language system by having meaningful, idea-filled discussions, communicating in complete sentences, playing word games, and talking about things that are interesting and informative as well.

• Spatial ordering system

Through spatial ordering, we perceive how parts of things fit together, recognize shapes and their relative positions, and we know what goes on with what to make a pattern. Spatial ordering also helps us organize things that we need or efficiency and proficiency. It requires the use of closed circuits between our eyes and our brains, to enable us to think through mental pictures.

• Sequential ordering system

This capacity for sequencing is a working partner of spatial ordering. It forms the basis for time management for understanding time, estimating time, allocating time, and being aware of time’s passage. On a higher plane, sequential ordering is involved in many forms of reasoning and mental processing of information. For example, if a child has strong sequential ordering, he can quickly picture in his mind the steps he will take in order to finish a class project.

• Motor system

The motor system governs the very precise and complex network of tight connections between the brain and the various muscles all over the body. A child’s motor functions determine whether or not she will excel in what kind of sports. Other neuromotor functions make possible physical activities like cursive writing, playing the fiddle, guiding scissors, etc. Good motor systems in children give them self-confidence.

• Higher thinking system

Higher thinking includes the ability to problem-solve and reason logically, to form and make use of concepts, to understand how and when rules apply, and to get the point of a complicated idea. It also is used in critical and creative thinking.

• Social thinking system

Children’s social abilities can reveal a lot of interpersonal strengths and shortcomings. In their interactions with their peers, they experience either gratification or humiliation, which will have a great impact in their personal development. Some kids are born with distinct social talents that make them easily form friendships and solid reputation; others still need to be taught how to relate.

A child (or adult) may be strong in the seven other neurodevelopment systems yet he may fail in life because of his poor social thinking – he is unable to behave in a way that fits the ways of others of his age group. He may have trouble working collaboratively in groups, or coping tactfully with conflicts involving classmates.

Even the most brilliant child can and will end up frustrated if he is too shy, socially inept, or anti-social. Such a child usually grows up to be one of the most anguished employees in his future job.

Finally, Levine advised parents and teachers to realize that a system deteriorates drastically when it is underutilized. In order to accomplish the desired good results in a child, it is very important that each of the eight neurodevelopmental systems must be used constantly and in harmony with each other. Not one should have a solo performance; all eight systems must join forces and work together effectively.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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