Students with learning differences often have a challenging time with gross motor activities. These learners might be clumsy, uncoordinated, or unorganized. Since gross motor skills are the first building block to learning, the Harp Learning Institute makes sure that all students' gross motor abilities are within normal ranges. Even if a student is an excellent athlete or very coordinated, we still want to ensure that all of the learning components are set firmly in place. Children naturally develop from gross motor to fine motor skills, but many students are expected to perform fine motor skills even though their gross motor skills are weak.
At Harp, we include an occupational therapy component to equip students with solid gross motor skills, which in turn relates to strong fine motor skills. Too many students are ill prepared to write and perform even basic academic activities simply because they may have skipped some of these crucial steps along the way. By filling in these gaps, students can later read, write, and do math as expected.
We take in light with our eyes but process visual information in our brains. Learners who process visual information incorrectly do not perceive information as expected. They may skip letters or lines when reading or view letters or numbers as backward. diagonal, or upside down. These students might perceive horizontal lines to be diagonal or vertical, have double vision, or have a difficult time holding images (such as letters and numbers) in visual memory. Often these poor visual processors cannot distinguish the subtle differences between the shapes of letters and numbers. This results in guessing, which is not efficient and leads to poor reading abilities, low grades, and failure to pass tests, even though these students may be quite intelligent. Students with visual processing issues have a difficult time decoding words, reading sight words, memorizing math facts and recalling numbers.
At Harp Learning Institute incorporates a visual therapy component in its 5-step program that strengthens visual processing skills. Students are then able to perceive and process visual information correctly, which leads to not only to academic, but life success.
The brain is also the central processing station for auditory processing. We take in sounds with our ears, but process auditory information in the brain. Students who process auditory information incorrectly have a difficult time following directions, focusing, and struggle with the basic skill of communication. These students may not hear the endings of words or sentences, might hear only every second or third word in a sentence, or fail to filter out environmental noises. Because of this, these students are highly distracted and have a difficult time focusing, especially in a traditional classroom. Often they are misdiagnosed as having ADD/ADHD.
At Harp, we teach our students to "hear" correctly. We practice processing beginnings and endings of sounds and words. Students practice the subtle nuances of differences between sounds, words, and phrases. We have them pick out missing sounds and and phrases from short and then lengthy passages. These students learn to follow auditory directions! And this relates to better understanding of what the teacher is instructing and increased grades and organization. In addition, through specific exercises that target "filtering" out extraneous noise, these students learn to focus and succeed not only in the classroom but in social situations as well.
At Harp, we immediately begin building up students' memory skills. This is crucial for test taking, recalling math facts, participating in class discussions, remembering multi-step math steps, writing essays, and spelling words correctly. Have you ever noticed someone who can tell you about a movie in entire detail, but cannot remember a simple multiplication fact? Many things come into play here, but students can't be expected to have a strong working memory without first possessing basic auditory and visual memory skills so they can hold and manipulate letters, numbers, and images in their minds. Once the basic until can be recalled, then the pieces to create a complete word or number sequence can be learned. This in turn leads to academic success by allowing the student to remember and work with what was introduced at school. Homework can be done without battles because the student can remember and utilize information. Tests can be passed because information was retained.
The Harp Learning Institute incorporates academics including reading, writing, spelling and math at every session. At first, students learn with a hands-on approach, even in reading! Students are out of their seats and touching letters and sounds or using bingo markers using cross-lateral movements. Then students move on to Orton Gillingham based instruction that is multi-sensory (using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels) where units of sound are learned in a sequential, cumulative manner so that these readers don't guess at words but learn to sound them out. Students also learn sight words through pictures, memory activities, and games.
Writing is performed in a similar manner. Students learn from dictation, writing units of sounds, learning to write a sentence and then a perfect, well organized paragraph with a topic sentence, detail sentences, and a concluding sentence. Even young learners or those formerly diagnosed with dysgraphia or dyslexia are writing legible, well developed paragraphs. With this step-by-step system, our teens are writing essays that not only improve grades but help with college admission and course work.
We believe that math is sequential and that too many students have been rushed through basic math skills and are unable to keep up, not because they don't understand the concepts but because they are missing lower level skills. We asses our math students' needs and find out what math gaps exist and then we systematically fill those in. For instance, we have found that many students struggle in Algebra because they are weak in fractions and don't know their multiplication facts. When we use our TouchTile Multiplication System, students learn math facts quickly by the same cross-lateral motion with bingo markers. To top it off, they have fun along the way!
All students have spelling incorporated into the system by writing basic sounds, increasing these sounds in a "nonsense" form so they learn to actually hear and write the sounds, and by increasing auditory and visual memory skills, Often, this is the last academic component that falls into place for the student.
In the higher levels of the program, students are introduced to study skills, logical thinking, and the basis of strong math and science components that lead to optimal executive thinking skills. This in turn translates to better grades, higher test scores, and a happy student who is able to perform homework independently!
In addition, all students receive to GATE (Gifted and Talented Education)at least once a month. We have found that students who struggle are rarely exposed to these higher level thinking skills, even though they are indeed bright.