Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Reading and Writing rerun

Sometimes I'm questioned about why I write about what might be boring personal experiences, particularly in a public blog. One of my daughters commented that sometimes I lean toward working out my own issues a bit. She's probably right. That same child does read my blog regularly, and is learning things about her family that she never knew. She thinks that's a good thing, I think.

I am a very visual person. I made my way through school, despite being a terrible listener in lectures, by writing down, practically verbatim, every word my teachers spoke. I think I began this practice in grammar school. In college, I would absorb material by copying my notes, reorganizing them, applying some silly rhyme to things I needed to memorize, then giving myself a written test. I was a quick learner from the reading required, it was just the listening that failed me.

I found out that I am not alone in this "disability" relatively recently. I have a young doctor friend who attended only the medical school classes with mandatory attendance requirements and learned from reading and studying the notes of others. He graduated near the top of his class.

I actually prefer writing to talking because I often need to "fix" what I initially say when carrying on a conversation, and sometimes people don't realize that my initial comment wasn't really what I meant to say. It's hard to undo what you blurt out once it's said. I'm not one of those people who can modify what I need to say and put it into socially appropriate phrases in my head.

Having a computer and learning to cut and paste eliminated a lot of my problems of "fixing things" before I blurt them out. I am usually my own harshest editor, unless I'm in a hurry or distracted or just being dumb.

In the Morris Home Child Development Laboratory we have both kinds of learners. I think it's important to identify any child's strengths and capitalize on them, and so I've done that with Walker as well as his sisters.
We were fortunate that Walker learned to read and write at an early age, because his speech has always been difficult to understand. He is also a decent speller for the most part. The first time I remember him using his writing skills was when he was about ten or eleven. He had lost his beloved, and bedraggled, "Pink Panther" doll which he had had since he was a toddler. After a thorough search in the jumble of toys that occupied every available square inch of space in his room, it was obvious that Pink Panther was gone. A few days later while making his bed, I found a note on his pillow. "Dear Pink Panther, Where are you? We are looking for you. Sincerely, Walker Morris III." We all continued to look for Pink Panther, and had pretty much given up when we got a call from his grandparents. They had found the beloved animal "hiding" in the pull out sofa at their house. We all rejoiced.

Now Walker leaves me notes of all kinds, mainly so he won't have to discuss his needs with me, I think. He makes me lists of things he wants me to look for on E-bay. They are usually old records or books he remembers from his childhood that somehow disappeared over the years. I think they take him back to a happier time when all his sisters were home. He gives me grocery lists, usually loaded with specific kinds of diet drinks, chocolate milk, and perhaps hotdogs or buns if the number isn't working out to his satisfaction. It's a really useful skill for him...and for me.

I hope we'll all keep trying to make people understand us in the ways that work for them. I hope I get better at saying things right the first time. I hope every child has someone who takes the time to discover the best way for him to learn.


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