Non-Verbal Reasoning


“Walk A Mile In My Shoes”

An interactive workshop on learning disabilities

Melissa Rowbotham, M.Ed

Copyright © 2010 by Integra Foundation

_ to _% of children/youth have a LD

___% of children who have an LD also have a social, emotional or behavioural problem

_ to _ % of kids with ADHD also have a


___% of children with ADHD who also have anxiety

1 in __ children and youth in Canada have a mental health disorder (which includes anxiety and depression)

“Walk A Mile In My Shoes”

Learning Objectives:

 To introduce the concepts of Learning

Disabilities (LDs)

 To experience what it might feel like to have LDs

 To talk about resources around anxiety and depression

What are learning disabilities?

Neurologically based disorders

Affect the ability to take in, understand, remember or express information.

Specific, not global impairments

Found in individuals who possess average to above average thinking and reasoning skills

Lifelong disorders

What are learning disabilities?

LDs reflect neurobiological factors, including genetics, congenital or acquired conditions

LDs are not due to differences in culture, language, SES, motivation

What are learning disabilities?

Impairments in one or more of the following psychological processes:

Language processing

Phonological processing

Visual-spatial processing

Processing Speed

Memory & attention

Executive functioning

What are learning disabilities?

Impairments may affect learning in the areas of:


Oral language

Written language


What Do LDs Affect?

LDs come in many forms & affect everyone differently

 Possible problems in social situations:

 Understanding sarcasm

 Figuring out how someone is feeling from their body language or facial expressions

 Understanding the unwritten social rules

 Participating in groups

If a large solid-hoofed mammal becomes available to you without compensation, refrain from casting your faculty for seeing into the oral cavity of such a creature.

Demystifying Processes

Term Description Application





General Verbal


Ability to think through problems using words

Ability to understand words and connected language

Understanding instructions, lessons, stories

Logical thinking and problem-solving

Understanding word meanings

Expressing ideas in words

Demystifying Processes

Term Description Application

Perceptual processing


• Ability to make sense of what one sees

Putting together visual information

Noticing & understanding facial expressions

Understanding a chart or graph

Reading a map

Demystifying Processes

Term Description Application



Perceptual reasoning




Visual problemsolving

Ability to organize, put together or orient visual information

Ability to form and mentally manipulate images

Understanding concept words related to time, space

Building according to a plan or model

Judging space and distance

Math (geometry, shapes, measurement)

Following sewing patterns,

IKEA instructions

What symbol has to come next in the sequence of the five symbols on the left? Can you sketch this sixth figure?

What symbol has to come next in the sequence of the five symbols on the left? Can you sketch this sixth figure?

Kids with LDs and other disabilities are at risk – why?

Frustration at not being able to do what child knows he/she should be able to do

Feelings about having a “disability”

Sense that others’ expectations are not being met (parents, teachers)

Peers’ responses

Lack of others’ understanding/responses

Responses to others’ feelings & anxieties

Invisible Disabilities

Neurobiological impairments are invisible.

Mental Health Issues are invisible

Behaviour may be are only clue.

Where else can we look?

OSR, past reports, grades, parents, teachers and kids

What is Anxiety/worry?

Diffuse uncomfortable sense of apprehension, often accompanied by autonomic symptoms” (Barlow, 2002)

Basic human emotion

Part of normal development

Can be adaptive

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Symptoms interfere with the youth’s ability to function in everyday life


Intensity of reactions is severe

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in childhood: Prevalence rate of >10%

Can look like skipping, lack of motivation, withdrawal, externalizing behaviour,

“aggressive avoidance”

Types of Anxiety Disorders in Childhood

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Social Phobia

Specific Phobia

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Panic Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

What is Distress/sadness

Always associated with a trigger, event or situation

Will improve with environmental accommodation or removal of stressor

Functional impairment usually mild

Professional psychiatric treatment not usually necessary

Counselling and therapy will often help

Social supports (friendships and family) will often help

Medications would not be normally used

What is Depression?

Referred to as Major Depressive Disorder -MDD

Characterized by:

Feelings of hopelessness, sadness

Loss of interest in activities

Vegetative signs: change in eating or sleeping, low energy or fatigue

Poor concentration, difficulty making decisions


Interferes with daily living

Rare in children under 12 years old

Depression in Childhood

Diagnosis of Depression is often overlooked in childhood:

Some symptoms are more typical of children than of adults (e.g., irritability)

High co-occurence with other disorders (such as ADHD & behavioual issues) may mask the symptoms

Certain features of Depression are more typical at different ages

When to ask for more help

When you are concerned about safety or well being of student

Watch for obvious indicators of mood issues:

Crying, shaking, avoidance

Freezing in classroom situations

Angry Outbursts & Increased Irritation

Physical Evidence of Self-Harm or Decline

Watch for changes:

In behaviour

In Hygiene

In peer interactions

In interactions with teachers and school staff

What would help worry/distress at school?

Involve student in problem-solving process (they have great ideas!)

Acknowledge effort even if output is weak

Encourage & support accountability

Address barriers caused by LD, ADHD, OT,

Note taking


Planning & Organizing (Support Self-Reliance)

What would help worry/distress at school?

Make sure learning style is understood

Are accommodations appropriate and sufficient?

Watch for bullying or peer difficulties

Teach pro-social skills to entire class and be clear about classroom expectations

Discuss Fair versus Equal

What would help worry/distress at school?

Find out what is overwhelming them in the school setting & accommodate

Set up student for success and mastery to build self-esteem

Watch for activities/subjects/projects that are “too hard”

Empower them by encouraging and being receptive to attempts at self-advocacy

Support & Listen

Reach Out - Ask student if they’re alright

Ask about any changes in their life

Check in with other teachers, peers, their family

Be Real about limits of confidentiality

Always encourage parental involvement

May chose to state policy outright

Never promise you won’t tell anyone

Suggest Help

In school support

School Team (rule out learning issues, bullying, or situation within class)

Social Workers


Special Education


Suggest a Referral

Inform family and student of your concern

Enlist the help of your team

Encourage a thorough assessment

Be open to school involvement in treatment

Outside Referral for Assessment &


Hospital Clinic or Program

Children’s Mental Health Clinic



GP’s will know local referral sources:

Hospital Clinics

Children’s Mental Health Clinics

Specialty Clinics (Integra, Sick Kids Anxiety

Groups, CAMH First Episode Clinic)

Pediatricians and specializing psychiatrists and psychologists

Private practitioners (play therapists, social workers, therapists) – only after a thorough assessment

Resources – Websites & Books


Sick Kids – Information and Resources – “Trusted Answers”

Information on Referral Sources

Resources for Teachers


The ABCs of Mental Health – A Teacher Resource

Orientation to Children’s Mental Heath – Teachers Guide

Learning Disability Association of ON