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This learning styles article is excerpted, with modifications, from Dr. Stephen Guffanti’s book, Does Your Child Really Have ADHD?

What Are Learning Styles?

Some people are just as good in mathematics as they are in football or English literature. Others clearly have their strengths and weaknesses. Music is easy for the auditory learner. Spelling is easier for the visual learner.  The kinesthetic learner does best in subjects like physical education and sports.

Learning styles refer to how individuals perceive and process information.

Perceptual learning styles refer to how our bodies take in information.  We have five senses that take in information. Two—taste and smell—are not commonly used past our infancy.

Commonly, researchers identify auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles.

Harvard professor and author Howard Gardner coined the term multiple intelligences to describe how we process information after it is taken in.

For our purposes, we will focus on perceptual learning styles only.

Learning styles are an answer to this question: do you prefer to learn through movement, or through sight, or through listening? Auditory learners are simply those who prefer to take information in through hearing. Visual learners prefer information through sight; and kinesthetic learners, through movement/touch.

Learning preferences or learning styles)develop in most children and solidify over the years. Most people have a dominant and a secondary learning style, whether we are aware of it or not. Sometimes a person’s learning preference is evenly distributed among all three learning styles.

When we attempt to teach something, especially academics, we often automatically teach in the primary learning styles.

Let’s look at one important reason that those with kinesthetic learnng styles get in so much trouble in school and society.

Why Learning Styles Are Important and How Learning Styles Mismatch Leads to Misunderstanding

The learning styles mismatch is a tale of two viewpoints.

When teachers using auditory and visual learning styles and some students use kinesthetic or tactile learning styles, a mismatch ensues and the kinesthetic learner suffers.

These children are as smart as everyone else, but in the school situation kinesthetic learning styles make it appear as if they are not.

They tend to want to jump out of their seats, turn in work that may not be as neat as children who have visual learning styles, and want to move around a lot.

Also, tests in school tend to be visually oriented -and students who use visual learning styles will quickly remember the material they learned in pictures.

Students who use kinesthetic learning styles tend to use their feelings when recalling information, and while they will come to the answer it is often more slowly than what timed tests dictate.

This learning styles mismatch causes the students who use visual learning styles to match how written tests are devised and those using kinesthetic learning styles to appear as if they are not as quick when in fact they are just different learners.

In fact, it is often hard to tell the difference between a kinesthetic learner or a person who has ADHD.

In essence, if you or your child is having difficulty in a classroom setting, or in a homeschool setting, consider a learning styles mismatch. Your first step in resolving this problem is to identify your child’s learning style and his teacher’s.

You can do this using this learning styles quiz.

Studies (Dunn, Beaudry & Klavas, 1989) have shown the value of teaching a child using his preferred learning style.

learning styles Eight studies within the past decade reveal that when youngsters were taught with instructional resources that both matched and mismatched their preferred learning styles, they achieved statistically higher test scores in modality matched, rather than mismatched treatments …

In addition, when children were taught with multisensory resources, but initially through their most preferred modality and then were reinforced through their secondary or tertiary modality, their scores increased even more.


What this means is the studies showed that kinesthetic learners were taught kinesthetically, they scored higher. And when they were taught kinesthetically first, and the lesson was reinforced in either auditory or visual mode, they scored even higher.

stephen guffanti Stephen Guffanti, M.D. is the author of Does Your Child Really Have ADHD and founder of ADHDorActiveChild.

He is the Official Expert on ADHD and learning styles.


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