This is an excerpt from the book,  Does Your Child Really Have ADHD and a poignant look at learning styles.

“Mrs. Guffanti, in all my years of teaching, your son is the laziest student I have ever had. He spends most of his day daydreaming. He seldom does his homework. And he is often out of his seat for no reason at all.”

“You are right, Sister. But he does seem to understand the material and he does get A’s on his tests.” Learning styles were are work here, but no one seemed to know about them.

When we attempt to teach something, especially academics, we often automatically teach in our preferred learning style. We don’t really give much thought to learning styles other than our own.

This is a learning styles filter.

Dan Simmons out of Indiana demonstrated this by having people watch a one minute video.

Here is the link, and watch it before you read on: LINK (click out of the tab after you have watched it and come back to this page)

The audience is assigned to focus on counting the number of basketball passes. In the video a man in a gorilla suit walks through the middle of the screen, beats his chest and walks on.

About half the audience doesn’t see him.  Why because their expectations were set on basketball passes so they filtered out the gorilla. Filters support expectations and expectations create filters.

For 7 years I attended the same grammar school. Towards the end of my seventh year the nuns were convinced that they were failing to teach me and brought my mother into the convent to discuss expelling me or transferring me to a military school.

After an hour of listening to a litany of complaints all of which supported their theme of we aren’t teaching Stephen here, Mom said one sentence, “Well, he always does well on his tests.” Were they to have paid attention to learning styles, they would have known immediately why I did the things I did.

This statement was quickly verified by the nuns, but had been overlooked for seven years! Why because the teachers were sit down, look at me and listen, visual learning styles learners while I was a get up move around kinesthetic learning styles learner. (I only daydreamed for something to do when I wasn’t moving.)

Their expectation was that I couldn’t learn my way and so like the gorilla they simply didn’t see the test scores that sat right in front of them all those years.

Why was a child who successfully passed every test always in trouble in school?

Three words: Learning styles mismatch.

Simply put, my learning style was different from my teachers’ learning styles. Because they didn’t learn the way I learned, they just assumed I was ignoring them.

For many teachers, a lack of understanding of learning styles generates anger, and no number of A’s could prove to them I was learning. They had lost focus on their purpose, to teach, and were stuck on their method, their learning styles.

My teacher’s learning style was probably visual first and auditory second (through lecture). As a kinesthetic learner, I learned through movement first and visually second, so learning through lecture was my dead last way to learn.

All those words were too confusing, when in fact I could summarize the concept in one or two sentences (usually those sentences that the teacher repeated three times).

Because my teacher’s teaching style was my weakest learning style, I needed to compensate. How did I compensate? I daydreamed, but still listened for repetition of items.

I got out of my seat, snuck into the big closet in the back of the classroom, and paced while the teacher spoke. I set up a string in my desk so my pen would fall to the floor and roll, so I could get up and get my pen.

In addition, I used my secondary learning style, visual, as much as possible – for example, to spell words in spelling bees, I visualized the spelling words as the teacher had printed them on the chalkboard. This worked until she asked us to spell a word she hadn’t written.

Yet everything I did to compensate only angered the teacher more. Most teachers seem to prefer compliance over success. Occasionally, a teacher would accept my results as proof that I learned. Learning styles did not matter.

In 11th grade my history teacher said, “Look at Mr. Guffanti. No one does less work in this class than him. But he gets A’s on the test so I give him A’s on his report card.” But in 20 years of schooling and well over 100 teachers there were only four teachers who actually enjoyed my behavior.

A more compliant kinesthetic learner might try to memorize the teacher’s lecture. Other kinesthetics might get so bored that they tune the teacher out completely. Again, learning styles don’t matter to them.

Either way, the kinesthetic who ignores his learning style will struggle with the material, working very hard for very little gain.

The classroom experience is designed for auditory, visual teachers to teach auditory, visual students. A kinesthetic moves when he is learning (either physically or in his daydream).

Physical movement distracts the visual learner, and when it is accompanied by noise it distracts the auditory learner. The teacher, therefore, punishes this movement. It doesn’t take long for a kinesthetic to realize that he doesn’t belong in school.

Unfortunately, the kinesthetic’s movement is often seen as inappropriate and excessive—and excessive movement is associated with hyperactivity (now called ADHD).

It is possible to have ADHD and not be a kinesthetic learner, but a non-kinesthetic parent can’t tell the difference between a kinesthetic learner and ADHD.

In addition to the issue of movement is the issue of eye contact. The kinesthetic does not need to look at the teacher while the teacher is speaking. The teacher often is convinced that the student isn’t listening. Even when the child repeats word for word what she said, she still believes no one can really pay attention if he or she isn’t looking at the speaker!

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

Learning Styles Mismatch at home.

For 25 years Mom tried to get me to use my words rather get into fights. During our entire time together I didn’t have enough words to tell her I didn’t know how to effectively speak my heart so others would listen. Assuming that learning styles are randomly distributed half the kinesthetics will be low auditory and like me have the same problem.

Unfortunately, the low auditory, whether we are kinesthetic or high visual (for example the autistic) create a strain in their relationships especially for parents with higher auditory and lower kinesthetic skills (kinesthetics seem to read each other without many words.)

Mom gave me the morning lecture nearly everyday of my schooling career. I drifted off after the word Stephen. I know in general she was talking about all the things I should and shouldn’t do. I am sure they were great words of wisdom, but they seemed to me an avalanche of words that I would never remember.

I believe Mom realized I wasn’t present, but she was a talker (auditory learner.) She didn’t know that the more words she used the less I remembered until I remembered nothing. Dad was much better at accomplishing the same thing and to this day I remember his words, “Your teachers are just trying to make a living. Try not to give them too much grief.” (Dad was a kinesthetic. Learning styles meant something to him, even though he did not realize it.

Reflections on Learning Styles

Note From Maureen Guffanti, Stephen Guffanti’s wife, about learning styles differences—and about an attitude of tolerance:

“I am a very visual learner, but my husband is an extremely kinesthetic learner. Living with him has been eye-opening!

Before I knew him, I was certain that the way I learned was the “right” way.  Also, I was a classroom teacher for ten years, and traditional teaching is heavily visual and auditory, so my teaching experience increased my certainty.

Then I met Steve. He was certainly brilliant, but he sure was different! Learning styles took on a whole new meaning.

Something I noticed about Steve was that he is very accepting of people, very aware of the importance of what we learn from our actions versus do we achieve the end result.

He’s tolerant and he’s helped me become more tolerant. One of his favorite quotes is from a Jackson Browne song, “These Days”:

Don’t confront me with my failures,  I had not forgotten them.

Another way for me to explain this is to tell you what our pastor says. When he encourages us to do something like pray for physical healing, for example, he begins, “I want you to make at least one mistake…”

This is so freeing! I love to accomplish tasks, so instead of feeling nervous that I might pray and the person would not be healed, I think, “I can do that! I can make a mistake!” And I jump right into praying.

I tutor, and Steve’s insights have been so valuable in helping children with all learning styles.

Kinesthetic learners learn better and focus better not only when they move, but also when they touch—either what they are focusing on, or something else.

Many moms know that their children are active, and love to be active. But when it comes to schooling, like me, they think of the traditional learning setting they may have had: book on a desk or table, child sitting (still) at that desk or table.

So when they DO lessons that way, but the lessons dissolve into frustrated tears (often for both mom and child), they don’t necessarily know what to do.

A homeschooling friend of ours, mom to a 7-year-old very active boy, told us, “When we look at photos, he jabs each face with his finger as we talk about it. In frustration, I asked him, ‘Are your eyes in your fingertips?’

“Delighted to be understood, he exclaimed, ‘Yes!’”

She went on, “We were doing his spelling words at the table and he missed every single one. He was crying, he was so frustrated.

So I took him out to the play set so he could climb. As he was climbing, I had an idea: I said, ‘I’m just going to say your words. If you don’t know them, that’s fine; but if you do know them, spell them.’ And he spelled them correctly – every one!”

Whether you are homeschooling full time or just after school you have to decide will you adapt to your child’s learning style to get the success he or she is capable of or will you insist on teaching the way that is most comfortable to you even if it isn’t working.”

If you want help in teaching for success there are more tools –podcasts, videos and blogs – at See the video on Charley, one of Dr. Guffanti’s patients below.

learning stylesAbout Stephen Guffanti, M.D.

As a medical doctor, tutor, author, and homeschooler, Stephen Guffanti, M.D., offers a unique background and tremendous insight, and communicates with warmth and humor.

Not only is Stephen a doctor, but he’s also dyslexic and ADHD, and from this unusual perspective he brings hope and understanding to families. Born with a passion for education as well as medicine, Dr. Guffanti has served as the medical director of a clinic specializing in learning disorders.

Dr. Guffanti is the creator of the Rocket Phonics reading program, author of Does Your Child Really Have ADHD? and The Purpose of Passion. He is a popular guest on radio talk shows and has written many articles on learning styles in homeschooling publications. This article is an excerpt from Does Your Child Really Have ADHD book with a focus on learning styles.

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Watch Dr. Guffanti’s video here on Charley

Here is the Super Speller Strategy video Dr. Guffanti refers to

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