by Kristie Burk
“Imagine going to work and not being able to do your job. Now imagine that you can’t leave your job. Imagine having to do that every day. This is what life is like for children with learning disabilities.”— Dr. David Urion
Director, Neurology and Learning Disabilities Program,
Children’s Hospital, Boston
Misunderstood Minds is a website companion to the PBS special “Misunderstood Minds” and profiles a variety of learning problems and expert opinions. It is designed to give parents and teachers a better understanding of learning processes, insights into difficulties, and strategies for responding. The website is divided into categories, including attention, reading, writing and mathematics and includes valuable resources on learning disabilities and differences.
My favorite aspect of this website is the activities included in each category to “experience firsthand” the difficulties students face when they have a learning disability or difference. For example, one of the activities on attention includes a reading passage and some quiz questions. As you start to read the passage, the sentences disappear, mimicking what it feels like for students with an attention problem. In the writing category, the “experience firsthand” activity asks you to compose a paragraph using arbitrary grammar rules in order to understand what it may be like for a student with writing disabilities; the website then presents your writing as it would appear to the teacher.
In addition to being a great resource for regular and special education teachers, Misunderstood Minds could even help students be more empathetic toward their peers who have learning disabilities and differences by having them participate in the “experience firsthand” activities.