Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What is a Tactile Child? by Vonnie Davis

In my novella, Tumbleweed Letters, two-year-old Eli McBride loves to touch fabric. He's fascinated by the feel and textures of fabrics, leaves and rocks. He learns by touching his world. Experts today would refer to him as a tactile child.

Approximately five percent of all students are tactile or kinesthetic learners, according to Dr. Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.. These students learn with their bodies in motion. Most often, they are male.

Tactile learners are easily distracted and can become frustrated with auditory presentations. When other children get up to sharpen a pencil, someone or something is outside the window, or any number of other distracting situations occur, the child looses focus

These children are often labeled as disruptive, inattentive, unmotivated, or problematic by a teacher who either doesn't understand the learning style needs or prefers to ignore the small percentage of students in the class who are tactile learners.

The label may follow him throughout his life and create problems in class, work and life in general. The student may come to believe he can't learn and never reach his learning potential.

Is this sad, or what?

The tactile learner may be labeled ADD or ADHD when he is not. The parents may receive pressure to put him on medication in order to make him less likely to be distracted, but the medications prescribed to ADD or ADHD learners may create problems due to side effects rather than solve the problem.

My son received a letter from my grandson's teacher a few years ago. She claimed Ryan was disruptive and difficult to keep on task. She wanted him tested for ADD. Mike called his brother, who is a teacher, to ask his advice. "How can Ryan have ADD and be in the top one-percent of math students nationally? If he has ADD, could he stay focused long enough to complete a math problem?"

Steve encouraged him to refuse the teacher's request. "Ryan is not ADD. He's an intelligent child who needs a teacher smart enough to engage him in other learning styles. Fight the labeling. It will follow him throughout school." Thankfully Mike did.

Today Ryan is a scholar athlete, taking honors and advanced placement classes in all subjects. He called me last night to tell me he got all A's for this marking period, even though he's taking 3 maths this semester, something he had to get special permission to do. "Government is my worst class, Grandma. I only got a ninety-two percent in it. Government is so boring to me."

Tactile learners prefer to learn and explore with their hands. They enjoy and learn well with math manipulatives, learning stations, art projects and other experiential tools that are commonly used in pre-K through Grade 3. Once the shift is made to the strongly visual presentation mode common in Grades 4 to 8, and then to a strong auditory shift in high school and college, this learner can fall behind. The best learning environments are those that cater to all three learning styles at all times.
Eli slid from Cam’s lap to peer into the woman’s shopping basket. He fingered her piece of yellow flannel. He lost interest quickly when something else seized his attention. “Mine! Mine!” Suddenly he ran down the aisle, his arms outstretched to grab the skirt of a startled woman.
Cam hurried after his son. “Eli, stop.”
A determined Eli tugged one way, and the red-haired woman tugged the other. “Mine,” he screeched.
“Let go of me.” Material ripped. A feminine gasp filled the quiet of the store.
“Ma’am, I’m plum sorry. I don’t know what got into him.” He stooped to pry Eli’s fingers from her calico skirt, the blue print was familiar. The hem was partially frayed. It couldn’t be. Slowly his gaze traveled up the gathers of the skirt to a narrow waist and gaping material where his son had torn it from the waistband.
Or rather, was tearing it for Eli now lay on the floor, his back arched, one booted foot and a bare one firmly planted on the wood plank floor and his chubby face a reddened mask of determination. “Mine,” he growled.
Cam tried to pry his son’s fingers from this poor woman’s skirt. Eli held the material in his grasp, giving Cam a nice view of her ankles. Twine tied the thin soles of her shoes to the worn leather uppers.
“Would you be looking up my skirt, then? Is this the behavior you’ve taught your son? Tear the clothes off the ladies so you can get a free gander at the merchandise?”
By her brogue and red hair, she was Irish.
“Humph.” Mrs. Dunlap exclaimed, her grey eyebrows arched. “Merchandise would be correct. If I were you, Mr. McBride, I’d keep my innocent son away from the likes of her.”


LisaRayns said...

Great post. I've encountered several teachers who first suggest to put a kid on drugs rather than try to work with them and I live in an area where the average class size is twenty. It is sad.

Mackenzie Crowne said...

OMG Vonnie!
I would say don't get me started, but it's too late. As the mother of a tactile child (now a grown man) just reading this post shot my blood pressure straight back up to the simmering level it reached when he hit grade 4 and remained throughout much of his schooling. My long held belief that bad teachers are rare took a beating as I advocated for a boy who consistently tested grades ahead but often failed to grasp the concepts in day to day class work.

I earned a reputation as "one of those moms" during his 4th and 5th grades (with the same teacher) by arguing he didn't need drugs, he needed a teacher interested in teaching all her students, not just the ones who could teach the class themselves after simply reading the book. Tactile people don't learn that way, and thankfully there are some caring teachers who are willing to use different styles to include all of their charges.

My heart goes out to tactile learners AND their parents. It's been sixteen years and the battle I was forced to wage STILL burns my butt.

Okay, rant over. Taking deep breaths. ;-)

Vonnie Davis said...

Lisa, in many cases, it is true. Teachers want their students to fit neatly into a box. I never did. As a child who stuttered, I was labeled as mentally deficient. Dumb, in other words. Not so. I just had an incooperative tongue. We're all different, thank God.

Vonnie Davis said...

Yay Mac! Yay "one of those moms." Yay all parents who fight for their children. Ironically, Ryan was in the 4th grade, too, when this teacher started her "medicate him" campaign.

Steve, my older son, told Mike there are certain words and phrases they (teachers) are trained to used when identifying a student as problematic. Ryan consistently tested grades ahead--and continues to do so. As a 9th grader he takes Algebra II, pre-Calculus and Math for Physics. He's in honors English and Spanish. Thank God his mind was never medicated. Good for you for fighting for your child. He was--and is--blessed.

Beth Trissel said...

Very interesting post. My oldest daughter Alison was a tactile child, according to my OT sister, and she did have some run ins with teachers in her day. She's not ADD, a little dyslexic. She now has two very busy little people of her own.

I love this book title! And the excerpt.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks Beth. We all have our own way of learning, don't we? Think how boring the world would be if we were all alike? I love differences in people; it's what makes the world infinitely interesting.

Linda Morris said...

Interesting post. I'd like to clarify, however, the misconception that if a child does well in math, or any other subject, that he therefore can't have ADHD. My son has ADHD, for which he takes medication. It has been a life-changer for him. With or without medication, he tests in the 99th percentile for math ability and reads above grade level. His ADHD symptoms come out in extreme outbursts of anger and a total inability to focus on things that bore him. People with ADHD have "hyperfocus," an ability to focus extremely well on topics that interest them (such as math for my son) and a complete inability to focus on things that bore them. My son is terribly bored by routine grooming and hygiene, and despite his high intelligence, we struggled to potty train him for years. (Getting him to dress himself is still a huge daily struggle, although he is eight.) If a teacher is noting ADHD-like symptoms in any child, I would highly recommend having the child evaluated by a psychologist. A teacher cannot and should not be diagnosing kids, but neither should their concerns be reflexively brushed aside. Even if a parent chooses not to put their child with ADHD on medications, some behavioral modifications and dietary changes are proven to be beneficial, and knowing what your child's challenges are is the first step to being able to help, in my opinion.

Vonnie Davis said...

Linda, thanks for sharing your son's story and giving another slant to things. Proper treatment depends on the child, doesn't it? Not some blanket approach. I'm glad you've been able to modify and adapt to what your son requires. Calvin and I often talk about how "the mind" is the unexplored frontier. There's so much about its workings we don't know. So many old misconceptions under which we still operate. My best to you and your son. I daresay having a mother in any child's corner is one of the most potent benefits a child can have.

Joya said...

What a great post, Vonnie! Every child learns differently, and sometimes I wish I'd homeschooled my kids. I was "one of those moms" (like Mac) and spent a lot of time at school fighting for what my kids needed. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on your release. Love the cover!! :)

Dixie Brown said...

Great post! Very interesting and educational. I'm glad there are moms and grandmoms in the world who love their kids enough to find out what they need and then act on it. Kudos to all of you!

Vonnie Davis said...

I'm sure you were and are an awesome mom. Every child needs at least one advocate to protect, provide and love unconditionally. Since each child is different, each requires a different kind of advocacy.

Vonnie Davis said...

You are so right, Dixie. Moms and grandmas add a special layer of security to a child's life. Thanks for commenting.

Calisa Rhose said...

Now I'm confused, Vonnie... My middle dd is ADD- or so I was certain, until now. She never tested high, struggled with reading, but also could be distracted by a bird flying outside a window. Is she ADD or tactile? All I know is in fourth grade she could do the 'new' math the teacher was introducing to her class, in ways the teacher asked her to explain. She did the problems and got them right- but her method was not what the teacher has just spent two weeks learning to teach! She is my artistic kid, enjoying drawing and photography most. But she had a lot of trouble retaining what she learned and reading and reciting was, and still is, a nightmare. I'm guessing her diagnoses of ADD was probably correct. She actually had a 2nd grade teacher who told ME "I don't like stupid kids and won't waist my time on them..." Really? He'd say this to the known parent of an ADD child?

Great post. Lots to mull over.

Calisa Rhose said...

Btw- I responded to that teacher "I don't waste my time on prejudiced teachers." We had a mutual understanding that year. He didn't piss me off and I didn't take his job. LOL

Vonnie Davis said...

Hi Calisa, I think ultimately your daughter is herself. With the help of her parents, she's been able to handle and, probably, overcome her learning disability. As for the teacher, he'll never overcome his. He's lucky you left his "whatzits" intact.

P.L. Parker said...

Very interesting post Vonnie.