There has always been a subtle conspiracy about how the left-brain world dominates those of us who might be right brain. In other words, brain scientists have long known that we learn and express our intelligence based on which side of the brain is more dominant. For example brain scientists define those who have left-brain dominance as gifted in the verbal, linguistic, mathematical and logical worlds. Those who exhibit right brain dominance are gifted in the artistic, musical and spatial areas. Finally, the majority of us, move easily from the left to the right brain without too much difficulty. It is called synchronicity. Parents often see these traits almost immediately with their children. One child is gifted artistically and begins to exhibit right brain dominance as the gifted artist or another child with left-brain dominance exhibits his linguistic abilities as the precocious early talker or reader. Again, although we move back and forth between each hemisphere some of us clearly show dominance in one hemisphere or the other and that can be problematic for the right brain crowd due to the fact that our culture operates from a framework of left-brain systematics.
It is apparent that the left-brain world dominates the professional landscape such as the business sector and also our schools, which are dominated by mathematical, linguistic and other logical curriculums. From your child’s school curriculum to the high school exit exam we see left-brain dominance with reading, math and written language testing. Conversely, you would never see these same children tested for artistic or musical ability? In addition, children are not identified for special education services for their inability to draw or play an instrument?
Dr. William Gaddes, neurophysiologist and author explains, because so many elementary school programs stress the teaching of verbal skills most teachers teach more to the left hemisphere than to the right. For the child who is bilateral (uses both sides of the brain) there is no problem. The child who suffers left hemisphere dysfunction is frequently treated unfairly by the school system. His skills in drawing, construction, map drawing etc are frequently ignored since problems in reading, writing and spelling are apparent.
Let’s look at the child with right brain dominance and what he might experience on his first day of school. Right off he might have problems sequencing the school day when his parents ask him to recount his first day, or when the teacher reads a story to the class and the same child when questioned about the story line goes blank. However, if you ask the same child to draw the story line in pictures you would receive vivid characters and scenes regardless that he has forgotten some of the key points about the story. Moreover, school gets worse when he must learn how to read. Because his brain sees the world whole spatially, not in segments, he instinctively and unsuccessfully tries to sight-read. Unfortunately, his attempt to sight-read affects fluency and comprehension because he cannot remember words or sequence what he is reading. Consequently, he is placed in the lowest reading group and when the teacher tries to teach him phonemically he struggles because his brain only wants to learn whole to part. If he continues to have reading problems he could be diagnosed as learning disabled and attend a special education class for reading, written language and even math remediation.
The solution for our right brain learner might be to attend an arts centered school that focuses on his strengths rather than reinforce his weaknesses such as a Waldorf school. A school such as a Waldorf school or Montessori program combines the arts and academics or the kinesthetic or sensory motor skills with the academics.
Parents of right or left-brain children need to take note and always try to attach the child’s dominant strengths to their dominant weaknesses. Such theories as Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences helps define the child’s strengths and weaknesses and also provides examples as to how to better stimulate learning and intelligence with children who exhibit strengths, whether possessing right or left brain dominance.
Dr. David Sortino, a psychologist and current Director of Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to teachers, parents, and students. For additional articles you can go to Dr. Sortino’s blog: davidsortino.com or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.