Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Right Brained People Living In A Left Brained World"

The title of this post is borrowed from a book with the title:  Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World  by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons.  The copyright date is 1997.  I bought this book back in the late 90's when I realized I was faced with two very intelligent, very right brained boys (my sons, Nate and Brandon) and was having a very difficult time relating....and so were their teachers.  By the way the subtitle to this book is (you many have already guessed) Unlocking The Potential of Your ADD Child.  I know what you might be saying, oh please, this is such an old subject.  Well, not really, it is very pertinent for many reasons.  Stick with me on this, it is more fun than you may think and has far greater applications than you may have imagined.

I have been considered very left brained all my life, which is actually somewhat unusual for a woman.  I am analytical, math oriented, rational, logical and linear in my thought.  And it is my left brain that made me put that linear continuum up there for you to see (it was a stretch to put it on pink paper with purple ink).  Had I been a right brained person, I would have been much more creative and had that continuum branching all over the place and in many different colors.   Left brained attributes are quite often assigned to men, whereas women are generally more spontaneous, imaginative, emotional, sensitive and creative creatures or right brained.  Now look at the attributes assigned to ADD and ADHD children: impulsive, hypersensory, sensitive, daydreamers, visual, distractible and in many cases hyperactive.  There are far more detail descriptions, but I will leave that to you if you want to research further.

I wanted to understand everything I could about this phenomenon or what really comes down to different learning styles, because I wanted to help my boys and their teachers work through the obstacles that right brained thinking poses for left brained people in our socially acceptable left brained world.  And I wanted to do it without my children taking any prescribed drugs.  I am not a believer in medicating our youth (or adults for that matter).  Although what I saw and experienced during my time locked up caused me to realize there are some people who do benefit with some help, as they are non-functioning otherwise.

I gained a great deal of understanding from this book and I think it helped me in my parenting as well, especially when it came to helping Nate (with autism) learn at all and with Brandon, in how solutions and methods for solving were presented.  For both, once they had a visual of something they could work it every which way.  As for Nate he could say the alphabet as fast backward as he did forward which was very fast.  Pictures became the center of his learning.  And he could read and remember like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. 

With Brandon, he was the grand winner of the school spelling bees, year after year, because we pictured things together in his practice and once he realized he could spell words backwards and forward with the same speed, by utilizing the pictures in his head, he knew he could spell any word he had ever seen, because he could access the picture of that word in his head.  Brandon was very artistic, he had beautiful and detailed drawings but as the grades progressed the school was not interested in developing that gift, in fact his drawing became a problem for teachers, in subjects other than art.  In helping him with math homework, I knew I was in trouble.  Brandon could visualize an answer (not doing the steps), whereas I was interested in taking him through the steps, because that is the way I think and I knew many teachers look for that as proof of understanding and doing your own work.  But when we would sit at the kitchen table to work together, within 5 to 10 minutes he would literally turn around in his chair with his back to me and the little help session was over.  He just didn't get it that way!!  But when I searched for answers, I found that if I could explain a concept with pictures and allow him to tell me how he was seeing things, then we'd have a home run.

All of this caused  me to become more creative, more observant and open to change if I wanted to relate to my boys and others like them.  As part of my love for my boys I wanted to be useful in helping them to succeed.  I am sure I share this with many parents out there.

As young adults, my sons both love music, art, are very visual and express their feelings loud and clear.  Brandon has taught himself to play the keyboards and is in a band, in addition to working almost full time and going to college full time.  He has learned to take his hyperactivity and focus it in ways that will benefit him.  I have to remind him to sleep.  Nate still loves to read, enjoys anything visual and is my most loving gentle giant.

When I developed The NOAH Project, we had a lengthy reading list of books as part of the training.  The book I have mentioned in this post was of course high on that list.  And many of our teachers/child facilitators made a point to tell me they really enjoyed it as it helped them to understand how there are truly different learning styles and for some it helped them to better understand their selves.  Definitely a good read.  In this day, the age of laptops, video games and iPhones, the VISUALS are winning out.  More and more of the kids are fitting into this pattern, if not born this way, they become this way by the time they are 3 to 4 years old as a result of being surrounded by our current day technologies.  For us old dinosaurs we have to move with them or be left in the dust.

All of that brings me to my point.  The jails and prisons are just loaded with right brained people.  I could not believe the talent of those incarcerated.  Singing voices that would just bring you to your knees with tears in your eyes.  And prison art is extraordinary.  I learned some while I was in there and I wanted to share it with you.  What I brought home is a combination of my doodles and that of others.  Nancy (my dear cousin), if you are reading this, know that you inspired this blog post with your blog post Doodle that!  Follow that link for more fun!  Below is some of the prison art I brought home:

This is just a small sampling.  Do you know, with exception of just a handful of women, most women I met in prison did miserably in school, many fell through the cracks at an early age,

yet they are talented, in a very right brained way.   How many of these women, would you dare to guess, learn in a different way?  By the time a child gets to the third grade, the teaching style becomes predominantly auditory and very left brained.  What about the visual learners!  That is also when behavior problems become so prevalent.  If behavior problems were addressed in a positive way, meaning how can we teach you in a different way, how can we develop the skills you have, how can we help you in the best way to prepare for life (instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole)...would our jails and prisons still be full to the brim?  I dare say NOT!

The system failed many of these people at a very early age.  It is my understanding the men's prison and jails have many talented people also.  A whole lot of right brained people stubbing their toes in a left brained world....leading to incarceration.  There are those who argue we should not educate people in prison, they messed up when they had their chance.  I ask why not?  The system failed them before, when they were kids being batted around, why not a second chance?  And why not in a learning style that is conducive to their developmental growth.  Our right brain is known for our survival skills.  Many of these people did not have the best of home environments during their early years thus having to focus on survival, perhaps not able to make the jump to their left brain skills.  But, while separated from the streets, can you think of a better time to reach these people and help them become productive members of society.  They will be our neighbors, they are our fellow human beings, so why not help them get what they need to grow skills through education in a way they can learn and blossom?

We also have to address making  a place for these people when they come out.  A discussion on bettering people incarcerated falls by the wayside if we don't change our attitudes about those with a background and allow them a second (or third) chance by employing them and for that matter welcoming them into our churches.  The statistics now reflect one in five people in this country have a criminal background.  We have to educate and we have to change our attitudes so we can all become winners in this game of life.

Sir Isaac Newton
Albert Einstein
Leonardo Da Vinci
Jonas Salk
Thomas Alva Edison
Galileo Galilei
Bill Gates
Benjamin Franklin
Steven Spielberg
Alexander Graham Bell
Thomas Jefferson
Abraham Lincoln
Pablo Picasso



  1. That is a wonderful post, Audrey!
    (And thanks for the mention.)

    I think I'm going to read the post again.... it's so good.

  2. Hey Audrey, I'm speechless. In lieu of a comment I too am reading it again and hoping you include this Post in your book.

    I truly believe that it and the book by Freed & Parsons should be mandatory reading for all teachers and their assistant (K - College). Thanks.

  3. SO true! I wish schools would cut out the standardized testing and replace with testing that measured children's strengths; placing children in classes that would encourage their areas of interest.
    If children were able to use their gifts at an earlier age, they would achieve success and not waste time on areas that they don't excel at. For example, I did not care for math once I got into high school. But they made me take all of the "honors" math classes because I was already labeled as an honor student.
    What a waste of time!
    My calculus/trig teacher kept telling me that I would use what I had learned in his class one day. NOT! Because I detested it, I would NEVER have chosen a career that would involve that high level of math.
    By teaching to a child's strengths, you allow him the opportunity to reach his FULL potential in that area. I SO wish I could have replaced trig, geometry, and chemistry with a writing or design class. I am an auditory learner. If I go into a museum, I don't like looking at maps. I would rather ask a guide where to find something. The same is true for note-taking. If I took notes in school/college, I didn't do as well on an exam. However, if I focused on the speaker's voice and delivery, I always scored much higher.
    Great post, as usual!

  4. I often wonder about standardized testing and teaching to it. I suppose their purpose in that is to keep up (or try to keep up) with other countries around the world - retaining some sort of "same measurement". This is why I say we live in a left brained world. So, many people do not benefit from this way of teaching, many fall through the cracks. There are so many kinds of intelligence. There is right brained intelligence, emotional intelligence, common sense intelligence, street wisdom...Sorry I'm beginning to sound like Forrest I'll be telling you about shrimp. As for Nate he can't take the standardized test therefore he measures out at '0'...yet he displays his intelligence in so many ways!!! Growing a child's strengths is really at the core of the Son-Rise program and is a win-win situation which is why I love it so much. Those with different learning styles get to succeed and build their self esteem along the way. This has a tendency to produce healthier individuals. When the day comes then they can contribute to society in the areas they excel in. As they say, it takes all kinds to make this old world turn 'round and wouldn't it be awful if we were all the same, nothing more than robots!

    Thank you my friend (Saucer Sipper) for telling us about you. You are one of the most brilliant people I know and you have so much to share. You are one of the shining lights in the school system, a different thinker/ provide a safe-haven for all those kids who see the world with more imagination, color and texture.


  5. You are so kind! Thanks for your vote of confidence! As a substitute teacher, I am asked repeatedly if I will get my teacher certification and teach full time. My answer is always the same...NO way! I sub because I like working with kids, I can make my own schedule, and it's when my children are in school so I don't have the need for childcare. I could never teach children something (teaching to test) that I don't believe in.
    Speaking of brilliant minds, YOU have one of the most brilliant I know! I love your way of thinking. Always with much forethought, wisdom, and optimism! Keep on keepin' on! Love ya!

  6. Audrey, Welcome Back. We look forward to the day that you can re-publish and continue sharing your personal experiences with the justice system of Texas.

    Those that have patted themselves on the back in a temporary victory of denying 1st Amendment rights will one day find their names and actions in Blawg / Blog Post(s) from coast to coast. Please let us and the world wide web as a whole know when the oppression tape has been totally removed.

    Thank you & we pray that God will continue to bless you and yours.