Why Do Right-Brained Kids Seem to Struggle?

Right-brained learners are often seen as “struggling learners,” which can be confusing to anyone who knows them, because they are also usually very obviously smart. They also seem to have the most “labels” - show me a kid who is ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, or a host of other learning disabilities and I will show you a right-brained learner (despite the fact that the right-brained learning style is not a learning disability, but rather a different way of learning.)

The “struggles” that many right-brained kids go through are actually a result of a mis-match in expectations and approach plus not understanding their learning style. Traditional school approaches teach things from a very left-brained perspective which works against the right-brained child’s natural way of learning.  

Right-brained kids develop their 3-D visual processing skills first, then sometime around 8-10 years old, their 2-D sequential processing skills kick in. Unfortunately the things that are traditionally focused on in the early years (reading, writing, memorization of math facts) are things that naturally come later with right-brained kids. What this means is that right-brained kids are being expected to learn things before they are developmentally ready. Think for a minute how frustrating this would be for a child (or anyone!)

Right-brained kids are global thinkers which means that they are “whole to part” learners. Traditional teaching approaches tend to focus on sequential skills (such as phonics) which approach things in a “part to whole” approach. This sequential approach goes completely counter to the way our right-brained kids think.

Right-brained kids learn better in context…they learn their math facts better by using them than by doing drill or worksheets. Since they are global thinkers, they often just “know” the answer but struggle with “showing the steps” or explaining the process they used. They are often very good at mental math. Jason used to completely balk at doing worksheet problems but had no problem figuring out how much allowance he was supposed to get (which often needed the same borrowing/carrying skills). I used these moments to help me remember to breathe and remind me not to stress.

So in a nutshell, many right-brained kids are struggling because they are being taught in ways that actually go counter to how they learn, on timetables that do not match their natural development. You would too, wouldn’t you?

The problem is not with the child, but with the approach. Learning more about how right-brained kids naturally learn and when they are developmentally ready can make a huge difference in reducing the struggles for our right-brained kids.

Additional resources:

Natural Learning Development for Right-brained Children by Cindy Gaddis

Collaborative Learning Process by Cindy Gaddis

Fixing Right-brained Learners?

Why I Talk So Much About Right-brained Learning

Right-brained Learning Links