Book Review: Different Learners

Gloria De Gaetano

by Gloria DeGaetano, Founder and CEO of the Parent Coaching Institute, author of Parenting Well in a Media Age, winner of the 2007 Best Products i-Parenting Award.

Jane Healy has done it again! Given parents and teachers a far-reaching, yet specific guide to support children's optimal development and learning. As in her now classic book, Endangered Minds, Healy delivers a comprehensive, user-friendly read in her latest book, Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems.

It's sobering to think that a child born in the United States has a 30 percent chance of being diagnosed with some type of learning problem. That about 2.5 million children take prescription drugs for attention and hyperactivity. That there are seven million children currently enrolled in special education with autism on the rise by 800% over the last decade. Beginning by describing the extent of the challenges, Dr. Healy shows us that there truly exists today a new epidemic of learning problems affecting children from across all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum. In her typical no-nonsense prose, the reader clearly understands the most current research, often through vivid examples from parents and succinct quotes from compelling experts.

The book considers different categories of learning disorders and/or learning differences with a review of the research on a variety of successful treatments. Healy then turns to the "heart" of the book—discussing how genetics and the environment interact to impact brain development. She emphasizes that a difference often doesn't mean a disability. Instead, Healy demonstrates the role of the environment in shaping a child's brain and simultaneously his/her learning skills. We emphasize the home environment as an important factor at The Parent Coaching Institute, as anyone who has been coached by a PCI Certified Parent Coach® knows. By making adjustments, sometimes even seemingly slight adjustments in the child's home environment, many positive changes occur. And environmental changes not only change children, they change parents as well. A parent who was tired out and overwhelmed by a child's poor progress in school, for instance, suddenly becomes infused with energy and new possibilities by the simple act of keeping the television turned off when the child is doing homework. I have seen this happen over and over for hundreds of parents and their children, bringing more engagement in previously "difficult" homework, and enhancing the child's motivation for learning in the process. On pages 300-302, Healy provides a concise explanation of the TV/brain interface that can give parents a motivation boost as well as the motivation to make this simple environmental change.

Chapter 6 explains how the child's brain works, laying a solid foundation for Chapters 7 and 8 which discuss the interplay of genes, learning, and the environment and the role of stress to impact optimal development. Since scientists agree that the gene pool changes alone cannot explain the recent dramatic growth in diagnosed learning problems, the way we are forced to live nowadays must be taken seriously—hectic schedules, poor nutrition, sleep patterns, lack of physical exercise and play, overuse of TV and screen technologies, and environmental toxic chemicals—are significant factors. "We live in a culture that is both clueless and careless about what kids' brains really need," Healy writes, "No wonder there is problem in the schoolroom."

Healy explains that the answers lie in what she calls "brain-cleaning." Chapter 10 explains practical ways to "banish brain disruptors" such as toxic chemicals and nutritional risks. Chapter 11 helps parents "tackle lifestyle choices" such as sleep patterns and the media. In these, as in the other chapters, bulleted points throughout help the reader focus on the essentials while end-of-chapter summations make it easy to retain and replay the important points.

In today's increasingly hectic and fragmented world, Different Learners provides clear directives for focusing on what works to help any and all learners—no matter their challenges, styles, or diagnosis. Jane Healy, in her straightforward style and through her indomitable spirit, provides elegant answers for the ugly concerns wearing out millions of parents and wearing down millions of children. If you are a teacher or a parent seeking sane advice, helpful ideas, and fresh insights—buy this book. Since it is so jam-packed with useful information, you probably will want to refer to it time and time again. Different Learners is destined to become a classic by showing you unequivocally that your child, at home and in the classroom, is destined to succeed.

Gloria DeGaetano is CEO and Founder of The Parent Coaching Institute. For information about Gloria's keynotes and workshops, please contact Gloria DeGaetano by phone at (425) 753-0955 or at

Copyright © 2010 Gloria DeGaetano, all rights reserved. No reprinting rights granted without the author's permission.