People normally learn and grow through life in a somewhat steady or level progression of step-by-step and detail-oriented-process that depends on detail-memory a lot.
In school there is a strong bias toward rewarding students who follow the methods and the processes as they are intended. Students who do not follow those processes for whatever the reasons can fall out of the school-experience easily. And students who do not follow are often explained as lacking personal discipline or self discipline, which, if they would just “behave” better would “get it” and “do OK” in school.
My experience with ADHD and Dyslexia is that I would often go for a relatively long time not "getting it". I just had a terrible time getting algebra for instance. It was foreign to me. I remember it to this day (and it was quite a few years ago now) that I just sat there befuddled as to what was going on. Others seemed to be able to perform the function of “doing” algebra and I just did not get it all.
It went on like this for some time. I flunked the tests. I had no idea what it was all about at all. I was not being obstinate nor uncooperative. The teacher may as well have been speaking in Russian or Chinese because that was the degree of the distance between what he was saying and showing and what I was getting.
Keep in mind that he was writing “letters” on the black board and performing a logical action on the letters so that some other letters were the outcome of the process. I have dyslexia and letters all by themselves have very little perceptual importance (I know this now, not then, though.) I had no ability to associate these “letters” with “numbers” at all as they were not the same things and the substitution of numbers at the end of the process was just a mystery to me.
It took no time to become alienated to the whole topic.
Repeated failure without a remedy being obvious is very difficult then, and, I would say it is now too. However, I believe that not having an obvious solution to a “repeated failure situation” is a truly great impetus to finding a solution.
But, the teacher was an older gentlemen. He was nice to me, not judgmental and did not force me in any way. He was gentle and kind. He spent the time to help. That mattered tremendously because I responded to mentors very, very positively.
Parents Were No Help
Also, my parents were no help as they knew nothing about algebra at all. And, they were hyper judgmental in how they behaved with all sorts of exasperation and rolling of the eyes and disappointment being hugely evident. In addition, they resorted to threats about my whole life’s future going down the drain and that I was just being obstinate. It was my fault and it was due to my failure to achieve personal discipline and personal focus. That was the problem as they saw it.
[I have noticed that it is important to have someone to blame for educational dysfunctions. That almost always falls on the kid and usually is about self discipline in one form or another.]
They would throw their hands up and sigh and groan that I was going to be a nothing and a nobody. That is tough stuff for a middle-school kid to take coming from home sources.
But, the teacher was persistent. I began to see how I was dealing with math as a metaphor and I was performing functions on the metaphor and then at the end putting the numbers into it to see the numerical result. That is my language for it now… not then… of course.
But, I got it sort of like that. It just exploded in my head and I got it. From that one moment I could do algebra and I got A’s in all tests and finished before the end-time for the test.
I leaped from TOTALLY NOT GETTING IT to TOTALLY GETTING IT in a flash. Once I got it, it seemed that I shot past everyone else in the room as I could do algebra for anything at all and just got the logic of what it was about.
That is leap-growth or leap-understanding or leap learning. I wish to stress that the leap is often that far afield too. From total failure to extraordinary success in a few moments; no middle ground. Schools, parents, friends, most teachers, just cannot accept that such leaps are possible for a normal part of a typical kid's educational performance.
Everyone else learns in increments. They pass the interim tests that demonstrate progressive understanding. They do what the system expects and was designed to do – Teach Step #1, test, Teach Step #2, test, take the next preset steps, test, and then pass the final exam that repeats the testing already done. (Precisely what a syllabus is all about.)
Most people excel at the steps it takes to get there. As for me, I learn in leaps. I truly lose (or never have) interest in the steps it takes to get there. It is very important to observe that ADHD/Dyslectic learners place no importance on the “steps it takes to get there” at all. When I say: “place no importance” I am NOT referring to choice or personal discipline. I am referring to the perceptual-importance-process that does not place importance on the steps, the details, the memory of the “facts” of Step #2 (whatever.) Think of it as “my mental machinery” operates so as NOT to place importance on details, steps, step-by-step progress, given (as others see it) progressive steps, etc. It operates on its own from a different perspective, which, if allowed its own natural operation, would be just fine over time.
My whole experience with this is that "education" is a very rigid and unforgiving process that dictates its own acceptance or failure as the result.
The perceptual-importance-process is different. In my case, it pops up with interest when it sees the Big Picture, the MAP of the Whole Thing, the System. It gets bored by the details and does not observe them, sometimes does not observe them at all. This is not a personal-discipline issue. It is how the mental-perceptual process works.
This is not obstinacy. I would not “just get the steps if I tried to.” The steps have no meaning and evaporate from, or never get into my consciousness at all. For ordered, step-by-step teaching processes I am an initial failure before I get started. But, if, or when, the leap occurs I shoot past most other people in the room because I now have the BIG PICTURE and I can operate out of that understanding rather than a set of imposed steps.
Most education wants to go step-by-step to get the learner to the big picture - if ever. And, ADHD/Dyslexia learners go to the Big Picture first and then collect whatever details are needed later. This is not far-off from exactly how the Scientific Method is supposed to operate – observe, decide if it is important, if it is, develop a theory to explain it, then, test to collect details-and-facts to prove the theory is true or not.
Whereas, the normal teaching-process is: we teach you the details in a step-by-step process, you remember them verbatim, we test, you fail and drop out, you pass and get rewarded. Later, you see the Big Picture which is now self-evident because you stepped into it.
The leap is always (for me) a big-picture leap, not a details-leap. Once the big-picture takes on a global-meaning, then, details that fit with that global picture are tolerable, somewhat memorable, or appear to matter… a bit.
This can be a real value depending on where you wind up in your work, or not.