Over the summer I’d learned that Donald Trump’s youngest son, Barron—once he and his mother moved to the White House this fall—would be attending an All Kinds of Minds-based private school.
I’ve read several books by the AKOM founder, the late Mel Levine, and have come to admire the approach that works to demystify how children learn—all children, all people, really—not just those with special needs. By helping learners understand their own learning strengths and weaknesses, they can use their strengths to help them confront and manage any learning difficulties.
To find out more, I spoke with Kim Carter, executive director of QED Foundation, a nonprofit that supports student-centered learning communities. (AKOM is an essential initiative of QED.)
What is it about AKOM that sets it apart from other educational approaches?
There is a belief system that underlies the practical application of the AKOM neurodevelopmental framework for learning—and that is that every student, every person has gifts and talents. If we work from an asset base we can be much more successful and more effective in our interactions and our learning.
We want every learner to know what they’re good at, and to build from that.
We believe in demystification to unpack learning, and to help learners understand their strengths and challenges so they can be more strategic about leveraging their strengths to handle challenges.
What about labels?
Labeling doesn’t help anybody with, say, ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Such a label should prompt us to ask, What kind of attention challenges? What are the person’s attention strengths?
We believe in focusing on observation first before jumping to conclusions and labels. We also exercise a commitment to collaboration.
We each have different perspectives—professionals see one aspect, parents sees another, the child sees one too. Bringing those differing perspectives together we learn more and in a much richer way about what those strengths and challenges are and how to identify strategies.
We want learners to know about their own learning and have agency in managing that.
What is the purpose of the AKOM neurodevelopmental framework?
It’s to help learners and the adults that work with them understand different contexts, to help learners manage and strategize when they find themselves in a context that puts them at a disadvantage. And to help adults intentionally design contexts that put them at an advantage.
The framework was originally developed for special needs learners, but QED’s position is that it’s for every learner. QED believes that every teacher, every student needs to learn about himself or herself as a good learner. We want to help shift the public image of good learners and bad learners.
We’ve developed some free resources and tools on our website for students and educators.
To learn more about the important work of QED and AKOM, visit the QED website.