I’m reading “Green Eggs and Ham” to my son Lawrence before bed. Actually, he’s reading it to me, which is very exciting. He’s doing really well. I only have to help him with about one word out of ten. I read way ahead of my level when I was his age, and it seems that he’s going to be just as good.
The thing I’m noticing, though, is that while he’s reading, he’s wiggling around on the bed, almost falling off sometimes, although his eyes are fixed on the book. Come to think of it, he does this when we’re going over flash cards at the dining table, wiggling around on the chair. He also, which I’ve never seen in another kid, jumps up and down in place when he’s playing a video game, usually when he’s at a part that’s particularly difficult.
It dawns on me that this is probably why his kindergarten teacher told us about bodily-kinesthetic intelligence when we were discussing Lawrence’s problems sitting still in class. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was developed more than twenty years ago by Dr. Howard Gardner, who argues that the traditional method of measuring intelligence, IQ tests, is limited in its ability to measure all types of intelligence. He proposed that there are eight types of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.
Children with kinesthetic (also called “bodily”) intelligence love to – actually need to – move. They are good at any kind of body movement such as dancing or athletics. They might be unusually well coordinated for their age. Children with kinesthetic also often do well in the dramatic performing arts. The first time I gave Lawrence a bat and pitched balls to him, he hit almost half of them. I was amazed. I remember saying to my husband, “Well, he sure doesn’t get his coordination from me, because he actually has some!”
When you take a kid with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence and put them in the classroom situation, chances are that you’re going to see all sorts of problems. Since schools, at least public schools, tend to focus on learning methods that are geared toward linguistic or logical-mathematical intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic learners are among the least likely of any type to receive appropriate teaching.
Also, they really need to move while thinking. That’s not exactly encouraged in school. While it doesn’t bother me to have Lawrence move around while we’re doing schoolwork, it’s distracting in a classroom, and I can appreciate that a teacher wouldn’t be crazy about him doing it.
You can see why children with kinesthetic intelligence are frequently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. When adults see a child who can’t sit still and may appear hyperactive in the classroom setting compared to other children, ADHD is often the only thing that comes to mind.
Unfortunately, while the Theory of Multiple Intelligences has been embraced by educators, it’s pretty hard to convince many doctors and administrators that your child has something that can’t just be medicated, that strategies need to be employed. Simply put, this puts the burden on the educators, whereas with medication, the burden is on the parents and the child, and schools are usually happier with the latter. While that’s understandable, it’s not the best attitude for our kids.