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Misunderstood Minds
Stories from the Documentary:
Nathan V. Lauren Sarah Lee Adam Nathan S.
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 Nathan Suggs  The most basic schoolwork became a chore for Nathan and a challenge for his mother.

Nathan Suggs' Story


Nathan Suggs was always a bright, curious boy who loved science and exploring nature in his rural surroundings. But since kindergarten, Nathan was also described as willful and disruptive, and in spite of his innate intellectual curiosity, he couldn't succeed in school.

When Nathan's mother had him tested in the first grade, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. His doctor later prescribed Ritalin, which seemed to help at first, but medication was not enough. Nathan still struggled, and so he stopped taking it.

Despite his keen analytical abilities, organizational problems were holding Nathan back in school. Teachers complained of missed homework assignments and incomplete work in class. They also noticed a puzzling pattern of inconsistencies in science. Nathan would get a perfect score one day, only to fail the next. And while his classmates looked to him for answers to difficult questions, he was rarely able to produce those answers on written tests.

By fourth grade Nathan was clearly suffering. He began to hate school, he was prone to crying fits and angry outbursts, and his parents were worried. Desperate, his mother decided to homeschool Nathan, hoping that one-on-one teaching would help. But Nathan's mother was unprepared for how hard home schooling can be, and how difficult it was to teach Nathan. Not finding the answer in medication or homeschooling, Nathan's emotional downhill spiral only continued. He was lonely, tried to run away, and even had thoughts of suicide.

Nathan's parents consulted a local learning specialist, Dr. Mel Levine, who gave Nathan a series of tests at the end of fifth grade. Dr. Levine discovered that Nathan excelled at visual and spatial perceptions, which explained his strengths in math and science. Nathan also had a strong understanding of the ideas he took in. But he had significant weaknesses in output -- producing work -- and in graphomotor, or writing, functions.

For kids like Nathan, so much effort is expended in forming letters, that little is left over for developing ideas or concentrating on spelling as they write. Dr. Levine suggested ways that Nathan could use his strengths to help manage his weaknesses -- using spatial skills, for example to map out dates in history he had trouble remembering.

With specific learning problems identified, Nathan's parents still thought he needed more structure and discipline. They enrolled him in a military academy that caters to boys who are smart but who lack the self-discipline and self-esteem to succeed. At the end of his first year, Nathan was doing well in school and he described himself as having a lot more self-discipline and confidence.

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