Cognitive vs. Behavioral Supports for Jeremy Wiggins and All Students
Karen Kilbane

You captured Jeremy’s story brilliantly. Even though I don’t know Jeremy, it felt incredibly real and personal for me because I’ve seen this exact scenario play out in classrooms every day.

I’ve been a math teacher and coach in many school systems. I’ve worked with teachers who struggled to help students who had trouble with spatial sense. Many of these teachers would sit down one-on-one with students and ask, “Why don’t you get this? Why don’t you see this? This is so easy!” Because these teachers had spatial sense, they couldn’t envision how a student without spatial sense experienced the world—so they didn’t know how to help. I was able to develop Drawing Area only because, like Karen, I had learned to appreciate that everyone’s brain is different, and it is my job as an educator to make ideas accessible to their brains, not just mine.

I want to make two points. First, teachers are doing the best they can; they are doing what they know how to do. Just like we shouldn’t judge a student’s behavior, we shouldn’t judge a teacher’s behavior. When I worked closely with teachers and they saw how students responded to cognitive supports, that was the cognitive support the teachers needed to change their own thinking and behavior in the classroom. Teachers were very open to change once they saw how students benefited.

Second, Drawing Area is not a magic bullet. There are no magic bullets. In a land where one-size-fits-all, Drawing Area is a second size. Which is amazing for some, but not helpful at all for others. The last thing I would ever want to see happen is a teacher sit down with a student with Drawing Area, and ask, “Why isn’t this working? Why aren’t you getting this? This is so easy!” We should never use our expectations to make students feel dumb for being different.

If you have tips for making Drawing Area better, please let me know. I’ve thought about expanding it into a larger app. I’m constantly learning and trying new ideas.

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