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Special Education

Included below is a range of reports and research on Thinking Maps as a foundational visual-verbal-spatial language for those students with special needs. The documents and video below bring to the surface the variety of learners, from those with language, cognitive and behavioral developmental delays to those who have been identified as “gifted.” Please be aware that these labels are often culturally and regionally defined. The lifelong work of the late Reuven Feuerstein (Instrumental Enrichment approach) may be of interest to those focused on how to mediate thinking and learning in a systematic way, over time.

“Thinking Maps Enhance Metaphoric Competence in Children with Autism and Learning Disabilities,” Research in Developmental Disabilities
By Mashal, Nira and Kasirer, Anat, Bar-Ilan University, Israel. 2011

The primary goal of the current study was to examine the ability of children with autism (ASD) and children with learning disabilities (LD) to improve their metaphoric competence by an intervention program using ‘‘thinking maps''. Twenty ASD children, 20 LD, and 20 typically developed (TD) children were tested on metaphors and idioms comprehension tests, homophone meaning generation test, and fluency tests. Both ASDand LD groups performed poorly compared with TD on all tests, with the LD group outperformed the ASD group in the executive function tests. The results indicate that the LD group was able to use the ‘‘thinking maps'' to understand metaphors that were encountered for the first time more efficiently than the ASD group. Furthermore, in the autistic group the homophone meaning generation test, associated with mental flexibilitymechanism, correlated with novel metaphors understanding, which do not rely on prior knowledge. In the learning disabilities group, conventional metaphors understanding correlated with the homophone meaning generation test.Mashal, Nira and Kasirer, Anat. “Thinking Maps Enhance Metaphoric Competence in Children with Autism and Learning Disabilities,” Research in Developmental Disabilities 32 (2011): 2045-2054. Click on the following link for information about accessing this document:

Improving Reading Compehension Through Visual Tools
Masters Degree Thesis by Cynthia Manning, Eastern Nazarene College, Boston, United States. 2003

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Part 1

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Part 2

Summary: Reading comprehension in learning disabled students can be increased with the classroom implementation of visual tools. Student performance was measured using MCAS reading scores before and after the introduction of Thinking Maps, i.e., a set of visual tools which are centered on the development of eight thinking processes. By integrating this common visual language throughout the school's curriculum, it was projected that more effective and efficient learning would be achieved. Assessment results indicated that reading comprehension was increased; it was also observed by classroom teachers that levels of performance rose overall in the following areas: concept attainment, reflective thinking, recall, retention, writing (quantity and quality), creativity, motivation, and cooperative learning skills. These findings are congruent with a multitude of research studies and support the position that student performance can be increased with the implementation of visual tools.

View the interview with Cynthia Manning school leader at Learning Prep and Thinking Maps researcher.

Student Successes With Thinking Maps®
David Hyerle and Larry Alper coeditors Corwin Press, Second Edition, January 2011, Thousand Oaks, California

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Chapter 3: Leveling The Playing Field for All Students
Bonnie Singer, Ph.D.

“Those of us who are fortunate enough to work with children often find ourselves forever changed by relationships with one or two of them. My Life took a definite turn when I met David [student Bonnie has been working with]. He taught me that the mind of an eight year old is capable of much more than I had previously thought and that even children with severe learning disabilities can learn to play the game of school as well or better than their non-disabled classmates. Through David, I learned just how powerful the Thinking Maps can be, and I saw how profoundly they can change a life. The Thinking Maps not only got David back in the academic game, but they leveled the playing field so that he could emerge as a leader in his classroom.”

Quality Assurance Project Collaboration
Resource Guide written by Judy Goldstein and participating teachers Community School District 28, Forest Hills, NY; Distric 75, New York, NY

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Summary: After a brief and practical overview of Thinking Maps, this work systematically shows how Thinking Maps have been used comprehensively and effectively across disciplines with students in the special education district that spans all burroughs of New York City. There are many examples of students' work included.

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