F.A.T. City by Richard Lavoie

Frustration, Anxiety, Tension

These are three traits that Learning Disabled kids experience daily in school.

How difficult can this be?

The facilitator Richard Lavoie is describing F.A.T. City as the life of LD kids or Learning Disabled in a classroom. This film was created in 1988.

Following are my notes from the video, and I will share my insights and thoughts throughout and after.


It begins with a clip on anxiety, where Richard grills his “students” who are parents, teachers, and community members, he demonstrates how people’s performance and demonstration of their knowledge suffers greatly when they are put in a high anxiety environment.

He next demonstrates how LD students are processing questions while other students are already processing their answers. He demonstrates a technique to solve the problem. He talks to an LD student about how he will approach her to ask her a question. He says I will only ask a question when I’m standing right in front of your desk. He asks a question he knows she can answer the next day and over time, the student is conditioned to feel comfortable volunteering answers.

Distractability vs Attention Span

Distractable children pay attention to everything. Attention Span challenged cannot pay attention.

Learning Disabled people do not like surprises.

Feedback was given only in a negative fashion to incorrect answers, while no feedback was given to correct answers.

There’s no reason to respond or volunteer an answer then!


When LD doesn’t perceive, teachers do one of 4 things.

Encourage to try harder (Look Harder)

Offer to give them something (they still can’t do it)

Take things away from the child (recess, note home)

Blaming the victim (she’s not trying hard enough)

We incorrectly think the child is not motivated.

“Motivation is the most misunderstood concept”

It only allows us to do what we already can do.

Perception (Bring meaning to something you see) vs Vision

LD kids experience not getting it not as everyone in the class not getting it, but as the only one in the class who doesn’t get it.

Reading Comprehension

Comprehension has much more to do with background than it does with vocabulary.

We cannot assume that if someone understands every word in a paragraph, that they understand the paragraph.

Effect of perception on Behavior

A kid comes home and tells his parents he was thrown off the school bus? He must have done something wrong.

But when an LD child does something wrong, and claims they don’t know it, they are often being honest.

In response to an adult “LD kid”‘: “Did you write this to be funny?”

Misperception of stimulus leads to misunderstanding.

Visual Motor coordination

Mirror tracing activity. Trying to trace using a mirror.

Writing process is that difficult.

Oral Expression

Dysnomia – word on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t find it. Happens 5 times a day or so, happens all the time for LD kids.

LD kids have a problem between storage and retrieval. Many times they will get it out, use it, and then store it in the wrong place.

Everything you do in life is one of two things, associative tasks or cognitive tasks. Associative tasks can be done several at a time. Cognitive tasks you can only do one at a time.

For children with dysnomia, speaking is not an associative process, it is a cognitive task. Notetaking can be very problematic when listening is a cognitive task.

Example, group creating a story a line at a time. OK with only that rule, but when the rule that you can’t have any words that contain the letter N.

Two lessons:

One unattractive trait they describe about LD kids. If they worry about themselves instead of something else. If they are the only one making mistakes, they look to see if others make mistakes so they’re not the only one.

Number 2, it’s very difficult to talk this way.

Giving more time would make it a lot easier.

Call on the LD kid first, after giving some time, then they have a chance to share their answer before anyone else, who might have more answers, or generally do, has a chance to share the answer they had.

Visual Perception:

First 5 years in a child’s life, spatial orientation doesn’t matter. No matter how you look at a watch, it’s a watch.

But when they enter school, letters like p, q, b, and d all have the same shape but different orientations.

How many times should we ever tell a child that a task they can’t do is easy.

As all LD kids, they developed a lot of class clowns, and seller outers.

Is your name Debbie (Rhetorical questions don’t do anything but break down communication)

They’re used as a weapon against kids all the time.

Comprehension when trying to read so hard is difficult because all the energy went into decoding without actually understanding what was in the text.

Auditory and Visual Capabilities

Some kids can’t understand through their eyes but need to hear a story.


Kids learn from what they see, not what they are told to do.

Adult’s concept of honesty, truth, liberty, patriotism.

Same classroom is run based on child’s concept of honesty.

Fairness, doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same, just that everyone gets what they need.

CPR analogy about fairness. I can’t give you CPR becauseI can’t give it to everybody.


Headache, I don’t want all these people to think that I’m stupid, anxiety produced for children can devastate them, affect on their peer relationships, help their peers better understand by showing them, understand their not stupid, they just have to learn a different way. Poor self esteem.

My Reflection:

This video raised several questions for me about how often I reacted to an LD kid in a fashion ignorant of their experience. How many kids are in my class that aren’t diagnosed yet suffer from a Learning Disability. My brother’s experience as a student who really struggled with reading for most of his early education and my experience trying to help him gave me some insight as to how several of the common reactions from teachers were compounding the problem rather than helping. Seemingly, the classroom culture has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years, as teachers (hopefully) don’t grill students or talk to students the same way that Levoie rapid fire grilled his participants.

I also found it fascinating how Lavoie was able to provide LD experiences to the educators and citizens in the video, and how frustrating it can be to deal with their disability in the classroom, especially when they see that noone else seems to be in the same boat. This was a very interesting video that shined the light on LD kids experience to raise awareness of how they struggle in the classroom environment. I look forward to the sequel set in 2005 providing some solutions to the problems regarding LD kids’ success or lack thereof in the classroom.


~ by Craig Brewer on November 22, 2009.

2 Responses to “F.A.T. City by Richard Lavoie”

  1. Craig are you the student he taught in school

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