MANAGING LEARNING DIFFICULTIES
Managing learning difficulties
At I Can Read Centres, we sometimes meet children with ‘learning difficulties’. These are conditions that impact a child’s ability to gain knowledge and skills at the same rate as his or her peers. They may be due to a mental handicap or a cognitive disorder.The term ‘learning difficulties’ covers a wide range of conditions from dyslexia and attention hyperactive deficit disorder (ADHD) to Down’s Syndrome.
Learning difficulties can affect people of all ages; however, they are particularly problematic for children who are learning to read and write. The creators of the I Can Read System are psychologists, and the teachers in our I Can Read centres are trained to identify any child who doesn’t seem to be learning at the same rate as others. Some children may require one-on-one classes; others might simply (in conjunction with their parent or carer) require the teacher to engage the child to gain his or her trust and aid their development.
It’s important to remember that everyone learns to read at an I Can Read centre. Some children may take longer, but they always get there in the end. Processing difficulties may impede fluency and comprehension while a child is trying to decode a word; teachers are trained for this and will work with the parent in the best interests of the child. I Can Read Centre teachers work with all children to develop skills in comprehension, spelling, grammar, public speaking, creative writing and other aspects of English the will need to become literate. Small classes ensure that children can receive individual attention according to their needs.
Having a learning difficulty does not make someone less intelligent but learning disabilities will probably be linked to cognitive elements. It just means they learn in a different way that can render traditional classroom activities problematic. People with learning difficulties often require specific strategy training and customized lessons in order to overcome challenges and make progress in an academic environment. If a student
at an I Can Read centre has been identified at his/her school as having a learning difficulty, the teacher will request any reports in respect to the difficulty. These reports will be kept in the child’s file and are strictly confidential. Teachers have access to the psychologists and creators of the
I Can Read System at all times to discuss a student’s needs if necessary.
No two individuals with a particular learning difficulty will have the same set of manifestations of the learning difficulty, which makes it difficult for educators and parents to recognise the underlying cause of performance issues such as slow reading or below average writing abilities. Positive reinforcement can help children learn and foster a sense of self-worth, confidence, as well as the determination to keep going, even when things are tough. Parents can sometimes make the mistake of investing all of their time and energy into their school as the primary solution for their child’s learning disability. It is better to recognise that the school situation for your child will probably never be perfect. Too many regulations and limited funding mean that the services and interventions your child receives may not be exactly what you envision, and this may cause you frustration, anger and stress. Try to accept that the school will be only one part of the solution for your child and leave some of the stress behind. Your attitude of support, encouragement and optimism, will have the most lasting impact on your child. If he or she is attending an I Can Read centre, ongoing communication between you and your child will be a significant factor in achieving the best possible literacy outcomes.
What you can do if you care for someone with a learning disability
Everyone faces obstacles. It’s up to you as a parent to teach your child how to deal with those obstacles without becoming discouraged or overwhelmed. Don’t let the tests, school bureaucracy, and endless paperwork distract you from what’s really important: giving your child plenty
of emotional and moral support. If you approach learning challenges with optimism, hard work, and a sense of humour, your child is likely to take on the same attitude. Focus your energy on learning what works for your child and implementing it the best you can. Remember that your child
is not defined by his or her learning disability.
A learning disability represents one area of weakness, but there are many more areas of strengths. Focus on your child’s gifts and talents. Your child’s life shouldn’t revolve around the learning disability. Nurture the activities where they excel and make plenty of time for them. Take note
of how your child learns best. Is he or she strong visually or stronger auditorily? Perhaps they favour a kinaesthetic approach and respond best to hands-on activities, as may be found with drama programmes. Share stories with your child about when you have faced challenges and not given up. Discuss what it means to keep going even when things aren’t easy. Talk about the rewards of hard work, as well as the opportunities missed by giving up. At all times be patient and do not pressure your child, as much as you want him or her to succeed. When your child has worked hard, but failed to achieve their goal, discuss different possibilities for moving forward and reduce any build-up of disappointment and stress.
Hence, it’s important to be aware of the different ways in which stress can manifest. Your child may behave very differently than you do when
they are under stress. Some signs of stress are more obvious: agitation, trouble sleeping, and worries that continue to niggle at your child. But some people – children included – can shut down and withdraw when stressed. It’s easy to overlook these signs, so be on the lookout for any behaviour that’s out of the ordinary. Learning difficulties are not easily overcome, but they should not be the measure of your child’s worth! Maintain as normal a lifestyle as you can and take steps not to label your child as learning disabled. Make sure your child knows you are ‘on his or her side’ and acknowledge that they may be frustrated by the challenges presented when they try to learn. Try to give them outlets for expressing their anger, frustration or feelings of discouragement. Listen when they want to talk and create an environment open to expression. Doing so will help them connect with their feelings and, eventually, learn how to calm themselves and regulate their emotions.
It’s important to tend to your own physical and emotional needs too, so that you’re in a healthy space for your child. You won’t be able to help your child if you’re stressed out, exhausted, and emotionally depleted. When you’re calm and focused, you are better able to connect with your child and help them be calm and focused too.
This article is not a diagnostic or an in-depth summary of working with a child with a learning disability, but covers a raft of generalisations, which you may find useful. If you are concerned about your care, you are advised to take measures to have your child professionally diagnosed and not
to hesitate in seeking management support from health and education authorities.
If you are considering bringing your child to an I Can Read Centre for small group lessons or one-on-one lessons, a teacher will chat with you during the assessment procedure and advise you of the best way to achieve the literacy outcomes your child wants. These may be learning to
read or, for children who can read, learning comprehension techniques, grammar, spelling, creative writing, or public speaking in a safe and
If you have any concerns and feel unsure how best to help your child, please call us to arrange a chat on 9747 6653.
We are always happy to help.