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Helping children with learning difficulties

7th September 2011
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Child doing homework: Parents of children with learning difficulties should encourage them to learn at their own pace and praise them for every effort they make.

Some children find it more difficult to learn than other children of their age group. Often, teachers and parents do not realize or understand that the child’s difficulty in learning is a real problem, and not laziness.

Many a time a child is beaten up, threatened or has certain privileges withdrawn for failing to perform well in class because parents think that the child is just being lazy not realizing that the child in question has a learning problem.

If a child has a learning difficulty, it does not mean that he or she is stupid or cannot learn. It may be that the child needs to be taught in a different way. For example, the child may need extra or professional help to learn.

There is no one cause to learning difficulties. There are quite a number of them and they could be internal or external. Internal causes include injury to the brain, difficulty with hearing or seeing, slower growth and lack of balance in chemicals in the body.

External causes include abuse, neglect, lack of opportunity and exposure because of poverty and inexperienced parents.

Important to note is the fact that children with learning difficulties can do well. All children have their strengths-intellectual, social, creative or physical/sporting. And they all have different abilities.

Children with learning difficulties also have these different strengths and abilities. And with help they are also able to learn. A child with a reading difficulty could be a good artist, musician or mathematician. We should encourage and nurture these different strengths and abilities in our children.

There are quite a number of ways of checking whether your child has a learning difficulty or not. If your child has more than one of the following difficulties, take him or her to the doctor for an examination and more information. You can also contact organizations that specifically deal with children’s issues or speak to your child’s teacher about your concerns.

Has difficulty doing only one thing at a time and finishing it. For example, the child may begin a drawing but then start something else before finishing the drawing.

Has difficulty concentrating and gets distracted easily. For example, in the classroom, the child may not be able to pay attention to the teacher for long periods of time and may be distracted but what is going on outside the window. The child may try to distract other children.

Has difficulty learning, such as: Difficulties with listening, forming words and talking (language difficulties); spelling; difficulty reading; difficulties with spelling, handwriting and written comprehension; difficulties with mathematics;

Poor coordination, general awkwardness and clumsiness, such as knocking into things or breaking things.

Has emotional problems and finds it hard to make friends.

We might have noticed some of the above characteristics in our children without knowing that they could be indicators to the fact that our child has learning difficulties. Now we know but the big question is what do we do about it?

Do we scold, beat up, castigate or yell at the child so that he/she gets over the learning difficulty? - definitely not. The best thing to do if you think your child has learning difficulties is to speak to the teachers and the school head about the necessary support services to help your child.

Find out how your family and school can work together to help your child.Children with learning difficulties learn from many different sources. If your child has a learning difficulty, there are things your family can do to help your child learn. You can read together as a family, visit the library with your child and read together or do activities that will help your child practice writing for example, write letters together, or help your child keep a diary.

You can also give your child tasks to do alone. These things will help your child learn. For example, have him or her write the grocery list for you. Give your child tasks to do with his or her brothers and sisters, such as washing the dishes or folding and putting away clothes. This will help your child learn to work with others as well as develop his or her coordination. Play games together as this will also help develop his or her coordination.

Last but not least, encourage your child to join social clubs and take part in sporting activities. This will help your child learn social skills and to interact with people outside the family. It will also help build confidence.

The needs of children with learning difficulties are the same as those of other children. They need the love and support of their parents and families. They also need friends and they need the attention and support of their teachers and members of their community. Children with learning difficulties need to be accepted for who they are.

As a parent you should check if your child has homework everyday. You also need to talk to her about what he/ she needs to complete the homework. But never do the homework for your child.

Most importantly, never compare children with their brothers and sisters. Encourage them to learn at their own pace and praise them for every effort they make.

msimbiso@gmail.com

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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