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Helping Students with Learning Disabilities

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Types of Learning Disabilities and their Signs
3. Is it a Cause of Worry?
4. What can I do to help my child?
5. Summary

 

August 31, 2020,     

Reading Time: 7 mins                                               

Introduction

Is your child finding it harder to get acquainted with specific life skills? Are you worried about him or her having some kind of Learning Disability? And, if he or she has been detected with one, are you concerned about his or her coping with the fast-moving world? And of course, what can you do to help your child? If you also think that all these questions popping up in a concerned parent’s mind are entirely natural, the following article may come very handy.

 

Learning Disabilities (LDs) have a high degree of variance, and the problems experienced vary from child to child, like:

  • Difficulty in getting acquainted with new things, 
  • A gap in communication, 
  • Difficulty in writing, 
  • Not able to read text or 
  • Difficulty in personal care. 
  • Not able to do math sums
  • A problem in organizing things
     

The reason for an LD may be: genetic or neurological and even psychological. 


Moreover, an LD lacks a proper cure and is usually a lifelong challenge. Still, nothing to be disappointed about! There is a silver lining to the cloud. What we need to focus on here is that such children can achieve success at school, and later in relationships and at work too with just a little love, care, support, and timely intervention.


 

The broader term above umbrellas the various LDs viz. :

  1. Dysgraphia
  2. Dyslexia
  3. Dyscalculia
  4. Oral/written Language Disorder
  5. NVLD (Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities)
  6. SRCD (Specific-Reading Comprehension-Deficit).

 

Each one is having its own symptoms and accordingly unique issues to deal with and, therefore, need unique strategies as well. A parent usually fails to realize in these cases is that the impact of the LDs may be beyond academics!

Raghav (name changed), a class V student, who came to my academy last year for math classes, played Tennis very well but did not like to sit with other children, wanted to finish his work fast and disturbed the entire class all the time. 

On the other hand, Hanif (name changed), an adorable Class I child from Singapore, didn’t want to do a single sum, kept on chewing his microphone wire, and wouldn’t even respond to what I said or asked him during our online sessions. 

I wondered if my students had any of the above-listed issues! This led me to venture on the quest as to how to deal with these if encountered with one?


Types of Learning Disabilities and their Signs

After a bit of research, I came across various details that may serve as a ready reckoner for the curious parents or teachers, based mainly on the symptoms or signs. 

  • Dyscalculia, as the name suggests, is a specific LD that interferes with learning the math facts and working with numbers.
  • Dysgraphia affects his/her handwriting and fine motor skills. 
  • Dyslexia mainly affects reading and processing related to language.
  • SRCD affects the understanding of what one reads, of the language spoken, and even the expression ability oneself.
  • NVLDs affect the interpretation of non-verbal cues like understanding expressions, reading the face or body language, and the child may have poor coordination too.

 

Other Learning Disabilities

Apart from these, some mental health issues are mistakenly put under the Learning Disorders category like Dyspraxia, ADHD, and Asperger’s Syndrome. 

  • Dyspraxia is characterized by muscle-control difficulty and problems in moving and coordinating. The affected ones face problems in language and speech as well. But it is not a learning disability. It can, though, affect the learning process and often co-exists with Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, or ADHD. 
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has more to do with staying focused and paying attention. Children, as well as adults with ADHD, are usually hyperactive and are unable to control their behavior. ADHD is also not considered to be a Learning Disorder and falls under the category “Other Health Impaired’’. [1]. 
  • Asperger’s Syndrome, contrary to ADHD, is rare and is a neuro-developmental disorder. It creates issues in socializing and communicating and is, in fact, a condition that falls under the spectrum of autism.

Is it a Cause of Worry?    
 

 

In the U.S., around 2 million children, constituting approximately 3-5%, suffer from ADHD. 15% of the US population has some or the other LD. [1]. So, is it a cause of concern for State Mental Health authorities? Not at all. 

These children appear to be healthy, and we learn of the difficulty faced by them only when the signs start showing. Albert Einstein couldn’t read till he was nine, Walt Disney also had reading issues all his life. If the related studies are to be believed, such children can not only achieve success but also excel in their field of interest.

Homework is annoying for all. And that playtime is more luring than study-time, is a common observation for everyone. Still, with so much on media and movies like ‘Taare Zameen Par’ (Hindi, India), one knowingly or unknowingly tends to get suspicious about the well-being of one’s children! 
Coming back to my students, Raghav was diagnosed with ADHD, but Hanif didn’t have any! So, a student tagged as a ‘Slow learner’ or with a lesser attention span may not have any LD at all to start with. Even though he/she has one, there is nothing to worry about!


What can I do to help my child?

Nothing can beat your unconditional love and, of course, nurturing your child’s strengths, though additional support from a teacher or doctor also helps. It is of importance to understand that LDs can be frustrating for children having them more than others. Imagine the child being not able to perform a simple task that all his friends are well versant with. On top of it, these children may have trouble expressing themselves or even calming themselves down. In such a scenario, being patient, and giving plenty of moral and emotional support does help tremendously.

Denying the fact won’t make it easier either. Instead, 

  • The parent or teacher should embrace his or her role as a supporter of the child
  • The parent should advocate his interests at all points of time- at school, in the neighborhood park, or even within the family. 
  • Don’t let any doctor or therapist or any educationist distract you from your primary responsibility of providing love and emotional support to your child or student whenever he or she needs it
  • Never become discouraged or overwhelmed at any point in time. 
  • Remember a wholehearted support can make a significant difference in your child’s or student’s life.

 

 

At school, various accommodations to be considered in the classroom may include: 

  1. Giving some extra time to complete assignments or tests
  2. Providing audiobooks to supplement reading
  3. Use of applications to support writing
  4. Going for individual education plans (IEPs)
  5. Identifying whether the child is a visual or auditory learner or a kinaesthetic learner and helping him accordingly with appropriate aids
  6. Breaking the learning tasks into smaller steps
  7. Presenting the instructions in a visual format for better grasp
  8. Using diagrams, wherever possible for self-explanation
  9. Preparing a verbal presentation of the idea or topic to fill in for a reading
  10. Using drawings, illustrations, graphics to support the information 
  11. Using memory games or flashcards
  12. Providing independent practice for individual attention
  13. Taking frequent breaks
  14. Regularly probing to check how much he or she has understood. 
  15. And many other such gestures.

 

 

Not to forget that regular exercise, having a complete sound sleep, a healthy nutrient-rich diet, and maintaining hygiene too have an essential role to play.

My first-hand experience……

Today Raghav is not only playing Tennis but also doing well at math sums. His parents have accepted his Learning Disability well and are consulting a learned doctor too. We talk about Tennis and his matches; I convert the math problems into Tennis lingo, break them into smaller steps, allow him to solve them at his own pace without any pressure. And yes, it is working! 

He is not dreaded of attending the classes or tackling a math problem anymore, nor is he discouraged from not being able to solve one. He has amazingly absorbed the ‘Keep Trying’ and ‘Never Give Up’ mantras.

Hanif, from Singapore, on the other hand, didn’t have any Learning disorder. He was just annoyed with the whole world as he didn’t have many friends and didn’t like his school. A lot of love, a friendly five minutes talk at the beginning of the class, indulgence in his favorite activity, Art & Craft during the last 5 minutes of the session, and an exciting riddle per session did all the wonder. 

Within a month, we have become the best friends, with him completing at least 2-3 worksheets per class and completing his homework regularly, and that too, with more than 95% accuracy!

The world of a child is magical! Each child has a right to your unconditional love and care. Remember, your child or your student is going to embrace your perspective. So, it is up to you what you want to give him-Optimism or disappointment. 

A parent’s attitude is going to outweigh all the other influences. Teachers are also not far behind as role players and influencers. So, decide what is more vital for you and your child, be a good listener, offer dynamic solutions, stay calm, focussed, and positive always. 

Your love can definitely create a self -awareness and self-confidence in your child with LD, and he would ultimately try to resolve problems or achieve goals, will develop a never give up attitude, and would not hesitate to ask you for help. Further, no pressure on him would translate into no stress, and he would be able to calm himself too.
Soon, he would become a Confident, Independent, and Happy learner!

 


Summary

One thing is sure, Not every difficulty in learning is a Learning Disability, nor is a Learning Disability a cause of worry. Diagnosis and intervention at the right time accompanied by your unconditional love and support is all that the child would need to overcome this difficulty with a smile.
 

References:

[1] Excerpts from the LDA (Learning Disabilities & Association of America), California, and UC Davis. M.I.N.D. Institute “Q.U.I.L.T.S” Calendar



Written by Gurpreet Khatter, Cuemath Teacher


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