Struggling Learner

  • First and foremost, we attempt to strengthen a child’s strengths. This will help ensure that the child maintains a sense of self-esteem and efficacy even when aspects of learning are challenging.

    When a child’s strengths are celebrated and weaknesses put into perspective, s/he will more likely be able to experience a sense of “wholeness.” In contrast, when weaknesses are over-emphasised, children can feel a pervasive sense of “damage” without a sense that their struggles are in a particular area with delineated “borders.” It is also important to remember that throughout life, it will be these well-honed strengths and affinities that lead to a career, if not satisfying hobbies; most people find ways to avoid areas of weakness later in life.

    Secondly, it is important to assess whether intervening to strengthen a weakness is in order, or whether a bypass strategy (i.e., a strategy to “go around” the problem) should be employed. For instance, some children’s weakness in graphomotor function is severe enough to warrant that the child be excused from handwriting exercises, be supplied a laptop for note taking, test taking, and written assignments, and possibly even provided teacher or student notes.

     

  • In other cases, occupational therapy to correct an awkward pencil grip and strengthen the muscles used for handwriting may allow a struggling writer to develop the skills to perform successfully. Often, employing a bypass strategy until a child’s weakness is remediated is useful and recommended. Special educators and psychologists can often assess what interventions or bypass strategies to employ and whether either or both are warranted.

    In all, instruction employed to assist a child with a learning difference should be explicit. In other words, the student should fully understand why s/he is being taught a skill. The instruction should be both systematic and cumulative, meaning the skills should build one on another in a structured and logically sequential manner. Additionally, multisensory (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, tactile) methods should be employed so that the child’s sensory pathways are engaged to ensure deep and abiding learning.