Other Learning Difficulties. ALL children benefit from clear, consistent guidelines and routines. Most children with learning difficulties suffer from frustration and anxiety, acutely aware their peers are able to do things that they can’t. Daily routines are especially important for them, with repetition, routines become automatic and reduce generalized anxiety. They provide security and peace of mind, showing evidence of how the day is progressing and what to expect next.
Young children enter the world as innocent, free spirits, they need consistency from the adults in their life to ensure they learn the skills and social graces appropriate to the society they live in. Appropriate behaviour in a library differs from how to behave in a restaurant, theatre, the classroom or at home. Consistent implementation of guidelines enables children to develop self-confidence, knowing they can trust their own judgment in familiar circumstances.
However, too many set routines may cause distress, whereas structures provide a framework of strategies and reminders, enabling children to function independently. It is important to allow anxious children to continue to follow existing personal security routines whenever possible. When they settle and feel secure the behaviour will decrease.
Some proven strategies for use in a classroom or at home:
1. Simple written and pictorial instructions clearly displayed around their environment.
2. Set small, new targets/challenges you know the child can achieve, this helps develop self-esteem
and gives the confidence to try new activities.
3. Repeat spoken instructions several times and encourage questions.
4. Provide audio instructions and stories to listen to whenever they choose.
5. Present new information in small easy to follow steps.
6. Introduce new concepts in a variety of multi-sensory forms to cater to individual learning styles
and provide the opportunity for repetition.
7. Give a 15-minute reminder before needing to stop activities.
Each child is unique with individual strengths and weaknesses. They all need to be nurtured and tutored, valued and respected in their own right to enable them to develop to their full potential, both academic and creative. It can sometimes be difficult to make an accurate assessment of learning difficulties due to the wide variety of symptoms children present with.
A ten-year diagnosed with Dyslexia and Conduct Disorder once joined my class, his mother desperately wanted to give him a chance to ‘catch up’ before going to secondary school. I asked him to spell some three letter words, he said despondently, “I don’t know how to, I’m stupid that’s why I changed schools!”
I explained, “each letter of the alphabet has a sound as well as a name, i.e.; “a” for apple,” I showed him how to put c-a-t together to spell the word cat. He jumped up and shouted angrily “WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THAT BEFORE?” he had missed out on the daily repetition needed to build a solid understanding of phonics due to his disruptive behaviour.
Sadly, many ten-year-olds today are in similar positions. Key stage 2 SATs results published in July 2018 revealed that 36% of children leaving primary school failed to meet government targets in Reading, Writing and Maths! One has to ask how many would have benefitted from more structured, consistent, daily routines in their early years at school to ensure their needs were met.
Happily, with a routine of daily phonics practice and reinforcement of appropriate classroom behaviour the ten-year-old soon caught up and became a model pupil!
Linda Grandson is an ex-Head Teacher with 35 years’ experience successfully teaching hundreds of children to read. She is now a Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainer and CEO of Deans Education Consultancy specializing in producing programs designed to enable parents to teach their children to read.