Dr. V.S. Gayathri
Understanding Learning Difficulties!
Scenario 1: Ram is in Class 2. He is always cheerful and loves to draw. But according to his teacher, he is a daydreamer and doesn’t concentrate in class. She always has a long list of complaints. The teacher told his mother that she has 29 more children in her class and no matter how hard she tries to involve him in the classroom, he is not interested. Ram's mom doesn't know how to address the situation or whom to approach for this.
Scenario 2: Vidya is another student of Class 2. She is smart and can grasp things easily. She excels in dance too. However, she finds it quite tricky when it comes to reading. Her class teacher informed her parents to get her assessed. Like every other parent, they were not ready to accept the fact that their kid needed support. They thought she is a little late and will grow out soon. But, things go from bad to worse. Whenever there is a reading activity, she will try to merge with the group and try to hide her weakness. This lowers her self-confidence and affects her mental health too. Her parents are not sure how to help her.
What could be the problem in both scenarios?
Ram and Vidya both struggle keeping with the school syllabus. They both require continuous support from the educational therapist or a special educator. Many struggling readers have trouble learning how to read. The process is slow, difficult, and not much fun for them.
They have trouble reading aloud and difficulty finding words that rhyme. They tend to mix sounds or syllables in long words. They do a lot of substitution and guessing. They get disoriented when asked to follow the itinerary.
So, they might have a ‘learning difficulty' and not probably a disability or some problem with their IQ. Under the right guidance and proper environment, both of them will be able to perform and deliver as well.
What is a learning difficulty?
A ‘learning difficulty’ is a condition where an individual can experience problems in traditional methods or the context of classroom learning. It may interfere with literacy skills development, memory, ability to focus, and organizational skills. A child with a learning difficulty requires additional time to complete assignments at school or at home. They may require strategic instructions and classroom accommodations to guide them to cope with the situation.
We often use ‘learning difficulty’ and ‘learning disability’ interchangeably. However, there is a marked difference between an individual with learning difficulties and one with learning disabilities
According to MentalHealth.org:
learning disability is a condition that affects learning and intelligence across all areas of life
learning difficulty is a condition that creates a hindrance to a specific form of learning, but does not affect the overall IQ of an individual
How can we support struggling learners?
An educational therapist or a special educator might be the right person to help in cases where the child is facing ‘learning difficulty’. Mostly, the process starts with spending time with the child, assessing the reason for the learning difficulty. It is not a one-day process and it varies from child to child. It might take weeks, months, and years too to see noticeable changes. As a professional educational therapist, I have been working with struggling learners for the past two years. Intervention is a long and continuous process. Creating awareness among teachers as well as parents about this issue is a significant step in the intervention. With constant support, these children will flourish and reach great heights. Children with learning difficulties grow up to be very successful, ask Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise, Walt Disney, Leonardo Da Vinci, Agatha Christie, or Bill Gates.
So, one of the most important and foremost things is to acknowledge the fact that a child might be facing learning difficulties and the issue needs to be addressed. With proper intervention and guidance at the right time, it will not be difficult for them to overcome the challenges with time.