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Remedial education helps children thrive in the mainstream



Discovering that your child has a learning disability is traumatic for most parents. Parents often respond with a wide range of emotions, they may feel anger, confusion, fear, even grief. Their hopes and dreams for their child are shattered.

Some parents are in denial and blame the school, teacher, or their spouse, while some may feel a sense of guilt and blame themselves. Some parents fear society’s reaction, and worry about their child being rejected.

Their fear stems from the stigma attached to learning disabilities and the misconception that they are associated with low intelligence.

This is far from the truth as in order to be diagnosed with a learning disability, a child’s IQ needs to be within the average range. Further, many children with dyslexia or autism have an average to above-average IQ.

Parents’ fear and anxiety needs to be acknowledged and validated. They need time to process what they have heard and most importantly, to be told that with the correct support and early intervention, their child will be able to learn and fulfil their potential.

Learning disabilities affect how people make sense of information, communicate, or learn new skills, and include difficulty reading, writing, and difficulty with mathematics.

A learning disability has a negative impact on the students’ academic performance, hinders learning, and often results in emotional and social struggles.

Children with learning disabilities require an environment that supports their difficulties and addresses their unique learning needs. They require a different way of learning, and may benefit from various teaching methods.

Sometimes educators use teaching styles which may not meet the needs of some of the pupils, or they may teach at a pace which accommodates only pupils who learn very quickly. Children with learning disabilities don’t respond to traditional methods of teaching, and are likely to fall behind if they remain in a system that is unable to meet their needs. This often leads to frustration and feeling overwhelmed.

Further, through constant struggle and failure, they may develop negative self-esteem and poor self-confidence. Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence has a negative impact on learning and academic success, and can reinforce a cycle of failure and negativity.

Children with learning difficulties often lack social skills and find it difficult to interpret social cues. This can cause difficulties amongst their peer group, and can lead to feelings of loneliness and rejection.

With early support and intervention, the gaps created by the learning disability can be bridged and allow the child to succeed at school. Early diagnosis and intervention is of paramount importance.

This is because learning and development are at their peak during a child’s early years. The earlier the difficulties are addressed, the less likely they will become entrenched and lead to behavioural and emotional problems.

Remedial schooling caters for the learning needs of children who lag behind academically and who are struggling in the mainstream.

These environments give learners the opportunity to reach their full potential through smaller classes, allowing for individual attention, on-site therapy, differentiated learning, and an adapted curriculum. In such an environment, teachers and therapists work collaboratively.

One of the main goals of a remedial school is to ensure that pupils are equipped with the tools required to move into the mainstream education system. This includes teaching specific skills and strategies to focus on strengths and improve areas of weakness.

Although the focus is on the consolidation of early foundational skills and support for academics, social and emotional learning is equally important. Many children with learning difficulties suffer from anxiety, particularly performance anxiety. They fear failure, and are often task avoidant.

In a supportive learning environment, they are encouraged to persevere, and their self-esteem improves through success. Children also learn skills to help them manage their emotions more effectively, as well as being taught strategies to regulate their behaviour. They are taught social skills to assist them in managing peer relationships. In such an environment, the emphasis is also on developing life skills such as problem solving, higher order thinking skills, and reasoning.

More children today are being diagnosed with learning disabilities for a number of reasons. Although barriers to learning have always existed, a lack of knowledge, fewer available educational professionals, as well as the stigma associated with a learning disability meant that pupils’ needs weren’t always recognised or addressed. These children may have been overlooked and labelled as slow or naughty.

Factors such as trauma, stressors in the home environment, and anxiety disorders can contribute to the development of a learning disability. Children with significant anxiety disorders or who are overly stressed are often emotionally unavailable for learning. We have noticed a significant increase in the number of children that have been diagnosed with anxiety.

This is possibly due to the disruption children have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. High levels of grief, uncertainty, and stress as well as constant exposure to news about the pandemic seems to have had a significant impact on anxiety levels. Children who suffer anxiety have difficulty concentrating in the classroom, and their output and learning is impaired.

Social media and online usage have become an integral part of young children’s lives. However, over-reliance on digital technology has been found to exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression and even result in mental-health concerns.

Research has shown that children who reported using digital media many times a day are more likely to show symptoms of inattention, difficulty organising and completing tasks, and difficulty sitting still. Too much screen time can also lead to moodiness and irritability.

In the words of Sally Ann Knowles, the principal of King David Ariel, “Every school is a microcosm of the society in which it exists. The pressures, concerns, and consequences faced by our society are invariably reflected by parents, teachers, and pupils.

“The world has become a global village constantly bombarded by information and consumerism. It’s thus incumbent on all educators to equip their pupils with both the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills required for them to succeed and to develop the resilience, confidence, and EQ (emotional intelligence) to thrive.”

  • Andrea Goldblatt is clinical director at King David Ariel.

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