According to a study recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics, early action is vital to help prevent students with learning difficulties from falling into a long term ‘learning gap’.
The study found that first grade children with dyslexia (reading difficulties) have significantly lower reading scores and verbal IQs compared with their peers, and these differences persist into adolescence.
The authors recommend that “reading interventions must be implemented early, when children are still developing the basic foundation for reading acquisition.”
They warn that “the persistent achievement gap poses serious consequences for dyslexic readers, including lower rates of high school graduation, higher levels of unemployment, and lower earnings because of lowered college attainment.”
“Parents often start to realise something is wrong when their child isn’t able to read, spell or express themselves in writing as well as the other kids.”
Learning difficulties can severely hinder children’s enjoyment of school and motivation to learn. This can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, or even depression.
Deborah Jepsen is the principal psychologist at an Educational Psychology clinic in Melbourne that provides assessment and counselling for children with learning difficulties and their parents.
“Kids with dyslexia can be bright and engaging but parents often start to realise something is wrong when their child isn’t able to read, spell or express themselves in writing as well as the other kids in the first couple of years at school,” says Deborah.
And it’s not only parents who notice these differences.
“Children with learning problems start to become aware very early on that they are not learning new skills as quickly as the rest of the kids, and this can affect their self-esteem and motivation,” explains Deborah.
“They may have problems focusing or they might even start ‘acting-out’ in class to distract from their learning issues. So it’s important to act quickly before these bad habits set in.”
“Parents are told by well-meaning teachers or other parents that their child will just ‘grow out of it’.”
“The first step is to find out what is really going on with their learning and how they process information. This requires a full learning assessment by an appropriately trained psychologist.”
“The assessment results will determine what types of interventions are appropriate for that particular child.”
“After the learning recommendations have been put in place, parents often start to see some positive changes in their child’s behavior.”
“Sometimes parents are told by well-meaning teachers or other parents that their child will just ‘grow out of it’. But research shows the opposite. Early intervention is vital to achieve the best possible long term outcomes.”
“Parents should listen to their intuition,” says Deborah.
“If they notice any signs of learning problems the first step is to have their child properly assessed.”
“Based on the results we can then recommend practical strategies to help improve learning skills at home and at school.”
“Each child’s learning profile has its own unique set of challenges and adjustments that need to be made in the teaching style.”
“The psychologist will also speak with the teacher to make sure that everyone understands the outcomes and is ‘on the same page’.”
And what about the children themselves?
“Parents often say that the self-esteem and confidence boost is the most important outcome. Once their child realises they are not ‘stupid’ and they just learn a bit differently from the other kids, that insight alone can make a big difference.”
“Plus we give them strategies to help focus on their strengths and overcome weaknesses and we help them understand that being ‘different’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
If you have any concerns about your child’s learning ability, go here next: