Encouraging children with learning difficulties to succeed at school

Encouraging children with learning difficulties

Specific learning difficulties like dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia can make it difficult and sometimes impossible for a child to achieve the same results as his or her peers in a traditional classroom setting. Some children face a constant struggle with reading and writing and many are at risk for developing low self-esteem, particularly when their condition goes undiagnosed and/or untreated.

The thing to remember is that there are alternative learning approaches, strategies, and tools that can help students with learning difficulties achieve their full potential at school. Moreover, a positive attitude and plenty of encouragement from parents and teachers can do wonders when it comes to inspiring these children to stay motivated and persevere.

teaching phonemic awareness

Teaching phonemic awareness

One of the key skills children must develop before they learn how to read is phonemic awareness— being able to hear and manipulate the sounds that make up words.

Phonemes are the smallest units of sounds that can change meaning -- if you switch the middle vowel sound in hat, everything shifts from definition to part of speech and usage.

A child with phonemic awareness knows that sat is made up of three distinct sounds. They may also realize that sat and bat end in a similar sound and that hat and heart start with the same sound.

It is the recognition that language is made up of these sounds that is so important in reading.

What motivates students to learn

What motivates students to learn?

Teachers and parents recognize the power of motivation in enhancing learning outcomes and helping students to achieve their best at school. A motivated student might do his or her homework without being asked to, go above and beyond the requirements of assignments and participate in classroom discussions without being prompted.

More importantly, he or she may be more able to view a poor exam result as a learning opportunity instead of as an academic failure. So what motivates students to learn and how can we encourage them?

7 Tips for working with dyslexia

7 Tips for working with dyslexia

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning difficulties affecting both children and adults. While no two individuals struggle with the same set of symptoms, most people with dyslexia must work harder than their peers to develop literacy skills.

They may need more time to read and write, and experience high levels of frustration navigating numbers. For students, this can pose a significant challenge. However, the situation can be just as stressful for working adults who have the added pressure of performance goals and feeling confident and capable at work, especially in front of clients, co-workers and managers.

How to find a good tutor

How to find a good tutor

When kids lack confidence in the classroom, are struggling to keep up with their peers, need help preparing for exams or are dealing with a learning difficulty, parents may arrange for them to see a private tutor outside of school.

Tutors provide the extra scaffolding that less able students may require and can also encourage gifted children by introducing them to more advanced topics not covered in a school curriculum. By working one-on-one, tutors are able to go over content at a pace that is right for every child.

They can also assist with school assignments and help enforce good study habits, including setting smart targets which are specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant in a given time period.

Motivating kids to read

Motivating kids to read

Reading is the key to success in almost every subject across the school curriculum and research has shown that it is the biggest driver of vocabulary acquisition. The more kids read, the more words they learn from context and the more texts they can access.

Understanding how different text types work also helps them improve their critical thinking skills and engage with the ideas presented, in addition to becoming better writers. So, if reading does so many wonderful things, how do you get children to pick up a book and start reading?

Self-confidence vs self-esteem

Self-confidence vs self-esteem

The terms self-confidence and self-esteem are often conflated. Confidence is a measure of faith in one’s own abilities; esteem is about our sense of self. It involves both thoughts and emotions and influences how we perceive others and interact with the world.

When children have healthy self-esteem, they tend to be confident.

Similarly, if a child has a negative self-view, which is often the case for learners with undiagnosed learning difficulties, it can cause them to lack confidence in classroom activities, particularly in tasks that involve reading and writing.

Challenging spelling words

Challenging spelling words

While most words are relatively easy to learn, every individual will encounter challenging spelling words that they frequently misspell. Making spelling mistakes is frustrating for students and can lead to low self-esteem for learners who may be labelled as lazy and penalized by losing points on written work.

For adults, having poor spelling skills can cause them to miss out on career opportunities and lose face in front of friends and family. It’s important to understand that spelling skills have nothing to do with intelligence and that there are plenty of strategies that can help. If spelling becomes a persistent problem, there may also be an undiagnosed learning difficulty to blame.

What are learning difficulties?

What are learning difficulties?

Learning difficulties, known as learning disabilities in North America, are conditions that impact on an individual’s ability to gain knowledge and skills at the same rate as his or her peers. They may be due to a mental handicap or a cognitive disorder.

Having a learning difficulty does not make someone less intelligent, it just means they learn in a different way that can render traditional classroom activities problematic. That’s why people with learning difficulties often require specific strategy training and customized lessons in order to overcome challenges and make progress in an academic environment.

Left-handed and dyslexic

Left-handed and dyslexic

It is sometimes said that certain mood disorders and learning difficulties are more common in people who favour their left hand. Researchers have not yet found a genetic link between dyslexia and handedness and individuals with dyslexia, a learning difficulty that impacts on reading, writing and spelling abilities, are split 50:50 between right and lefthandedness.

However, there are fewer lefthanded people in the world. In fact, the difference is 90:10. This means that dyslexia may be more commonly found in lefthanded people but the relationship is not necessarily causal. There is also the question of whether or not it is more common in boys than girls.

Some evidence suggests dyslexia is just as prevalent in girls as boys but not as well recognized, while other studies (Quinn & Wagner 2015) have found reading difficulties occur more often in male individuals.


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