Nancy's Columns

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Addressing Learning Challenges

Under topic: communication

School psychologists see many children during the school year who, for one reason or another, are having problems in school. Many of these problems are solved by facilitating communication among student, teacher and parent and by helping all three to enhance their skills in their respective roles.

Other problems can be solved by determining the child's learning style and adjusting the program to fit this style.

A child who is not an auditory learner will have difficulty in a class where the teacher only lectures and gives all instructions orally.

Once the teacher is aware of this, he or she can adjust the program by writing instructions on the board and by using visual examples and cues.

Some children learn best with a step by step approach which emphasizes a gradual accumulation of details, while others require an approach that stresses the overall meaning or configuration of the task. Most children can be helped by an understanding of their unique learning style and by the teacher making appropriate adjustments to the program.

Some children have short attention spans and have difficulty sitting in one place for a long period of time.

Most children can be helped by an understanding of their unique learning style and by the teacher making appropriate adjustments to the program.

Once this is understood, teachers can change the program so that the children are given shorter assignments and more frequent breaks.

Other children discouraged and need to be given positive reinforcement by the teacher.

These children are helped by the teacher giving them frequent recognition and encouraging them often for the effort they are making.

There are other children who have difficulty working in large groups.

They are easily distracted and find it difficult to focus their attention on a task.

These children are helped by providing them with opportunities for one on one instruction with an adult, and by being instructed in strategies to compensate for any learning problems.

Schools are very good at solving these kinds of problems, which require adjusting the learning program to fit the learner. They are also successful at solving problems which are situational.

Some children new to the school, develop school phobia and refuse to attend class.

Careful detective work usually can uncover the underlying reason for the refusal and remedy it. Many children who have this problem are worried about leaving mother at home where she will be unhappy without them. Some children have difficulty with their peers and are unhappy because they lack friends.

These problems lend themselves to class discussions and development of programs in cooperative learning.

Other students, who are experiencing crises in their lives such as divorce of their parents or death of a loved one, are helped by short-term counseling.

All in all, we are usually successful in making schools happy places for children to grow and develop.

There is, however, one class of problems where schools are not as successful. That is when the family inadvertently behaves in ways that maintain the problem or even aggravates it.

When this is the case, problems tend to persist no matter how creative the school's solutions are.

The school then needs to have a resource for helping children in the context of the family.  Such a resource could be a Family Consultation Center under the auspices of the school and located in the school building where families could go for help.

Family consultation has been proven effective in helping families resolve problems which impact the child in school.

I encourage school districts to consider implementing such a program in their schools.

First published in 2001