If you ask any senior teacher they will invariably tell you that there are more children today with learning and behavioural difficulties than there were 35 years ago. In those days there would be one or two children who stood out in the classroom of 30 children. Today it is common to find up to 5-10 children in a class of 30 with some form of mild to moderate learning difficulty.
What do children with learning difficulties look like in the classroom?
Over the years as a teacher I had gradually become aware of the children in my classes that for some reason did not seem to learn as easily or as quickly as others. While it was easy to put this difference down to variations in so called “IQ”, I began to notice that many of these children were not in fact lacking in intelligence.
These children looked exactly like everyone else. They were frequently very articulate, perhaps good at mathematics, but struggled tremendously when it came to reading and spelling. Others were competent readers, but simply could not fathom the mysteries of mathematics.
Some could read well and formulate great ideas, but had great difficulty putting pencil to paper and mastering the written word. Some were chatterboxes who talked constantly in class, distracting other children and generally disrupting my well planned lessons. Others had trouble sitting still and were constantly fidgeting. Some were clumsy and struggled to catch a ball, learn to skip and had trouble learning the sequence of steps in long division.
Each child was different. Each child had their own configuration of difficulties but, even though I was a fully trained teacher, I did not understand why.
However, I discovered in my first year as teacher that if I used lots of music and art in my curriculum, these children were happier and seemed to learn more easily, but still I did not understand why.
In my current work with children with mild to moderate learning difficulties I meet many wonderful and passionate parents who are seeking assistance for their children who are struggling to learn in the classroom.
Many of these parents have had their own struggles with learning as children and somehow managed to get through the system and make their way in the world. However, they invariably tell me that they do not want their children to go through what they went through. It is very painful for them to see their child struggle as they did, and want to do whatever they can to make learning easier for their child.
Learning should, in fact, be easy. In the early years especially it should be a delight! Children are naturally curious about the world around them. They love to play, explore and experiment. If they are truly ready for school and the teacher is providing an environment and activities appropriate to their age and stage of development, learning should be as natural and easeful to them as play.