By Emsie Martin
It’s the start of a new year, your child did not do so well last year. You are considering stricter rules and extra classes, but these aren’t necessarily the solution. Questions parents ask, include the following:
- How can we help our child through this year?
- Must our child receive remedial attention?
- Should we consider a different school?
- Does our child have a learning problem?
- Does our child actually have the ability or is he just plain lazy?
- What is the cause of our child’s underperformance?
Parents’ decisions could have far-reaching consequences for the child’s future, which is why insight and understanding are necessary to identify why the child is struggling with his school work. Dr. ST Potgieter, psychologist in Belville, discusses a few points that could assist parents.
What is a learning problem?
When a child’s report leaves a lot to be desired, parents usually want to know if the child has a learning problem. A learning problem is when a child struggles with his learning and also includes the child who displays inadequate scholastic progress due to emotional, social or economic problems. This includes children experiencing a vision or hearing disability.
A learning problem, therefore, is an umbrella term for the different problems regarding learning and studying.
What is a learning impairment?
A learning impairment is a neurological disturbance that hampers the child’s ability to think, listen, write, spell, talk, read correctly and do arithmetic calculations. Each child’s learning impairment is unique. Children with a learning impairment could therefore also possess the intellectual ability, but still struggle with school work. These children’s brains are wired differently and cause their learning process to be different from that of other children. Such a child could for example experience reading problems because he struggles placing letters in words in the correct sequence.
Children with learning problems are often perceived as lazy and unmotivated – which is not necessarily the case. A learning impediment usually remains a life-long challenge, but with the correct help and willpower a child can eventually lead a completely normal life.
Is an evaluation necessary?
An evaluation is necessary when learning problems are identified in a child. Prior to undergoing an operation, the doctor must first examine you, diagnose the problem and then make a recommendation. It is just as important that the correct diagnosis be made regarding the child’s learning problem.
Evaluation is necessary so as to explain to the parents and the school possible reasons for the learning problems and what remediation or assistance is required. Could it for example be a motivational problem, learning impediment, language problem, concentration problem, a visual or auditive problem, a memory problem, slower cognitive development or any other problem?
What does a psychological examination entail?
There are psychologists who specialise in learning problems in children and they will usually first conduct an interview with the parents to gather background information. Normally an intellectual test is conducted to determine on what scholastic level the child should be performing. An intellectual test also provides other information, such as the child’s relatively strong and weak points.
Further testing will include aspects such as evaluation of basic scholastic skills, learning style, emotional aspects and perceptual skills. After the evaluation the psychologist gives the parents feedback. The psychologist might also compile a report containing the results and the necessary recommendations. This report can help the parents, school, doctors and other therapists to understand the child’s learning problem. The psychologist will also make recommendations should a referral to another expert and/or special education be necessary.
It is important that parents handle a child’s “poor” report in the right way. The child should never be humiliated. Conduct the discussion in such a manner that your child’s self-image is not broken down. Be positive by telling your child that you as parents will help him. Assure your child that you are going to initiate remedial steps to help him through the next year. Therefore, give your child hope that he is not alone. Where necessary, console your child. It is important for every parent to listen to his/her child and try to gain insight into his situation.
Dr. ST Potgieter, psychologist in Bellville, email address email@example.com.