Written by: Jenny Smith
There are lots of different types of learning difficulties that all sit under this one umbrella term. We looked at some of the common signs to look out for in your children’s development in our article on ‘recognising the signs of learning difficulties’ which may give you a starting point for conversations with staff at your children’s schools or nurseries. A next helpful step could be for you to gather information on the specific areas of learning that learning difficulties play out into and identifying ways of supporting different learning difficulty scenario’s.
Some children struggle with reading and spelling, others find maths hard to understand and others are challenged with their own communication or what others are saying out loud. Although these problems are very different they are all termed as learning disorders.
Reading problems are usually known as dyslexia and can be grouped into two main types, reading problems where the difficulty is about understanding the relationship between sounds, letters and words and secondly, comprehension problems where a child finds it hard to take in the meaning of words, sentences and paragraphs. Common signs of difficulties in this area include finding it hard to recognise words and letters, difficulty in grasping ideas and concepts, a much slower reading speed and fluency than others of similar age and a much smaller age comparative vocabulary .
Learning difficulties in maths are often called dyscalculia and these can be very affected by a child’s ability in other areas. Typically a child with a maths based learning difficulty will struggle with organisation and memorisation of numbers. They may find it hard to learn counting sequences and with telling time.
Writing learning difficulties can be shown through problems in writing neatly and clearly, difficulties with spelling or by finding the mental act of understanding and organising information.
Work with school
Working closely with the school is important in order to ensure that your child has access to any extra support that is available. Depending on what stage of education they are in the support will take different forms such as being put into a smaller group with higher concentration of staff when very young, or being given extra time during exams as they become older.
You are also a very important resource to your child as well because you have a perspective that is outside of the education system and also have a closer insight into your child’s behaviour. Between you and the school it is important to identify what type of learner your child is so that resources and extra help can be tailored to have the most success. Broadly speaking there are three main types of learners, visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
Visual learners do best by seeing or reading information and having information presented to them visually rather than verbally. They find written notes and diagrams really helpful and often enjoy drawing, reading and writing. Auditory children learn best by listening, do best in a lecture type learning setting, perform well in oral reports and tests and may love music and languages and being on stage. Thirdly, kinesthetic children learn through doing activities and moving about and learns the most through touching objects and making things. The sort of learning situation that supports these children are hands on activities like in laboratories or outside or on field trips and they often love sports, drama and art sessions.
If you have a child who is a visual learner things that will support their learning include flashcards, computers and books, notes that are colour coded or highlighted, lists of information and diagrams explaining facts and relationship between things, colourful drawings and detailed notes from a class. For an auditory learner it really helps to read notes out loud and to incorporate word association and verbal repetition. Group discussions with other children really benefit auditory learners too and having access to recordings of lessons or information is another great way of supporting the information to be taken in. With kinesthetic children the approach is very practical, get them out and about using their hands and rest of their bodies to explore their worlds. Activities like role play or model building are great, memory games, flash cards and generally having lots of breaks and music playing in the background will all help this group to learn more easily.