What do we mean by the term learning difficulties? OR What can we do to help students or people in general who face difficulties in performing certain tasks?
We begin by giving a simple definition of the term based on our experience:
Learning difficulties are the obstacles of a student, usually on his or her first years in the primary education, that may follow the person up to his life as an adult.
Of course, this is an empirical way to define what we mean by the term learning difficulties. In this article, we will mention our opinion judging from our experience and knowledge.
There are various categories of learning difficulties, such as:
- Difficulties in pronunciation
- Difficulties in listening, writing and taking notes at the same time
Do you remember your first years at primary school? Can you recall an ex – classmate who was struggling to learn? Someone who was trying to write but was always finishing late and his or her handwriting was impossible to read?
Well, I do have in mind certain examples of cases when a classmate had a really difficult to read handwriting! Can you imagine? Too small letters that stick to each other and so hard to read! I can tell that the child’s posture was so uncomfortable, almost preventing it to be seated to the same chair for a long time!
Nevertheless, the most embarrassing feeling for the little student would not be his/her effort to improve the handwriting. The most inconvenient moment could be the child’s agony every time he/she had to deliver a homework. In this case, the student needs encouragement to write as much as possible, so as to see some gradual improvement.
Let us go back some years ago, and bring more memories of primary education related to learning difficulties. What about when a student was showing signs of dyslexia? What was happening when the teacher asked from a certain student to read a text? What if the text was more demanding and the student was realizing that he could not read properly? To be more exact, in this cases, there may be a slight change of phoneme, change of word order, known as anagram, such as saying “hecilopter” instead of “helicopter”, “mymmo” instead of “mommy”, the student may read, or skip a letter. Many combinations of errors may occur!
A possible way to offer some help as far as learning difficulties are concerned:
Have you ever heard about differentiated instruction? Do you know what it is or do you believe that you know, but in fact you are not sure?
A year ago, I participated in a seminar, when a great teacher presented us an overview of differentiated instruction, so I can transfer you some of my knowledge. Let us imagine that we teach in a classroom of 25 students, usually in primary education. Not all of them are of the same level: some are better in mathematics, other in literature, some of them in physics, other in various different subjects, some find it difficult to read quickly and respond to questions orally. May we prepare a lesson plan for all of them, asking from them to participate, even though we know that some of them will hardly reach the passing grade? Are we not obliged as teachers to take into consideration that the exercises must be of gradual difficulty? Mustn’t we think globally and not only one category of students? We must take into consideration any possible learning difficulties.
Consequently, we prepare the lesson plan and then, we are the first who do the exercises. Our goal is to include exercises and activities for all levels of students. In this way, we will encourage those who need more effort to learn or are facing learning difficulties, if we include more easy activities, and then, we motivate the stronger students to succeed, by adding more and more demanding activities next to the more simple ones.
What do you know about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? More briefly it is known as ADHD. I could say that almost all of us remember one, or more than one noisy classmates who were unable to stay in their chair for a long time. Many times they were talking and moving at the same time, making everyone in the classroom wonder why do they show such hyperactivity. They never get tired? I suppose that due to ADHD they cannot feel tiredness as other people do. They tend to be impulsive, acting before thinking for some time. I remember a classmate, years ago, that used to comment during class, whose comments had nothing to do with our subject! Why did he had to interrupt? To attract girls’ attention maybe? To stop the course of learning since he hadn’t studied? Perhaps, he wanted to play the role of the leader by interrupting the teacher, or did he show the signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? Struggling to stay still may not be a learning difficulty, but it may lead to insufficient knowledge. Why? Because the child or adult who behaves this way, is not able to capture all the necessary information as he/she keeps his (or her) mind occupied with other thoughts, such as, playing with something (for example a ball), drawing and sending messages to classmates, and acting likewise!
In cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, there are certain actions that can be done. First of all, the person who may suffer from ADHD, should be tested to be verified if further action is required. During a seminar I attended last year, the expert mentioned that we must always keep the hyperactive students busy: we ask them to read a passage, later we ask them to come to the board in order to erase the previously written information, we can also ask them to switch on the lights, to bring something (a book, a map, etc.) and finally, when we perceive that they are ready to get distracted, we ask them to perform a task. A task that usually requires movement.
My tactic, as far as this matter is concerned, is to combine what I have studied through seminars and university studies, and above all, my personal experience regarding learning difficulties. I need to point out that a motivated student, even if he/she is facing learning difficulties, will try to finish an exercise and participate in activities. That is why I try to introduce into my teaching performance activities that are addressed to many people and not to a limited number of students. We are trained to teach and help those who face also some or more learning difficulties. This is our challenge.
Our conclusion: All students deserve to be treated as special and charismatic persons. The role of the teacher is to bring out the talent of each student and make an effort to reduce any learning difficulties.