When we want to help "slow learning" children meet their challenges, we always have to start with evaluation. There are so many reasons why a child may face a challenge with certain subjects, some of which are often hidden to us, the adults. A decisive reason that can cause a child to fall behind, is a learning disability. I will not discuss learning disabilities, since this is a subject that is outside of my area of expertise, and belongs in the hands of a skilled professional. Another reason that can cause a child to fall behind, could be a slight hearing impairment, or a vision impairment. I recommend to check hearing and vision as soon as a problem becomes apparent. Let's evaluate the reasons that could cause a child to appear to be a "slow learner". A child that has a dominant audio memory, may show difficulties in spelling, if he is encouraged to write the words several times in order to remember them. This is a learning method that works well with the people who have a dominant visual memory, but it is not effective at all for children who have a dominant audio memory.
A child that has a strong dominant visual memory, might have problems remembering tunes, music and songs. Methods can be used that take advantage of the child's learning style, in order to help him learn the material using his dominant style of learning. Teachers who receive training in this area, will be able to utilize methods appropriate for all styles of learning.
Some students have very active minds. They learn faster than other kids, and are actually very gifted learners. These children do not get the adequate stimulation for their minds in a classroom environment. These children experience real suffering, trying to follow the slow sequence of learning in the classroom. They lose their focus, and "go into their own world". They will appear to be slow learners, and occasionally will also create a behavioral problem. This case is hard to deal with if there is no special program for gifted children available in the school. The teacher will have to find a way to keep this child (or children) challenged and busy. In my son's classroom there was a child who was very gifted, and had a very active mind. The boy read an immense number of books at home, and had an amazing amount of knowledge. When the teacher tried to teach in class, he always tried to intervene with a "related" story. Of course, that caused an interruption in the classroom, and the child was determined to have a behavioral problem and a learning disability. When he was enrolled in a special class that employed accelerated learning, the problem was solved.
Another common case is a child that was told that he is a "slow learner" before. For example, in Mathematics. A child had some challenge with a Math concept, and the teacher, a parent, or a classmate, made a comment, ridiculed him or laughed at him, and the child got the idea that he "is slow in Math". When a child tries to solve a problem, he has to believe that he can and will solve the problem. A child that does not believe that he can solve the problem, may start the process of looking for a solution, but will stop before he has found the solution, because he gives up. In this case, dealing with the problem takes encouragement and lots of praise. Cooperation between the teacher and the parents will help accelerate the solution. A good example is a young college student I have met, who believed her teacher in second grade, who told her that she is "not good in math". She took a Logic class, and succeeded tremendously. She told me that she was amazed when she found out that Logic is a branch of math. This young student was so amazed to find out that she can succeed in anything that is related to Mathematics.
Children are naturally very fast learners, but differ in learning styles, ability to focus, self confidence and personality. The school environment of today does not accommodate all learning styles and all personalities. Learning in a big group sometimes creates an environment that supports one child, but neglects another, to some degree. If there is no learning disability, or a physical reason, then taking the time to find out what the reason is and how to deal with it as early as possible, is a crucial thing to do to stop the child from falling behind. An alert teacher or a diligent parent can make a big difference in the child's future.
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