Learning Can Be Hard! But it doesn't have to be.

There can be so many frustrations in the classroom when it comes to our children's learning.

We send them off to school in Kindergarten, and we are suddenly thrown into the role of "at-home teacher" while helping with learning their magic 100 sight words and counting on from 12. It's at this moment when learning difficulties may start to present themselves to you as their parent. You start noticing that they are struggling a little to read, or that maths just isn't enjoyable for them and they find "simple" mathematical tasks challenging. 2 groups of 4 shouldn't be that hard, right? Surely they should know all their sounds and sight words by now... And often times we sit back and wait for their teacher to reach out because they're the expert, right? And surely if there's a problem, they'll get in contact.

The issue is, often times, your child might just be what teachers refer to as 'the garden variety'. It's very normal for children to display such a diverse range of abilities in the classroom, especially at that age (let's remember that there can be an age difference of 18 months in Kindergarteners) and teachers are well-equipped at catering for the different learning abilities they face in their classroom. It's these early years of their lives where developmental stages come in to play and often times teachers (and parents) start to see their child suddenly catch up, often by Year 2. It's for this very reason that teachers don't always seem too alarmed by your child's learning ability. By year 1 or 2 however, the gap can either start to close or start to widen and that's when we as parents need to be astute as to what help our child might need for their optimal learning.

There are exceptions however. Sometimes parents (and especially teachers) can just have this feeling that something is not quite right with a child's learning. The gap might be too big to just put down to developmental stages at play. And when this seems the case, often times it is. But what to do about it? Approach the teacher? Go to a paediatrician? See your GP? All of those things are acceptable first steps in helping your child. Their teacher probably has the most answers for you on what steps to take next, however there are also ways you can accelerate the process for "help". Seeking a referral from your local paediatrician for some academic achievement testing can help identify if there's a learning difficulty or an undiagnosed issue at bay. An IQ assessment can assess what your child's learning potential is and an academic achievement test can help to know if your child is reaching their potential. If they aren't, then this often signals a learning difficulty of some description.

What's important to know is, that diagnosed learning difficulties or conditions such as ADHD or dyslexia should not be considered "labels" which parents often immediately become concerned about. Instead, identifying the problem can only help you and their teacher/school know how to better directly help them in their learning journey. Classroom adjustments can be put into place, Individual Learning Plans can be written, referrals to the Learning Support Teams within the school can be made - all to support your child's identified learning needs.

Learning difficulties don't just present themselves in our early years. They might not present themselves until year 4 or 5 when the gap in their learning compared to appropriate grade achievement is suddenly apparent. Thankfully, it's never too late to start helping our child in the classroom.

With academic achievement tests, we can help ascertain learning difficulties that your child is facing. An issue that parents and teachers are often unaware of is our working memory and the importance of having a high functioning one. Our working memory is KEY to being able to learn at our true potential. Often linked to head trauma patients, or children with ADHD, working memory can also be a stand alone problem. Whether attached to another issue or not, our working memory is just like a muscle and is able to be strengthened and trained to work at full capacity again. It gives us the tools to be more attentive and focused when our teacher is delivering their lessons or when instructed to do things around the house or at school. It helps us take in essential information, manipulate it, use it and store it in our long term memory with little to no effort so that we can retain and recall everything that we take in when learning. Suddenly reading is easier because we aren't having to concentrate on decoding and building our fluency to comprehend texts we are reading. We are no longer focused on the birds outside the window and instead can move our focus on the task set for us.

Don't delay in getting the necessary help and tools for your child to succeed. Even as adults we wished that our working memory was better - and it's not too late for us either. But why wait for your child? Help give them every opportunity to be their best now.

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