Written by Avalanne D’Souza
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about new norms for us as a global community with ‘social isolation’ being a significant part of this new reality. Every section of society is facing its own woes when it comes to its repercussions, along with children with learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities describe a wide range of learning problems including dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and processing deficits. It is important to understand that this is not a problem with intelligence or motivation rather, the difference lies in how they receive, process and retain information.
March 2020 brought about one of the biggest changes in our lives; schools became virtual. I am sure this has caused more disruption in the lives and routines of parents and children with learning disabilities and special needs. Therefore, it is most important to understand how to support children with learning disabilities.
The bigger picture
Irrespective of being a parent or a teacher, it is important to keep things in perspective and look at the bigger picture. Remember, we are not trying to ‘cure’ learning disabilities, instead we must look at providing social, emotional and academic skills that will help them overcome their challenge and make them more resilient. Give your children the emotional and moral support they need during this time, especially as they navigate to the new territories of virtual learning. Research on learning disability programmes, therapies and educational techniques.
Focus on your child’s strengths
Don’t let your child be defined and confined by their learning disability. This is just one area of weakness. Instead, encourage and pay attention to their many strengths and unique talents. It is important that you continue to allot time for creative activities too especially during this lockdown. Online teaching has opened a whole new world of opportunities for us to learn various skills.
Take charge of your role as educator
As most parents double up as teachers during this time, it is important to identify how your child learns best. A short conversation with a special educator will give you a clear idea on whether your child is a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner. There are multiple resources available online to assist you with various strategies, tips and tools to help your child learn the way they can. Recognise that schools are only part of the solution but your support, interest and encouragement can have a greater impact on their lives.
Lifestyle and habits
This pandemic has made us contemplate on our lifestyle, habits and choices. A rested and well looked after mind and body is key; adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition will help with better focus and concentration. Children with learning disabilities benefit the most from routines so make sure they have one before and after virtual school. Create a study space for them and teach them how to organise and maintain the classwork so you don’t have to do it for them.
Seeking professional help
Recognising a build-up of frustration, anxiety or stress in both you and your child is important. Communicate with teachers, special educators or therapist about the struggles you are facing for better assistance. Reach out to a counsellor or psychologist if you or your child feel overwhelmed in any way. Talking about your frustrations with a professional who can suggest healthy ways to cope with the situation will help you and your child deal with stressful situations with more compassion and empathy.
Remember, one size does not fit all when it comes to learning disabilities but positive attitudes, resilient beliefs and healthy habits can bring back some normalcy during this pandemic.
The author is a school counsellor, The Aditya Birla Integrated School (TABIS)