Monday, 25 October 2021 04:23 GMT

QF educators help parents identify learning difficulties in children

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Doha: At the start of a new academic year, with students continuing with hybrid learning due to COVID-19, many parents are getting more involved in their children's education and monitoring their milestones. 

However, some parents can find it challenging to identify if their child has a specific learning difficulty, or whether blended learning affects their skills development or pace in certain subjects. 

To help parents understand the difference between“learning difficulties and learning gaps” and how the pandemic affected children's academic performance, Jody R Roberson, a psychologist from The Learning Center (TLC) — a specialised centre for supporting students with mild to moderate learning needs across Qatar Foundation (QF) schools, and part of QF's Pre-University Education — explains the benchmarks that parents should consider when assessing their child. 

The pandemic has changed the rate at which students progress in many areas, such as reading fluency, according to Roberson.“Because the teaching formats have changed, it is normal to have a wider diversity among children, and gaps in their learning,” he said. 

Yet, it is essential to note that a learning gap differs from an actual learning difficulty. And they can be overcome with additional support, additional practice, and tutoring.

“An additional consideration should be given to children that are second language learners,” Roberson said. Children in Qatar are learning two different languages simultaneously, such as reading and writing from right to left in Arabic and left to right in English, which poses a challenge for many students. 

“Having both a social language and an academic language in Arabic and English can often appear as a delay in processing when it is actually just the brain switching between languages,” Roberson said.

In the current situation, Roberson recommends that teachers and parents look to professionals if they have concerns about a student's performance. A qualified psychologist can help determine if it is a difficulty in processing or a delay in learning development.
Another benchmark for reading fluency that can help identify a learning difficulty from only a development delay is the student's age, according to Rita Bou Chebel, Lead Teacher at Awsaj Academy, part of Qatar Foundation's Pre-University Education.

“Reading is a challenging task that requires several skills, such as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. In general, most kids can read by the age of six or seven, which is around Grade 3,” says Bou Chebel.

Qatar Foundation schools have a referral system across its schools. Teachers can refer a student from any of the schools within the QF ecosystem to a team of specialists and therapists who observe and assess a child for learning difficulties after taking the parents' consent.

“After a student is referred, is observed and assessed, and in collaboration with the homeroom teacher and parents, a plan is put in place in order to provide the necessary services and therapies to the students based on their needs,” said Bou Chebel.
Hybrid learning is a new setup for students, parents, and teachers as well, Bou Chebel said. 

“It requires more effort from teachers to grab the students' attention and for the student to stay focused. Usually, the classroom interaction and environment facilitate learning and interaction between teachers and students." 


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