Helping children who are slow learners excel
When dealing with slow learners, patience and grace are important virtues to remember. Instead of being ashamed, parents must help them reach their true potential.
Personally, I despise the term slow learner. To label children as anything at all is deplorable, but to label them as ‘slow’ is demeaning and degrading–not to mention telling them they are not as good as others.
But nevertheless, there are children who do need extra help and who do need specialised teaching to allow them to learn and grow. Does this make them a slow learner? Maybe, but remember–if you tell someone they are something long enough and loud enough they will become just that.
Telling your slow learner he needs extra attention
One of the most difficult tasks of parents and educators is to determine if their child is a slow learner because they cannot keep up with others or because they choose not to keep up with others.
A child who is labeled a ‘slow learner’ is one who:
- Reaches normal infant and toddler milestones later than the average child on a consistent basis. These milestones include crawling, walking, speech and vocabulary and motor skills such as clapping, hopping, skipping, recognising eyes, ears, etc.
- Has trouble concentrating–all children have limited attention spans. but those who have trouble concentrating for more than two or three minutes at a time and are unable to recall what they did in that time and/or repeat what they did without instruction or prompting later on, will likely be in need of specialised attention and be labeled ‘slow learners’.
- Struggles with the simplest of concepts and has difficulty retaining what they learn. This is a true indicator of a child with a learning disability. But rather than focusing on the disability, focus on finding how to work with the disability to make it less of an issue.
- Is socially immature or reclusive. Children who are labeled ‘slow learners’ will a) notice the fact that they are ‘slow’ or learning at a different pace or b) be singled out by the teacher and/or their peers as being ‘slow’. This is embarrassing, humiliating and demeaning to a child. Their self-esteem and confidence levels suffer tremendously and they withdraw in an effort to shield themselves from the pain–holding it inside themselves.
A parent’s responsibility
If your child is labeled a ‘slow learner’, then slow things down for them. Give them the grace and time they need and deserve to reach their potential. Provide for them the environment and tools necessary to excel.
Think about it–if your child was a gifted musician, wouldn’t you do whatever you could to make sure they were able to develop that talent to the fullest? No child deserves any less of a chance.
What you can do to help your child
- Provide a quiet work/study area. Distractions are detrimental.
- Keep assignments and homework sessions short. Again, it’s the attention span thing.
- Be accessible. Help your child. Help doesn’t mean do the work for them, but help them work through the assignment giving clues, having them repeat the process or concept with similar questions and problems, etc.
- Ask questions such as ‘what does that word mean?’ ‘do you see how that works?’ ‘why did you choose that answer?’.
- Read to your child.
- Be patient and consistent.
- Do not allow them to give up on their work or themselves. If necessary, take a break, but always come back to the task and see it through to completion.
- Don’t be overprotective. Labelling your child as a ‘slow learner’ only makes them feel slower. Don’t ever tell them they can’t accomplish something. Instead, help them find a way to get it done–in their own time.
- Be their advocate. Stay connected with their teachers and make sure your child doesn’t fall through the cracks of the system.
Every child has potential. Not every child will be a doctor, nuclear scientist or college professor. But who cares! If they were, we’d be hungry, naked and wouldn’t have a cell phone to chat on, now would we.