QF educators help parents identify learning difficulties in children
Sep 18, 2021 – 9:28 AM
Rita Bou Chebel (left) and Jody Roberson
Doha: At the start of a new school year, with students pursuing blended learning due to COVID-19, many parents are getting more involved in their children’s education and monitoring their milestones.
However, some parents may find it difficult to determine if their child has a specific learning difficulty, or if blended learning is affecting their skill development or pace in certain subjects.
To help parents understand the difference between “learning difficulties and learning gaps” and how the pandemic has affected children’s academic performance, Jody R Roberson, psychologist at The Learning Center (TLC) – a specialist center for supporting students with mild to moderate learning needs through Qatar Foundation Schools (QF), and part of QF’s pre-university education, explains criteria parents should consider when their child’s assessment.
The pandemic has altered the speed at which students progress in many areas, such as reading fluency, according to Roberson. “Because teaching formats have changed, it is normal to have more 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 extra support, extra practice, and tutoring.
“Extra consideration should be given to children learning a second language,” said Roberson. Children in Qatar learn two different languages simultaneously, such as reading and writing right to left in Arabic and left to right in English, which is a challenge for many students.
“Having both a social language and an academic language in Arabic and English can often appear to be a delay in processing when in reality it is just the brain switching from one language to another” , said Roberson.
In the current situation, Roberson recommends that teachers and parents turn to professionals if they have concerns about a student’s performance. A qualified psychologist can help determine if this is a treatment difficulty or a delay in the development of learning.
A student’s age is another benchmark for reading fluency that can help identify a learning disability from only developmental delay, according to Rita Bou Chebel, senior teacher at Awsaj Academy, which is part of the Qatar Foundation pre-university education.
“Reading is a difficult task that requires several skills, such as phonemic awareness, phonetics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. In general, most children can read by the age of six or seven, which corresponds to around the third year, ”explains Bou Chebel.
Qatar Foundation schools have a referral system in their schools. Teachers can refer a student from any school in the QF ecosystem to a team of specialists and therapists who observe and assess a child for learning difficulties after obtaining parental consent.
“After a student has been referred, observed and assessed, and in collaboration with the head teacher and parents, a plan is put in place to provide the necessary services and therapies to students based on their needs,” said declared Bou Chebel.
Blended learning is a new setup for students, parents and teachers, Bou Chebel said.
“It takes more effort on the part of the teachers to get the students’ attention and to keep the student focused. Usually the interaction and the classroom environment facilitate learning and interaction between teachers and students. ”