Last month we focused on the importance of a holistic approach to education; where supporting the whole child and their wellbeing is understood as essential to academic progress and to the development of healthy, engaged people. This is especially true in instances where students have more specific learning needs or acute challenges to their development.
Specific learning needs, disabilities and processing challenges can be tricky to accurately identify, much less understand and support. When parents feel that something ‘isn’t quite right’ in the classroom, or their child is struggling, it can be a daunting process to get to the bottom of it and find strategies to manage their learning in a way that works for them. This is why it is so important to understand what different professional support options exist and when to seek out their advice.
In addition to your tutoring provider, which should aim to work alongside the school in meeting the demands of formal education, your child may need additional, specialised support.
Occupational Therapist: Occupational Therapists work to help people with their everyday life; increasing independence and engagement with the community. They are often associated with clients who need a lot of physical support due to physical ability/injury. However, Occupational Therapists can support a wide variety of individuals. When working with children they consider many areas of child development such as emotions, ways of thinking and how they engage in play, behaviour, sensory processing, social interactions with others and gross and fine motor skills.
Speech Pathologist: Speech therapists focus specifically on the study of human communication; how it develops and disorders that can impact it. They assess speech, language, cognitive communication and the oral skills needed for feeding and swallowing. They can support children who have difficulties processing language, have difficulties with language patterns and vocabulary or have difficulties with memory, perception and regulation which impact on communication.
Paediatric or General Psychologist: A psychologist, or a paediatric-specific psychologist, can provide support for mental and emotional wellbeing. If a child is struggling to process their emotions, to interact positively with others, is facing issues of bullying, trauma, or is showing prolonged symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders, a psychologist can work to determine where they need support and what type of strategies to focus on.
Educational Psychologist: Educational psychology focuses specifically on learning and development and aims, not just to support individuals, but to advise curriculum changes and teaching professional development based on their study of how people learn. They work with students to determine how they individually learn and process information and provide targeted strategies to improve their performance and confidence; including support and understanding for self-regulation, behaviour, motivation, and stress management (all of which contribute greatly to learning!).
Everyone learns at their own pace and in their own way, which is why an individualised approach is so essential to education. It is often nothing to be concerned about if your child is ‘behind’ their peers in a particular area… but how do you know what is ‘normal’ and what is an indicator that some support from the professionals mentioned above may be needed?
This is often where having strong communication with your school and tutor is so important – it can help identify challenges and potential issues early, so interventions can be put in place to ensure your child receives the support they need. Asking your GP and any other educational experts in your child’s life are always great ways to use the immediate tools at your disposal. In the coming months, we will deep-dive into each of the professional supports mentioned.