Turning Learning Barriers into Learning Gifts

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A diagnosis of dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety or any other learning disorder can be an overwhelming experience. It may come with a sense of relief: Finally, there is an answer, a reason for why it has been so difficult for your child to concentrate in class, why they have been labelled too busy, non-compliant or why they are simply unable to do things that seem so effortless for other learners.

But, this diagnosis is not a solution – it is a signpost towards helping a student learn in the way that is best for them. Children with learning barriers often need more sensory stimulation, more hands- on experiences, they need answers to the questions that are burning in their minds before they can focus on multiplication! Put simply, they ‘learn differently’ to the way education is usually structured in mainstream classes.

Frequently, a diagnosis can also come with a range of misconceptions and too often, this term, “learn differently” brings to mind a conditioned form of thinking that implies non-academic, or intellectually deficient, but this is not the truth. Many of our learners at EduExcellence are “out of the box” thinkers, that simply require education to be presented differently. I am frustrated, challenged and sometimes exasperated by students. But it is rare that I go home unimpressed. On a daily basis, I see a fierce sense of independence, a thirst to genuinely learn and a willingness to debate topics that most students simply have not paused to question.

Recently, almost half of our Gr7 and 8 learners qualified to move forward to the regional round of the 2018 Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. We are immensely proud of our learners’ participation, and the bronze (Giovanna Machado and Jessica Meijboom) and silver (Luca Zannos) medals won, as well as the Popular Mechanics special award for The most promising Engineering Project (Luca Zannos).

At EduExcllence, we celebrate the fact that students have inborn, entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to ask ‘why’ – even when this does not fall neatly into a curriculum plan. We respect that students are young adults in training and need to be given responsibilities to help guide them towards making a meaningful contribution to the world one day. In accordance with this philosophy, we also held a work experience week for our Stage 8’s recently. The teenagers interned in everything from veterinary Science to IT and received glowing reports from their supervisors.
Students who learn differently are just as capable of being the engineers, doctors and entrepreneurs of the future, the pioneers who will try something new because… ‘why not?’. Far from being a hindrance, their ’barriers’ can be their greatest assets – providing them with an ability to see the world differently from their peers– sometimes quite literally! Although these children still need firm boundaries to structure their learning within, I believe it is time we start shifting our thinking to celebrate learners who think in a non-linear way and recognize what they are truly capable of.
**EduExcellence is a mainstream, therapy- based school that specializes in children that learn differently. We are a Cambridge Curriculum school with a unique neuro developmental program that works concurrent to the academic curriculum.

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