There are many types of learning barriers such as lack of sleep, hunger, poor study habits or skills, lack of organization, learning disabilities, bullying, prejudice, teacher favoritism, self-imposed perfection, and concerns about parent’s love being contingent on a child’s success. Maintaining regular meal and sleep schedules are critical to a student being willing and able to learn. A posted household schedule which includes meal and study times will help your student be prepared for each day’s learning activities. Also, make sure your child is eating properly. If need be, sign up for the School breakfast and Lunch programs, so your child can concentrate on his studies and not on his empty stomach.
Study skills are not innate. We must be shown how to study effectively and efficiently. If you are not familiar with good study techniques ask a teacher to suggest study behaviors. Alternatively, you might have a tutor go over study techniques and practices with your child.
If you suspect your child might have a learning disability, you will want to have your child tested to determine what assistance he might require. The first place you should take your child is to have his eyesight tested as this is the most common problem. Work with your school to have other learning disabilities detected.
The last five barriers to learning involve dealing with external and internal emotional situations. The more options a child learns for dealing with these situations, the more likely it is he will be able to handle the stresses and return his focus to learning. The following coping mechanisms can help.
1. Read books together. (This is true for all ages.) Many parents stop reading with their children once they learn to read. Keep reading with them through their high school years. When a parent starts reading with a child, the purpose is to familiarize the child with basic reading skills. But once a child learns to read on his own, then the purpose can become a way to teach practical problem-solving skills. Talk about the conflicts or struggles the characters experience and what they did to deal with the situation. Judith Halsted’s book “Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Readers from Preschool to High School” lists books which address the issues children face.
2. Role play stressful situations to give your child words and actions to use if they have such an experience. Explain how their body may react in times of stress with feelings of fear, perspiration dizziness, rapid heartbeat, or clammy hands. When they experience such feelings they can utilize calming thoughts, measured breathing, if possible, they can remove themselves to a quiet place, notify a grown-up if they feel threatened, or employ other coping strategies. Practice verbal responses which could be used if needed.
3. Ask open-ended questions like “What would you do if… ?” to build problem-solving skills. These exercises work the executive functions of critical analysis, decision-making, and judgment. Open-ended questions by their nature can have several answers which can then be examined. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option? Then select the answer that provides the best fit.
4. Praise your child truthfully about specific achievements. Point out that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Let them know what their strengths are. But also explain that brains continue to grow as we age and we can shape that growth by what we do and what we understand about how our particular brain works. For instance, knowing how you learn best will help you to master new material. Most people are visual learners so reading, watching videos and seeing slideshows works well. But none of us learn in only one way. Reinforcing visual learning with aural and kinetic techniques is very useful. Hands-on experiments, field trips, touching objects, rhythmic recitation, songs, and hearing the sounds of a particular environment cement the memory in our brain and provide multiple pathways to retrieve the learned material.
5. Reading biographies and watching movies and documentaries about successful famous people can be useful as well. Learning what challenges famous people faced and how they dealt with those challenges can be a learning tool and motivational. Techniques used by others may also work for your child.
6. Encourage your child by appreciating who they are, not just what they do, to motivate and support the wonderful person he or she is. A child’s confidence in themselves as a valued member of their family boosts their ability to withstand stressful situations.
By working with your child to develop their repertoire of coping strategies and strengthening their physical capacity with the proper amount of food and sleep, you will be able to support your child in overcoming any barriers to learning they might experience.