Learning Differently

THOSE WHO LEARN DIFFERENTLY

Struggling learners encompass a diverse group of students facing challenges in their educational journey. These challenges can arise from various factors, including specific learning differences such as Dyslexia or ADHD, gaps in foundational knowledge and skills, executive functioning difficulties, attention and focus issues, as well as emotional and behavioural concerns.

Some of these students may have received a formal diagnosis of a learning difference, while others may not meet all the diagnostic criteria but still require additional support to achieve. DAS is dedicated to providing tailored interventions that empower struggling learners with the tools and strategies needed to achieve their true potential.

Demographic of Struggling Learners

1. Special Education Students (10%) – SpLD Learners

  • These students have received a formal diagnosis, such as dyslexia.
  • They require specialised support tailored to their specific learning differences.
  • Our programmes are designed to address their unique needs and help them succeed academically.

2.  Students Who Need Supplemental Support (20%)

  • These students are at risk of “falling through the cracks” academically.
  • They do not have a formal diagnosis of a learning difference.
  • They may not meet the standard academic benchmarks expected for their grade level and they may not meet all the criteria of a specific learning difference.
  • The focus is on providing additional resources, strategies, and guidance to help them improve their academic performance and bridge learning gaps.
  • Our support programmes can bridge the gaps in their learning and boost their performance.

3.  Intermittent Strugglers (5% – 10%)

  • This group consists of students who are not mandated for special education services.
  • They do not receive ongoing supplemental support but may face occasional academic challenges.
  • Intermittent strugglers may benefit from intermittent assistance to address specific difficulties as they arise while fostering self-sufficiency in their learning journey.
  • Our programmes can provide them with the skills and strategies to help them in their studies. 

A Case Study of a Struggling Learner

A Child who Learns Differently

Follow Ben’s Journey and discover how DAS can support struggling learners.

Ben's Journey

Discover how DAS is supporting Struggling Learners. Read about Ben who learns differently

Ben's Journey Part 2

Explore why Ben didn't receive a formal dyslexia diagnosis although he was struggling to learn.

Ben's Journey Part 3

Recommendations and strategies from the assessment report for Ben's learning are discussed.

Ben's Journey Part 4

Ben's progress and Educational Future is discussed in this article.

WE’VE EXPANDED ACCESS TO ALL DAS PROGRAMMES!

DAS is excited to announce that we have redefined “access” to all our programmes.
A diagnosis of a specific learning difference is no longer a prerequisite. We have now opened our doors to
struggling learners, whether they have a formal diagnosis of a learning difference or not.  To access our programmes all students will undergo profiling tests, a simple step to ensure they are placed in a class that suits their learning needs best. We’re dedicated to providing tailored support to every child, empowering them to reach their full potential.

 

The Dyslexia Association of Singapore recognises that all students deserve access to quality education and support, regardless of the obstacles they face. By providing specialist services for struggling learners DAS aims to level the playing field for these students and help them achieve their true potential.

Struggling learners are eligible for DAS programmes, but without a formal diagnosis of a learning difference, they do not qualify for the MOE grant that is applicable to the Main Literacy Programme (MLP). However, while struggling learners may not be eligible for the MOE grant, DAS’ range of programmes and services, including MLP, can equally benefit struggling learners and help them overcome their learning challenges. DAS programmes are designed to help students build their foundational literacy skills, improve their confidence, and develop a love of learning that will serve them well throughout their academic journey.

We encourage parents to contact DAS directly to learn more about the programmes and services that are available for struggling learners, and to discuss the options that may be best suited to their child’s needs.

Find out more about services for Struggling Learners HERE

STRUGGLING LEARNERS ARE THOSE WHO LEARN DIFFERENTLY

At DAS, we understand that every child’s educational journey is unique. While some learners progress smoothly, others may encounter learning gaps or struggle with foundational skills. We believe that with the right support and resources, these challenges can be overcome, and every child can reach their full potential. In this guide, we’ll explore how we address learning gaps and help build strong educational foundations.

UNDERSTANDING LEARNING GAPS – LACK OF FOUNDATIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS

Learning gaps refer to the areas in a student’s education where they haven’t grasped essential concepts or skills necessary to progress. These gaps can emerge for various reasons, including missed instruction, interruptions in learning, or differences in learning pace.

Common Signs of Learning Gaps:

  • Difficulty Advancing: A student may find it challenging to move to more advanced topics because they haven’t fully understood foundational concepts.
  • Struggles with Mastery: Difficulty mastering basic skills like reading, writing, math, or critical thinking can be indicative of learning gaps.
  • Low Confidence: Learners with gaps may lack confidence in their abilities, affecting their overall motivation, perseverance and self-esteem.
  • Frustration: As learners encounter difficulties, they may become frustrated, leading to disengagement from learning.

EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING CHALLENGES

Many students face unique challenges that can impact their educational experience. One such challenge is Executive Functioning issues, which play a crucial role in a student’s ability to plan, organise, manage time, and more. In this guide, we delve into the realm of Executive Functioning and its significance in the lives of struggling learners.

Challenges Faced by Struggling Learners with Executive Function:

Struggling learners may experience difficulties in one or more areas of Executive Functioning. These challenges can manifest as:

  • Disorganisation: Students may struggle with keeping track of assignments, materials, and deadlines.
  • Time Management Issues:  Difficulty in managing time effectively, leading to missed assignments or poor time allocation.
  • Procrastination:  Putting off tasks until the last minute, which can negatively impact academic performance.
  • Forgetfulness:  Frequent lapses in memory, making it challenging to remember instructions or complete tasks.
  • Impulsivity:  Acting without thinking through consequences, which can affect decision-making and behaviour in the classroom.

ATTENTION AND FOCUS CHALLENGES

One common hurdle that many struggling learners encounter is difficulty in sustaining attention and maintaining focus. In this guide, we explore the complexities of attention and focus issues and their impact on students’ learning experiences.

Challenges Faced by Struggling Learners with Attention and Focus Issues:

Struggling learners may encounter various attention and focus challenges, which can manifest as:

  • Short Attention Span:  Difficulty in maintaining focus for extended periods during lessons or when completing assignments.
  • Easily Distracted:  Tendency to become sidetracked by external stimuli or internal thoughts.
  • Difficulty with Multitasking:  Trouble managing several tasks at once, leading to reduced efficiency and accuracy.
  • Inconsistent Focus:  Uneven attention span, making it challenging to sustain engagement in various subjects or activities.
  • Difficulty Shifting Attention:  Struggles when switching between tasks or adjusting focus as needed.

BEHAVIOURAL AND EMOTIONAL CONCERNS

At DAS, we recognise that every student’s journey in education comes with its unique set of challenges. For some, these challenges may extend beyond the academic realm, encompassing emotional and behavioural concerns that affect their overall well-being.

Challenges Faced by Struggling Learners with Behavioural and Emotional concerns:

Struggling learners often grapple with emotional and behavioural concerns that can hinder their academic progress and overall development. These challenges may include:

  • Frustration:  Feelings of frustration or inadequacy in response to academic difficulties, leading to avoidance of learning tasks.
  • Isolation:  Withdrawing from social interactions due to anxiety or difficulties in social situations.
  • Low Self-Esteem:  Negative self-perceptions stemming from academic struggles, impacting self-confidence.
  • Behavioural Outbursts:  Expressing frustration or stress through disruptive behaviours in the classroom.

SUPPORTING STUDENTS WHO LEARN DIFFERENTLY

Teaching students with learning differences can be challenging. However, when accommodations are made within the classroom this can help them to learn and navigate the day-to-day routine of the classroom.

Remember – these accommodations work well for all students not only those with learning differences.

 

Repeat, write, and follow up on classroom instructions! Students who have difficulty following your instructions will need to have them repeated. Asking the student to repeat the instructions back to you will ensure that they have acknowledged what they need to do.  Always follow up with the student to ensure that they have understood your instructions. Write out sequential instructions to help them to remember what to next after completing one task or step. Knowing what they have to do next can be difficult without clear reminders or visual cues.

Important step-by-step instructions need to be provided in small sequential steps, especially where these steps are difficult or need to be completed in a particular way. Instructions should be provided in hand-outs with the steps numbered clearly and preferably with visual cues to identify clearly what is required with each step.

Tell students what is expected of their day. Write up a timetable on the board so that they have a concept of time throughout the day. Structured days will help students to stay on track and it gives them a cue on how they should manage their time during the day.

Important step-by-step instructions need to be provided in small sequential steps, especially where these steps are difficult or need to be completed in a particular way. Instructions should be provided in hand-outs with the steps numbered clearly and preferably with visual cues to identify clearly what is required with each step.

Students with learning differences can have problems with organisation. This means they can be forgetful and will not be prepared for a day of learning. Have extra stationery supplies available for them and before they go home each day remind them of the things they may need for the following day.  If it is important that they remember something – send home a note in their diary or email their parents so they can support you in making sure your student is prepared.

Provide students with visual and verbal information simultaneously. Students with dyslexia tend to use visual cues to understand information. Using visual cues within the classroom either on the board or in a hand out can help them to understand the verbal instruction you provide.

 

Prior to your teaching make sure that new vocabulary words are displayed in the room. When talking about key words display them in the classroom so that students can access them at later times when they need to use them. Words should also have visual representations with them where possible.

Find ways in which information can be taught using as many senses as possible. The more senses that are used while learning, the higher chance that information will be retained. The more interesting a lesson is the higher likelihood that a student is engaged in learning and enjoys their educational journey.

Encourage students to use an organiser to plan their time, projects, homework, activities etc. Have them use different colouring systems for different subjects.  Review their diaries regularly to ensure that they are using them effectively. Have a section where you can write notes to parents where necessary. Use a signature system to ensure that parents review the diary too.

 

Students can be in control of their own learning if they have the aids to support them. Calculators, electronic dictionaries, counters, word cards, spelling lists, number lines are all ways in which a student can be successful in a classroom. If the child is allowed a laptop, iPad or other electronic devices then utilise assistive technology to support their learning. 

 

Copying from the board is a difficult activity for a student with learning differences.  It is time consuming and jeopardises the students’ learning when they do not copy the information correctly or completely. Incomplete and inaccurate information hinders their review at a later date especially when studying for tests and exams. Create activities on handout sheets that includes information they need to have.

 

Avoid giving long spelling lists to students with dyslexia. Try to give them words in a word family eg, boil, coil, and spoil. Find a way that the child can learn words they have particular difficulty with. For example, make up a ‘sentence’ from the word:

 

  • becauseBig Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants
  • whichWhich House Is Charlie’s House?

 

For older learners – ensure that they are made aware of important curriculum words that they cannot spell incorrectly, provide them with a glossary of words so that they can refer to them during their lessons.

Reading is challenging for students with learning differences, it takes more time and they will not be reading as well as their peers which makes it difficult for them to be accommodated in reading groups. They are also not accessing the same books that their peers are reading for pleasure. Make sure the students are reading daily to increase their exposure to texts and to support their progress in reading. Having a parent volunteer read with students every day is a good way to ensure students have supervised reading practice.

Reading out aloud to the class is a difficult, sometimes embarrassing and can be a humiliating task for a student with learning differences. If they need to read in front of class prepare them beforehand and provide them with the text they will be reading so that they can practice the passage. This should be done with enough time for them to feel confident in reading in front of class, preferably the day before it is to happen. Otherwise do not call on them to read. Let them listen, so they can concentrate on the text they need to understand.

 

As reading is challenging for students with learning differences it also takes longer for them to gain meaning from texts.  Extra time to revise texts is important to ensure accurate comprehension. Providing extra time in exams as well as times when students need to extract information from texts is vital. Using text-to-speech software will help with the speed of reading and help with comprehension. Sometimes a student with dyslexia needs to read and hear the text to gain meaning from it.

Some students need to be told explicitly what information is important.  Work on a method to let them know important information that must be remembered. Use a specific highlighter, or stamp, or asterisk points where this information occurs.  Alternatively, create a revision sheet at the end of a lesson or subject to reinforce important points. Show students how to revise and study what they will be tested on.

Students with learning differences may find it difficult to participate in classroom discussions. This may be due to failures in the past, when trying to participate caused embarrassment. Allow them to be part of the classroom participation by preparing them beforehand. Tell them that they will never be called upon to answer questions without warning and allow them time to research answers they will need to give in class. Giving a student time to prepare answers will ensure success and make them more confident in putting up their hand to answer questions at other times.

Students with learning differences are NOT lazy or unable to perform. With additional support they will be valuable members of the classroom. Helping them to be organised, manage their time and show them ways in which they can make the best of information and learning time will help them to be confident learners. Teachers who have high expectations in learning for their students will bring out the best qualities of each student.

Students formally diagnosed with dyslexia typically have an official psychological report with a 3-year validity that details their profile of learning needs and recommendations on strategies or support for learning. Recommendations may also be made for access arrangements where necessary, by professionals such as psychologists, doctors, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists. They may give you advice on how to proceed with the application. If the access arrangements are approved, then it is beneficial to allow students to experience them in regular classroom situations before they sit for the actual examinations.  All access arrangements are required to be approved by the MOE SEAB—Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board.

As students fail, sometimes at easy things, they can be bullied and teased by their classmates. Do your best to dispel negative connotations associated with dyslexia and talk about how everyone has different learning styles – we all have strengths and weaknesses. 

Show students samples of expected output required from them. Modelling work to students with dyslexia provides them with your expectations of the output that is required for a piece of work. Taking away the unknown helps them to plan the time and effort required to complete their work. Where necessary, help your student to plan what is involved in producing a piece of work. Reduce anxiety that occurs with larger pieces of work by breaking it down into manageable chunks. 

Overlearning is essential! You can never assume that teaching something once or twice will ensure the student with dyslexia has remembered important information. Practice and repetition is vital for them to understand concepts and acquire the right information. Research tells us that a student with dyslexia needs ten times more practice than their classmates. Find ways in which information can be repeated in different ways to make this ‘practice’ interesting.

Take into account the content and effort that went into the work rather than how it looks and the mistakes present.  Do not correct every error.  No student likes their work to be covered in red marks showing the errors they have made. Choose words that must be learned and add them to a spelling list. Where errors are highlighted there should be equal positive comments made on a student’s work too!

Students who have learning differences can have many strengths in other academic and non-academic areas. Promotion and integration of these strengths into their learning will help them to be confident learners and will build their self-esteem.

Partner with parents in their child’s learning journey. Be open and honest about their child’s progress and gain their support for your teaching by having them support you in your efforts at home. To do this you need to stay in close contact with them, provide them with the aids they need to support their child at home. If you keep parents informed, then there will be a higher likelihood of the child being prepared for school and homework completed when required. Waiting to speak to the parents at the Parent-Teacher interview is too late. Get in contact with them early and stay in contact. Parents often hear a lot of the negative feedback – make sure you provide positive feedback to them too!

Students with learning differences need more time to complete activities. Be mindful of this and allow them to have more flexibility in completing tasks, ensure that the rest of the class is not waiting for the student to finish by differentiating work across the classroom. For those students who finish quickly have additional tasks that they can do while slower students are finishing their work.

 

Fairness in the classroom does not mean that each child receives equal amounts of your time. Students who have difficulty in learning need more of your time.  Teachers who want their students to be successful will provide the time necessary for each one to achieve their goals.

 

Teachers, you have a chance to make a difference in the life of a student with learning differences.  Many students with learning differences find school a challenging and difficult place to be, some hate it while others will persevere with their studies.  How a teacher supports them has a direct effect on their learning outcomes.  Make a difference in the life of a student with learning differences and believe in their educational journey.

 

DOES YOUR CHILD STRUGGLE TO LEARN?

HERE IS A CHECKLIST THAT MAY HELP YOU DECIDE IF THEY NEED SUPPORT

DOES YOUR CHILD…

(Tick the box for any questions that might apply to your child)

Struggle with spelling, grammar or writing?

Have difficulty with math or problem-solving?

Have difficulty with reading and reading comprehension?

Have trouble keeping up with their schoolwork, despite their best efforts?

Find it challenging to remember information they have previously learned?

Have difficulty in understanding or completing homework assignments?

Have challenges in staying organised and planning their time?

Find writing task challenging and don’t know where to start?

Have difficulty expressing themselves clearly or understanding others?

Have emotional or behavioural challenges that impact their learning?

Frequently express frustration or negative feelings about their schoolwork?

Have difficulty expressing themselves clearly or understanding others?

 

Have trouble regulating emotions, such as getting upset or frustrated easily?

Have difficulty with social interaction or making friends?

Tells you he/she does not want to go to school?

HAS YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER MENTIONED TO YOU THAT YOUR CHILD:

(Tick the box for any questions that might apply to your child)

Does not hand in homework on time or at all?

Is unable to demonstrate their knowledge in written work

Has poor academic progress in relation to his/her peers?

Has trouble paying attention or staying focused in class?

Has trouble following instructions?

Is not enjoying school?

If you have concerns about your child’s learning based on your observations and response to this checklist, we encourage you to reach out to DAS to learn more about how we can support your child’s learning needs.