I am a mum to 3 wonderful boys, with very different learning needs. My eldest has always sailed through school and has a fantastic memory, making education relatively easy and fun for him and for me! Not so for my youngest 2 children. For years I had a feeling that something perhaps wasn’t quite right? I was doing a similar amount to help learn the basics at home, so why were they so far behind their peers, compared to my eldest?
Last July, my middle and youngest boys were diagnosed with a combination of educational needs. Son number 2’s main problems were diagnosed as; visual stress, (where writing can appear to move on the page you are reading), weak associative memory. Lastly, Slow Phonological and non-phonological processing speeds also greatly affect him. (It tracks the information you hear, whether that be out loud or in your head, until it can be processed, organised, or put to use. However, if your working memory for what you hear is limited due to problems with phonological processing, then the words may fade away before your brain has finished processing them. This means that you will find it hard to follow lessons and verbal instructions). Son number 3 just has dyslexia. Simple, right?
To be honest, it was a relief to finally have them diagnosed, once I was over the Mum guilt, that we all put ourselves through. Something WAS holding them back. They are in an education system where English and Maths dominate the curriculum, and fact based learning is STILL the norm, (despite a little invention called google, and that we all own a small pocket device more powerful than most of us even know). We are told the future market place needs creative thinkers and problems solvers, so why focus here, goodness only knows…Anyway, I don’t want to get too ranty about the state of our education system. I really admire the teachers who do an amazing job with no pay-rise for the last ten years, whilst having restrictive funding cuts forced upon them. I struggle with 3, let alone 30!
As a Mum, I had to learn how I could best help my kids with their new gifts. You have probably heard of all the legends that are dyslexic; Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Richard Branson, Picasso to name but a few. Whilst I know my children will go on to do great things, I’m also painfully aware that they need to conform for a bit. They need to tick a few boxes. They will need GCSE maths. And a science might be handy.
My research so far has been limited, working Mum and all that! Having found this out just before the summer holidays I discovered something called summer learning loss. LD on line explain – “The long summer vacation breaks the rhythm of instruction, leads to forgetting, and requires a significant amount of review of material when students return to school in the fall. Also, the long summer break can have a greater negative effect on the learning of children with special educational needs.”
I have found this site Nessy.com a real help as it is structured towards kids that have learning barriers. My boys love it, particularly the youngest and it has a huge range of topics. As its tech based, (that’s always a winner), they are rewarded for playing the educational games and you can track their progress. They’re also lucky enough to use it at school and it is being used to teach my eldest touch typing, making English less laborious for him.
Ultimately the biggest revelation for me is to break everything down in to really small chunks. So if we’re learning times tables, we learn one a day. As in 2 x 2 =4. That’s it. For one day. Next day, 2 x 6 = 12. Plus I re-test the one we learnt the day before, until all of the knowledge is stored in their heads.
Now, I know these are our own products but they have been so incredibly useful to help my own kids learn. If your kids are younger, or just starting school, you may also find our award winning educational placemats ideal. They can be written on with any washable felt tip pen, and you can chuck them in the dishwasher. When my boys were younger they helped hugely, as every day for a few minutes we could practice times tables, spellings or number line addition. When you have children with special educational needs you need to put a lot more in than with other children, purely to keep the playing field level.
I know as a working Mum, constantly juggling all the balls, how hard it is to find time. Which is why I designed the placemats. Just 5 minutes over any meal, and doesn’t really feel like learning. One of my friends who has them called them learning by stealth! Which I love! They have also won an award from Smallish magazine. We have recently launched them in a monochrome colourway as downloadable prints too.
Anyway, please do leave comments below, so we can all help each other out with advice and ideas. It’s not easy this Mum stuff, but it is the best job in the world.