Choosing a student care centre with learning intervention could be an option for parents who are looking into getting both accommodation and specialised professional help for their children with learning difficulties.
Realising that your child has learning difficulties can be especially trying for you as a parent. But the most important thing is to take positive steps to understand your child’s difficulties and also help your child overcome these difficulties.
Common types of learning difficulties
The most common types of learning difficulties facing students in Singapore involve difficulties with speaking, reading, spelling, writing and mathematics. Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are two of the most common learning disabilities diagnosed among children attending mainstream school.
Students having difficulties in speaking, reading and spelling usually find problem in learning the connection between letters and sounds, thus making frequent reading errors. They tend to struggle to pronounce words and often confuse basic words when reading, as well as tend to misspell words consistently.
For students with writing difficulty, finding the right words are a chore and they do not do well in handling open-ended test questions or organising their thoughts on paper and generating new ideas for writing.
There are also students that appear slow in grasping basic mathematical concepts; they face difficulty with recognising patterns when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing and some even experience difficulty in telling time.
Providing care during after-school hours
Understandably, parents strive to give their children utmost care and support to overcome their learning difficulties, not just in school, but also during after-school hours as well. Especially for working parents, a student care centre (SSC) will be the best option to provide care and supervision to their school-going children as there will be teachers on hand to keep an eye on their children and prevent them from having to wander around after school.
Most of the SCCs provide a conducive environment for the children’s holistic development in various dimensions – physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral development, as well as a place to rest after school hours. Generally, SSCs have a standard curriculum which includes supervision of children’s homework, play, providing lunch, bath, nap and playtime.
However, there is minimum educational teaching for students in such SSCs mainly because the teacher-to-students ratio in a typical SSC could be 1 to 25. This is not effective for learning and most SSCs provide only homework supervision at best, thus not making it very suitable for children with learning difficulties.
Moreover, children with learning disabilities see, hear, and understand things differently; therefore, the teachers must be qualified and have relevant experience in understanding and attending to these children’s needs.
Benefits of SSCs catered for learning intervention
Choosing a SSC with learning intervention could be an option for parents who are looking into getting both accommodation and specialised professional help for their children with learning difficulties. In addition to the usual curriculum offered by standard SSCs, parents can expect at least an hour per day being allocated to academic learning. Classroom size is kept small to make learning effective. The teachers are also trained to handle children low self-esteem and/or having challenging behaviours. It is common for children to experience frustration and stress during learning. Some SSCs with learning intervention will also have assistant teachers helping in the class.
Challenge of changing mindsets
Student care with learning intervention is a rather new concept in the Singapore market and sometimes it can be difficult to convince parents of its benefits.
Parents are more used to sending their kids to therapy sessions. But if such sessions are conducted only about once a week, they may not be as effective as enrolling them in a suitable SSC where new ideas and concepts can be reinforced and internalised more frequently and on a recurring basis.
Another challenge would be to getting parents to recognise early signs that could indicate their child may require extra help when it comes to learning and behavioural matters. The primary issue is that some parents refuse to accept that their child requires learning intervention and brush away the problem by convincing themselves that the child is still young and playful etc; and he or she will grow out of it over time. We would like to encourage parents to keep an open mind and be more receptive if they suspect their kids require any additional assistance. Most of the time, parents may not realise that the delays in recognising and accepting that their child requires assistance is undermining his or her chance in getting over the problem. The earlier the parents seek the right support, the higher the chance for the child to reach his or her full potential and readiness to stay on mainstream education.
Lastly, it is not easy to find staff including both teachers and other employees for SSCs with learning intervention. Generally, Singapore lacks of a pool of experienced teachers who are qualified to teach students with learning challenges.
Student care with learning intervention is certainly a worthwhile alternative to consider in particular when the child is having mild conditions. With suitable frequent and recurring intervention and support, these children stand a very good chance to recover fully from their problems and integrate well in the mainstream programme, thus enabling them to achieve their full potential in life. The starting point is for parents to have an understanding of indicators that their child might have learning difficulties.