Identifying Them and Taking Remedial Steps
Learning is an essential but complicated process that we follow life-long, from the moment we utter our first syllable to the time when we proudly hold high our college diplomas, and beyond- in our first job and subsequent ones, while teaching our children: the list continues…
In today’s world, unfortunately, ‘learning’ has become a one-size-fits-all process that is not tailored to suit a person’s abilities. This conformation of learning is especially true of our conventional school systems. The problem, however, is that not all children can adapt to such a rigid style of learning. Some children just cannot cope with the fast-paced and rigid approach that is characteristic of conventional teaching. Due to this, a gap forms between their true ability and their performance level and such children are then dubbed ‘Slow Learners’.
What does it mean to be a slow learner?
First and foremost, it is important to understand that slow learning is not a learning disability that can be classified as a diagnostic category. It is simply a term used to describe a student with the ability to acquire all necessary academic skills, but at a rate and depth below that of the average student. In order to grasp new concepts, a slow learner needs more time, more repetition, and often, more resources from teachers to be successful. Reasoning skills are typically delayed, which makes new concepts difficult to grasp.
What are some of the challenges, educational and otherwise, faced by slow learners?
Methodical classroom learning is progressive, which means that the acquisition of new skills will be based on already learnt concepts. When the majority of the class is moving at a quicker pace a slow learner tends to be left behind as he lacks some higher order thinking and reasoning skills. This formation of knowledge gaps in basic concepts and skills leads to a domino effect and manifests as a reduced comprehension ability across a wide spectrum of academic areas. The problem is progressive and should not be allowed to spiral out of control.
Our conventional school systems tend to ignore slow learners as other students in the class move at a different and faster pace. They are then dubbed as ‘failures’, ‘incapable’, or simply as not having sufficient IQ. What most people fail to understand is that the learning curve of the slow learner may be slow to begin with, but with sufficient remedial help, can soon resemble one of an average student. In most cases their learning curve is only delayed. For example, a slow learner maybe aged 20 or more when he completes high-school.
It’s also important to recognise that these students are typically keenly aware they are struggling with learning, and this can affect their self-confidence. Slow learners are prone to anxiety, negative self-image, and may be quick to give up. They often feel “unintelligent” and start resenting school. They spend all day doing something that is difficult for them and it can be very draining. They are often compulsive daydreamers who try to escape the struggles of the real world.
Slow learners also tend to struggle socially. In our judgmental society, they find it difficult to form close relationships and bond with children of their own age who fail to understand their special needs and simply look at them as ‘uninteresting or unworthy’ of friendship. In conventional schools, the lack of a close-knit friend circle can mean exclusion from extracurricular activities, sports, and other leisurely activities. Unfortunately, this only aggravates the problem as they require these distractions so they do not dwell on their academic difficulties for too long. What many do not understand is that although slow learners may struggle academically, they can excel just as well as anyone else in other areas. This is why it is important to implement techniques such as multiple-intelligences at a young age and allow the child to get his feet wet in a wide range of activities. If the child shows interest in a non-traditional field, he should be encouraged to put an equal amount of effort into it. Nonacademic strengths can boost the child’s self-confidence and can mask other social problems.