International Literacy Day, celebrated worldwide since 1867 on September 8th, was a good opportunity to reflect on the fact that learning to read and write constitutes a basic human right, and on the impact the pandemic has had, and continues to have, on children’s literacy learning.
The truth is that not everyone can access learning in the same way during a pandemic. And although most families will by now be familiar with the demands of remote schooling, no one can dispute that the organisation required constitutes a real challenge for many: one that is inversely proportional to the age of the child, but yet seems positively correlated to the presence of learning difficulties.
Despite efforts made by educational institutions to ensure continued learning through remote schooling, the detection of a student’s difficulties by the teacher in this context can be compromised. The ability that parents will have to support their child and help them navigate this new reality, albeit temporary, will therefore be decisive.
A few simple support measures can have a huge impact on the experience your child will have of remote schooling:
- Take an interest in what your child is learning specifically: this will increase their motivation to learn. Some will need a more consistent parental presence, others will function with sporadic ‘check-ins’. For older children who are more autonomous, dinner time conversations in relation to their learning can also be motivating.
- Help your child to organise their schedule and learning environment: establish a family routine, reflect on what has worked during the previous lockdown; incorporate complementary needs in the routine (recreation, off-screen time, physical activity, etc.).
- Encourage autonomy and self-regulation in learning: help the child to formulate goals (some will be motivated to learn for the sake of learning, others are more enclined towards performance; set up mini challenges, for example ‘Try to remember 7/10 words this time; Try to build a 15cm bridge with Lego’).
- Maintain regular communication with school; read the communications sent, they often contain great tips; consult their page on social media, keep informed of developments; do not communicate with them only when you are facing difficulties. More than ever, schools need parents to better understand how the child is learning.
- Do not try to do it all yourself. Collaborate with other parents of your child’s class; become a host for a virtual meeting where a shared reading can occur, a maths problem can be solved, an art activity can be done, etc. This could bring much relief to other parents, even if just for a moment.
For some, despite all the efforts made, the situation will be alarming. Suddenly, the difficulties become real, observable and tangible. It is no longer necessary to wait for the next report card or a communication from the teacher to question how your child is doing compared to his/her classmates, in this new learning environment. These parents often feel helpless or unable to help their child learn better. They not only have to deal with the social isolation created by the confinement, but also their own feeling, or that of their child, of having to face the difficulties that arise on their own.
It is in this context that many families are contacting us now. They experience their child’s difficulties on a daily basis and want to set up support quickly. As educational institutions have had to do, speech pathology services also had to quickly adapt to ensure continuity of support for students with special needs through telehealth. The current context also allowed some families to access care where this was previously considered impossible.
When facing difficulties, do not suffer in silence. It has never been this easy to get help. Contact a professional who will know how to guide you and advise you. Support that is put in place early can prevent a situation of school failure later on.
Orthophonie Sydney, a speech pathology practice established in Sydney more than 20 years ago, specialises in the development of language, reading, writing in a context of French-English bilingualism. Don’t hesitate to contact us for help!