BENEFITING: GMIN ORGANIZATION INC
Based on local news such as (http://www.healthxchange.com.sg/News/Pages/SGH-and-KKH-doctor-on-children-with-learning-difficulties.aspx), it is quite clear that children are suffering from learning disabilities and the numbers are growing. These kids suffer from disorders such as Dyslexia and ADHD, and other disorders like poor motor skills; they cannot control their actions, tend to get into accidents and are naturally clumsy. Symptoms include problems with fine motor skills such as difficulty in writing a straight line, so their words and sentences crawl all over the page.
I have been looking after and teaching students aged 7 to 14 years old in a student care centre in Jalan Bukit Ho Swee for over 2 years and I have been doing research on education since 2003, and these are my personal experiences with students who come from single parent families, parent/s in prison or drug centres, orphans taken care of by their grandparents.
Other than the problems mentioned above, what I understand is that these kids were born in the digital era, where gadgets are abundant but they don't have the means to own it or even if they do they will spoil it because they are naturally clumsy and do not know how to take care of things. They do not have focus, they cannot pay attention, they tend to be lazy and prefer to just play but amazingly this is not due to character faults but due to sensorial disorders that they are suffering from thus play and misbehaving is an escape from their reality.
Their caretakers have to work all day so they do not have proper supervision, they are usually left to themselves and would rather hang around under the block or around the estate doing nothing. They seem to be "rebels" but in reality they are actually pretending, just to be in their own bubble. Where does this stem from? This comes from sensory disorders which goes beyond ADHD and Dyslexia, there are many other sensory disorders in this digital age and this disorders creates young minds that are not able to grasp and process information or even understand their environment; they are incapable of handling their actions and emotions. Because of this failure to control their actions and emotions which comes from the disorder/s that the kid is facing, it makes the kid either shrink into their own bubble or behave more mischievously, just because they don't understand their own emotions and what's happening to them. A plus point as they grow older is that they see "tougher" kids or adults get away from situations by being stern or forceful and so they emulate such behaviour and it works. Once they experience control when they pretend to be bigger, tougher and more mean, they feel more secure.
These disorder/s will continue through even when they hit kindergarten and primary school. Families who are aware and can afford it, can send their child for a diagnose; an assessment to see what their disorders are, but families who are not aware or cannot afford it, will send their children to a normal school. Parents and teachers will look at their child or student as either shy and reserved or naughty and lazy. The case is more apparent with the naughty and lazy because these are normal human characteristics but for a researcher like me who is paying careful attention when I am observing my student/s, I realise that even the naughty and lazy are suffering from sensorial disorders. They start really young and when they are in kindergarten, they have no idea of what is happening, simply because they cannot comprehend what is being taught. Worse still, they seem to know but when asked the day after, they forget. Sometimes even right after a lesson, they suddenly forget what was taught. Their minds (brains) lack the basics of what learners should have such as paying attention and listening properly, because they grew up without much discipline or too much discipline and worse they just cannot do it; they try to pay attention and then suddenly something distracts them. That very minute everything that was taught suddenly vanished. In kindergarten, this experience will scare them but as they grow older, they realise that there is something wrong with them. This makes them feel very insecure, lose their morale and the energy required to continue seriously so they either shrink into their own bubble or start to misbehave, act silly and do nonsense things because being funny or naughty will give them attention. But most importantly, for once in their live, they are in control of what happens to them. Let's look at it from the child's point of view, I try to study but my mind keeps getting distracted even though I really want to focus, my eyes are seeing the letters of words in sentences (on paper) getting blurry or even falling and spinning. I want to study but I can't, I am not in control. But if I start acting silly or misbehaving, I will get a scolding or a beating, wow, I am in control. For a child that has not been able to control themselves, at last they can do something that puts them in control. This experience is probably by far, the most rewarding thing in their lives. So if it were you, would you study, just shut up and be shy or start misbehaving? Here's some evidence on what was said:- http://school-justicesummit.org/papers/paper_2.cfm
The problem with these kids is not character, it's their ability to control their actions and emotions and then it goes even further, their minds are not normal in terms of memory retention, they cannot process and comprehend information like normal children. They start to feel different so for example when they are in class, the reason why they either sit quietly or start "rebelling" by misbehaving and doing silly things, is simply because they don't understand what is being taught especially in the traditional manner. I studied and now I am an advocate of multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner; Harvard University) and this belief is shared with my consultant who has a PhD in education; Dr. Suraiya Shaik Ali. email@example.com. In Singapore, there are many children who are normal but there is a growing number of children who are not because of the lack of care and education, according to what they understand. Parents may look after their kids but not in the manner that the child understands. A child that is poor in other intelligences but strong in bodily kinaesthetic, has to be taught using actions; by doing something that they understand, will they only learn.
Personally, I have come across several cases where the child is taught a concept over and over again yet they cannot understand so I tried many methods of teaching especially because my centre's education framework is based on Imagine Inventions; it's 9 main frames of teaching and learning. Surprisingly, a concept taught using a particular method or methods will work on a child that cannot handle conventional methods of teaching. This proves that these children can actually learn and do well in school but they cannot in traditional schools. These children need to grasp their foundation of education using special methods like multiple intelligence method of learning and once their foundation is stable, maybe then they can move on to a normal school.
But the biggest problem that I face is not with the shy ones but with the ones who are deemed naughty and lazy. When their caretakers sent them to me, I was told that their child is naughty, does not like to listen, cannot pay attention and is very lazy. But in reality, these kids are misbehaving and lazy because of what was mentioned earlier; they simply cannot control their actions and emotions. The manner they receive their education is not according to what their brains are all about and want to receive; they simply cannot compute hence they "rebel"; they get attention and are feared by being rough and tough. When does this happen? As early as kindergarten, the "rebel" image is first formed. Why? Because they do not want to be looked down upon and would rather pretend to bigger than the their peers so that their peers will fear them. Misbehaving is fun because they'd rather get attention from their class than ponder at a subject and ask the teacher to explain what it is all about. They fear asking questions because they could have either experienced it themselves or watch others who asked a question, everyone laughed and the person who asked the question looked silly and stupid. Asking questions than becomes a stigma so the "rebels' would rather misbehave and do silly things to get recognition and attention. The "rebel" image is thus born and as they grow it gets worse and worse, especially because school is not just getting tougher and they simply cannot compute what they are learning, and have to face a barrage of comments from peers to families. They start getting more abusive, vulgar, anti social and will easily join a gang just to feel good that they are in a group and that the group will take care of them. They get into fights, petty thefts and start to become a nuisance to their family and society. But are they really bad or is it because of their sensory disorders that began as a child, has grown worse from time and now it is even more terrible because of their bad habits or characteristics? Yes. Very rarely do they get better unless they get proper intervention from family, society, peers or elders. Only then can they steer towards something that they are good at say a skill and doing well makes them feel good and that could change their lives. But the fact remains that from the time their sensory disorder took a toll to the time they changed, much damage was done. If they had an opportunity to turn back time and receive proper education according to their learning curve, then they would have been normal students and citizens.
There are the "rebels" and there are also the "shy ones". Say for example one of my preschoolers, she goes to kindergarten, she has a lot of fun singing, dancing, playing games but when it comes to paper, she is lost. When it comes to actually doing something on her own or with her peers, she is lost. Why? My suspect was ADHD & Dyslexia and I did online screening tests for her. The screening proved that she saw alphabets flying and turning. Other symptoms for Dyslexia includes blurry words, words (letters) that fall like rain, words that spin, etc. The moment that happens, this girl will be so afraid that one of her eye balls will go to the top corner of her eyes. And that was why she was not coping in school because she could not see alphabets and words in black and white. She has hope because Dyslexia can be handled and in certain cases, even cured. However, her brother is already in primary school and his P1 teacher called the father and said that "your son cannot read". Singapore's curriculum is such that students must be able to read by the time they are in primary 1, if not they will be lost. And it's not just learning or reading skills. These kids cannot do or manage many things because they cannot handle their sensory disorders. Both these students do not understand the sensory disorder that is happening with them and in their environment. This also happens when she meets somebody, she does not know how to handle a simple meeting and communication with another person; be it her peers or an older person. She is insecure and has very little confidence. She is afraid of doing things for fear of God knows what. So she is in kindergarten, she pretends that everything is ok but in true fact, she doesn't know what her peers are doing. She tried to follow and even pretends to follow but in reality she has no idea of what is happening.
After studying sensorial disorders, I found out that there are quite a number of kids in these world who are suffering from unknown sensory disorders and many have no learning skills or capabilities and because of these disorders, these kids become insecure, have no confidence and some are even afraid of school work just because they do not understand what they are looking at. And that depletes them of the energy required, to just sit down and try because they have no idea of what they are supposed to do, even if they are given the explanation over and over again; the concept, just does not compute with their minds. These students need alternative education. These students need to learn according to their intelligence. Multiple intelligence assessment is very difficult, cost money and according to Prof Howard Gardner is best done through sheer observation and actual situations; putting and giving the child various tools and methods of learning, to truly understand what method will work for the child. Children evolve and so will their intelligence, hence constant monitoring and change is critical.
I have many more students like these two and they are all facing the same problem including my youth at risk. And it was not surprising to know that all of them cannot cope with Maths and Science, simply because they do not have the logical intelligence or posses linear thinking, which is a major problem in their ability to learn; they cannot and do not know how to do things step by step. They were taught but they need to learn how to do things step by step, in a manner that they understand and comprehend. For most of them, everything is all over the shop or there is nothing there at all; their minds are blank. Maths and Science are boring because it requires them to think and some even get headaches when they think so they would rather stop. Even when I let them watch cool videos or play fun games to prove that Maths and Science can be cool, fun or even mad and wacky, the video and game interests them but to learn how to do it themselves or take part in a project to build and construct something, is just way too much work and requires too much thinking. Some might say they are lazy which is true in a way, but the main fact remains is that they seriously "think" they cannot do it. At the back of their head, they think why do it because I will fail. They do not have the confidence to do such things because of previous experiences.
Their struggles show up as frustration, anger, conflict, loss of motivation and confidence, poor academic work, low test scores and absenteeism. The future for most students with learning disabilities who academically fall far behind their peers looks bleak, leading to higher school dropout rates, low paying jobs, crime, social alienation and family strife.
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From 2012 to date, it is clear that many of these students are suffering from learning disabilities and sensorial disorders like Dyslexia, ADHD and even speech impairment. Unfortunately, they are going to normal schools thus I can see based on their report books, that they are simply not coping with the pace. They are not stupid and many are even talented but they need to learn, differently. They need custom designed learning according to their learning curves and they need a lot more discipline and the discipline must come from them, they must learn and understand that their behaviours make them look not cool. Using me as an example, they like being cool but funny. The students are made to realise, see themselves through a mirror and understand their actions and statements that they make, in a manner that they like and don't like. I emphasize the "get real" so "get tougher" by being better - slogan. I don't want them to shrink or grow without giving thought to what they can do to remedy their situation. Everyone is able, to a certain degree, handle or overcome their problems. "I am not stupid" is reinforced to prove that if they cannot do things using one method then why not try a different method. Based on my daily lessons, I constantly prove to students by trying out different methods, that they can actually grasp a concept, idea, formula, etc. Before, during and after the multiple intelligence assessments, students were made to realise what is multiple intelligence and what are their weak and strong intelligences. For the first time, students were quite happy that maybe (still lacking confidence) that they are not stupid.