10 September 2021

Concerns for children with learning difficulties as lockdown fatigue worsens

| Dominic Giannini
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Home schooling

Homeschooling home learning. Photo: Kelly Sikkema.

School students are finding it difficult to study from home and are suffering from lockdown fatigue, according to one learning difficulties expert.

Canberra Learning & Development Centre director Marcelle Sternbeck-Rutter says children with learning difficulties or who suffer from neurodiversity – meaning they think and behave differently from their classmates – are even more disadvantaged.

During the ACT’s previous lockdown in 2020, the centre was inundated with parents wanting extra work for their children and people were generally coping quite well.

But now parents and students have become jaded and lethargic towards working and learning from home, Ms Sternbeck-Rutter told Region Media.

“There is definitely a lot of fatigue this time around,” she said. “Most of the kids we deal with have some kind of learning difficulty or are neurodiverse.

“A lot of kids who are on the spectrum, in particular, or who have more serious learning difficulties opted out of Zoom sessions because they found it overwhelming.”

READ ALSO How to make lockdown memorable for kids

Students in the ACT will spend the rest of term three learning from home, while the COVID-19 lockdown is in place until at least 17 September. Details about learning during term four will be finalised in the first week of school holidays.

Ms Sternbeck-Rutter says online teaching has progressed since last year with teachers using more individualised sessions to mentor students. However, face-to-face learning is still preferred by the majority of children she speaks to.

“Face-to-face is preferable and that is what most kids want. When I canvassed the kids, most of them wanted to go back to school because they miss their friends and interaction with their teachers.

“[But] some kids like the online Zoom sessions because they can focus better for the hour.

“Kids who are very digitally savvy also like the online learning aspect because it is more flexible, and the flexibility of hours is also good. One student told me that when she feels like having a nap, she can have a nap and then go back to her schoolwork.”

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There are fears that children who struggle with technology are put at a further disadvantage. Most of the people who opted out of the organisation’s Zoom sessions were the ones who struggled with digital literacy.

“With one particular little boy, there was no online support offered [so] kids who have any kind of difficultly learning are struggling,” says Ms Sternbeck-Rutter.

“These are the kids who will get left further behind because they cannot keep up with the workload from school. Others do not know what work to do, and they have limited access to their teachers, so things are just not getting done.”

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ChrisinTurner5:29 pm 11 Sep 21

I am sure we will better appreciate the professional work of our teachers in the future.

At the ACT Time Out Learning Centre Inc. we are experiencing a similar problem, but from a different perspective. The way we teach neurodiverse children is one-on-one and very concentrated. Every time something is written incorrectly, it puts that image in the brain, and whatever was last in is first out, which causes a repetition of errors, so in order to not have this happen, the teacher has to make sure the student understands how to write a word/sentence/paragraph/math calculation before putting it on paper or on a monitor. Doing this with a Zoom session is very nearly impossible with the current digital know how and equipment of the student and parents. Even using a laptop and pulling the monitor down to show the page then pulling it up to talk to the teacher is not highly successful. Since many of our students have behaviour issues as well as learning ones, all this is just too hard on parents, particularly when there is a single parent and more than one neurodiverse child to regulate, encourage and supervise. If the parent also has to work from home, the situation becomes even harder, and since most of these issues are hereditary, this adds another dimension as well. Online learning is not for everyone and is very dependent on the type of neurodiversity and what is the goal to be achieved.

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