Bridging the Gap
Over the last year we have been inundated with requests, queries and pleas for information by very frustrated and distraught parents looking for a place to cater to their child’s educational needs. Children, who they have been told, are not remedial enough for a particular school but yet, not special needs enough for another.
It has been our experience that aside from the emotional journey the family of a special needs child has to travel, there are many instances where a child with ‘special needs’ may not appear any different from any other person, however socially they may not be able to “fit” into the societal “norms”. Emotionally they cannot cope with a busy 25-30 child classroom, they may be overwhelmed by sensory issues and unable to sit still, let alone concentrate on work presented. As a result their academic development has been delayed, and possible glitches in learning may have been overlooked. For those more physically and mentally affected, when we look beyond appearances of physical aids, the awkward groans or vocalisations and gestures, one could find that that the child’s brain is craving all the learning opportunities of his mainstream counterparts. The question begins to form – Where do these special children fit in, when we look at their educational needs from a very holistic perspective?
While there is talk of ‘inclusion’ and a white paper to back up the theory, we are finding children are not allowed to attend mainstream, remedial and even schools for special educational needs if they are not physically independent, properly toilet trained, or able to cope in a class with between eight and 15 other children. Another critical factor for some families are the children whose diagnoses are not catered for in LSEN schools which are only specialised to accommodate specific learning programmes or where there is a dual diagnosis, like a cerebral palsied child who may also be visually impaired.
“What now?” becomes the question many stranded parents ask in desperation and frustration.
How does Wiggles bridge the gap? Bridging the gap, literally speaking, is helping a child to catch up as close as possible to their educational and developmental milestones by building different neural pathways and teaching new or different skills to achieve the same learning outcome. Throwing away the proverbial “box” where one methodology suits all learners, allows for a child to learn in a more engaging, creative way, utilising his strengths to acquire a skill. Of course there is much literature and research to validate various methodologies and strategies that facilitate the learning process, but these too are validated on their merits for each individual child, and if carefully put together, have an immense impact on learning potential and skill acquisition.
In a class that integrates the most appropriate teaching mechanisms and embraces each child’s individual needs, we find the educational and behavioural challenges are not always due the child’s inability to learn, absorb, filter or process, but the absolute, insatiable need to do things in a different way. Strategies employed to teach children who learn differently are in themselves very different. The destination becomes a process of learning, building an ability to manage behaviour and grow in confidence and self-esteem. We don’t believe that we can teach successfully if we continue to take the easy road and do things the way they have always been done. Teaching is about reaching every single child, on different levels, using appropriate tools. Children need lots of time to practice techniques, skills and build concepts, to grapple with ‘rules’, to experience consequences, push boundaries and to problem solve. They need a teacher who understands them, on an emotional and social level, because this too will ultimately lead to academic success. A child who is able to embrace his learning environment and grow his knowledge while building trust and belief in his own potential, will be a child who can embrace the world and make a difference in someone else’s life.