Lack of Stimulation in the Home Root Cause of Learning Disabilities


Lack of early stimulation in the home has been found to be the root cause of learning disabilities affecting children, who are seen at the Mico College Child Assessment and Research in Education (CARE) Centre.
Clinical psychologist, Ghia Townsend, tells JIS News that this trend became evident during home investigations conducted by the centre’s social workers.
“Based on trends found by social workers.among many of the kids, there is inadequate stimulation and exposure in the home,” Mrs. Townsend says.
“Some kids are underachieving and not performing although they are intellectually capable,” she laments.Explaining the extent of the problem, she says that, “when we talk about stimulation. when you ask parents: ‘are you assisting your child with homework?, what kind of educational materials do you have at home?, are you reading with this child?, are you counting with this child?’, these are the parents who will say, ‘no, we have not done this’.”
In most cases, the school is the only source of stimulation these children receive, she says, pointing out that, “when there is inadequate stimulation in the home, the school alone will not help.”
In fact, Mrs. Townsend says, many kids with learning disabilities, when assessed, have (shown) strengths that can be drawn on to help them. A child, who has had little or no stimulation, however, will have nothing to draw on, she notes.
Secondary to the problem of inadequate stimulation, are deep-seated social and behavioural problems that are causing many students in mainstream classrooms to under-perform at school.
“Emotional disturbances, poor diet or eating habits, a violent home environment and abuse, all factor into why children can find it very difficult to focus in school as well,” says social worker and clinical psychologist, Dr. Keturah Wilson. Dr. Wilson is one of two social workers, who conduct assessments and run parenting workshops at the centre. These workshops, she says, “are geared towards helping parents deal with the learning difficulties that their children face,” noting that, many parents do not have the expertise they need to help them overcome their difficulties.
Two types of parenting workshops are held by the centre each quarter: large workshops, which accommodate more than 60 parents and two small workshops that facilitate no more than 10 parents.The parenting workshops, Dr. Wilson says, are making an impact on parents based on the feedback she receives. “The parents’ response has been excellent and they have been finding the programme helpful,” she notes.
She tells JIS News that at the meetings, the parents share the improvements they see in the home. They will tell us that they went home and made a game and the child enjoys it,” she points out.
Parents with older children are encouraged to take these children to the library and get their children involved in the Boys Brigade, the Scouts Troop or the Institute of Jamaica Junior Centre which has craft, music and dance programmes for children.
Pointing to a correlation between behaviour and learning, she observes that, “sometimes it’s not that the child is not learning because they can’t learn, but parents are not managing the behaviour.”
“When we get parents and guide them as to how best they can manage behaviour, it does help, and if we want to help children, we have to help parents sometimes,” she states.
In the meantime, Mrs. Townsend is also encouraging parents to stimulate their children and take them out and expose them to different aspects of the environment. “Take them to the zoo, to the museums, to the airport. this is helpful for the verbal and non-verbal skills,” she points out.

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