by WillowWood School's Lower and Middle School Principal, Jill Block.
Research has shown that early intervention is a key element to ensuring positive outcomes in children with learning disabilities. Our own experiences teaching kids who learn differently or who have unique learning needs has only enforced this idea and led us to develop the Foundation Program.
WillowWood’s Foundation Program is committed to meeting the needs of all students, including those who learn differently. Some children have unique learning styles and respond to alternate forms of teaching. This is not good or bad, it is just a fact that need not interfere with a child’s ultimate success in life.
Children who appear not to master learning skills on time, often need a more focused, specialized response. WillowWood’s early intervention approach can alter a child's developmental path. When parents replace fear with action, they immediately become empowered with the knowledge that they are helping their child as opposed to waiting for development to take its course. This can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills and always increases their success in school and life.
While parents are often wisely advised not to have their children formally assessed for a learning disability before the age of 6, they usually have an instinct or ‘gut’ feeling that something is not as it should be. This is the time to act. Not after their child has spent an unsuccessful year in Grade 1 – but before they enter Grade 1. Brain connections – neural circuits - are most adaptable with younger children – and this is the time to find a school that will meet the unique needs of the child. As children get older, brain connections become less malleable and it is more challenging for them to ‘unlearn’ processes that haven’t worked for them than to start off with learning practices that meet their needs. Waiting for a child to ‘catch up’ just doesn’t work! It most often leads to undue frustration which in turn may result in the development of behavioural, social and/or learning problems. A child’s Grade 1 and 2 experience can have a long-term effect on their health, language, communication, cognitive and social development.
Early intervention addresses the need to “minimize developmental delays, remediate existing disabilities, prevent functional deterioration and promote adaptive parenting and overall family functioning”. Waiting to adapt a child’s educational program can often lead to the formation of negative feelings towards learning because it seems harder than it needs to be. Early intervention can positively affect a student’s perception of what learning is, as early success reinforces a desire to learn.
Start them young, the smaller the better.