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Are there indicators to help identify the specific educational needs of a student in my class?

1. An established diagnostic

In certain situations a pupil arrives in a class with poor cognitive skills, a visible disorder or a pre-existing diagnosis. The support of this student must be in line with the diagnosis or obvious requirements of the child and he or she must follow an integration program, which is developed at the beginning of the school term. In this situation, communication between the adults supporting the child is relatively simple, as each individual understands the child’s needs from a shared point of reference. Despite this, the parties concerned may disagree with regards to what they believe is an appropriate support system for the student and the accommodations that are required.

2. Signs observed at home and in the classroom

In other situations, often within younger classes, a diagnosis has not yet been established. Difficulties are identified by parents and adults supporting the child (kindergarten, nanny, grandparents, etc.) but in many cases addressing the issue is put on hold until the child has reached a later developmental stage. Should they persist, both inside as well as outside the classroom, and should they affect the child’s learning abilities, parents and teachers must collaborate in order to provide complementary observations of the issues in the school and the environment. The parents must seek advice from the child’s doctor with regards to the situation. The school, provided parental authorisation is given, can consult members of staff in charge of the evaluation and subsequent interventions for pupils with learning difficulties (medico-pedagogical staff, school psychologists...).

3. Issues that arise in class

In some scenarios only the teacher in charge seems to notice behavioural issues or worrying academic results. In this case the parents don’t appear to be concerned or even notice the warning signals given by the teacher. This can be explained by a difficulty for the parents to acknowledge and admit that their child is facing difficulties at this stage. This is a common reaction to the stress induced by this reality. It is important that the teacher respects and allows the parents time to digest the news and subsequently assist parents in identifying how best to cater for the needs of their child. The first way to approach this is for the teacher to take a non-judgemental stance and propose that all parties work together as a team for the ultimate wellbeing of the child. This approach appears simple and obvious. However, it can be a difficult task for a teacher who may be feeling overwhelmed by a child’s behaviour issues or learning difficulties that they do not know how to approach. If this is the case, referring to a person with specific knowledge of such situations who can help guide and give support for the situation can be very useful.

4. The identification of symptoms

Symptoms are the visible manifestations of a disorder. They can provide information about the origins of the student’s difficulties. Not every student that presents a particular symptom will necessarily be affected by a particular pathology. However knowing how to detect these signs can help identify more specific needs. The following links give access to lists of behaviours. If they are recurring, they should act as signals for a teacher to take action:

Attention disorders
Behavioural disorders
Language disorders
Problems with fine and gross motor skills

Once these difficulties have been identified, the educational team with the responsibility of supporting the child, the parents and professionals must take the time to share their joint observations regarding the child’s issues or difficulties. Following this, the necessary arrangements can be organised in order to optimize the child’s learning.


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