It is a well-established fact that each child is unique. Each child comes to us with innate talents, abilities… gifts, needed for them to succeed. Yet, we often pause to ponder the question, why so many children are deemed to be ‘failing’-a position normally taken on the basis of the outcomes of academic assessments and comparisons of children’s performances. But is the child really ‘failing’ or is it that there is an omission to take into account his or her individuality when it comes to the content and delivery of learning opportunities presented in the classroom.
Take reading for example. Many children are considered to be ‘failing’ because they are not able to read. However Margret Semrud- Clikeman, in her article, ‘Brain Functions and Learning’, explains that a child is ready to read when his/her auditory system is developed and they are mentally equipped to distinguish one sound from another. In order for the child to become a reader, they must receive instructions. If instructions are not given, the child’s reading is delayed.
As a matter of fact, I feel that it is even more appropriate to say that the child is progressing at his or her own pace.
Taking this into consideration, it is reasonable to take the view that when a child is unable to read, the child is not ‘failing’. The point is that, no one was born with reading strategies. Reading involves skills that need to be taught. If instructions for the teaching of these skills are not being imparted in a manner that endorses inclusion then one cannot make any such assertion of failure on the part of the child.
The individual educational needs of each child are paramount and undisputedly have implications for teaching and learning. A broad brush approach simply will not do. It is important to keep to the forefront of our minds, that in a classroom where the chronological ages of the children are the same, it is erroneous to assume that the children as a group should all be ready for the level of learning expectations articulated in the National Curriculum. Children, simply do not mature at the same rate.
Given this fact, when learning is delayed, one should be very cautious where there is an inclination to arrive at the assumption that the child has a learning disability. It just might be the case that what is needed are differentiated tasks at a level that challenge and present the opportunity for achievement on an individual scale. To do otherwise, is to perpetuate a label of ‘failure’ which for all intense and purposes is false.