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Learning difficulties

This page addresses problems often associated with hemiplegia. Some of these may be specific learning difficulties; others, associated problems which nevertheless have an impact on school work.

Because of their physical limitations, all children with hemiplegia experience some difficulty and frustration at school, and may need a little more time and attention to achieve their full potential.

In addition, many children with hemiplegia have general or specific learning difficulties which may be slight or severe, and which can be more frustrating and disabling than their obvious physical ones.

We cannot provide solutions for these problems, but we can offer advice on coping with some of them, and make you aware of others so that you can seek advice from specialists in the appropriate area.

Short concentration span

Problems:

  • difficulty settling down to and completing tasks
  • frequent lapses of attention
  • tendency to be easily distracted
  • restlessness and fidgetiness

Suggestions:

  • reconsider seating and position in the classroom
  • break down tasks into smaller units
  • focus on short sessions of concentrated effort

Short-term memory

Problems:

  • poor retention of information or instructions
  • difficulty in organising classroom work effectively

Suggestions:

  • give instructions one at a time, repeating as necessary
  • ask child to repeat instructions back
  • write instructions down
  • ask child to write down goals for each task, to help develop organisational skills
  • split tasks into smaller units

Giving the child simple repetitive tasks, such as watering plants on a regular basis, or other classroom chores, can help him or her develop information retention skills. Other helpful strategies might be making lists and keeping a diary.

Visual perception and spatial

Problems:

  • orientation

Younger children may have difficulties with:

  • puzzles and matching games
  • building blocks
  • drawing recognisable figures and objects

Older children may have difficulties with:

  • copying texts or sequences of numbers
  • reproducing maps and charts
  • setting out work on the page

Suggestions:

Seek professional advice from School Support Services or Educational Psychologists.

Many problems can be alleviated by the use of a computer.

Using a keyboard may:

  • help children with poor handwriting skills
  • help develop the ability to present work effectively
  • help develop personal organisational skills
  • help dyslexic children spell correctly

If the child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs, it may be possible to obtain funding for a laptop from your LEA.

Younger children with handwriting difficulties can be encouraged to record their stories, etc. on audio cassette.

Emotional and behavioural problems

Recent research has shown that some children with hemiplegia go through a period of significant emotional and behavioural problems at some point in their childhood. These problems can take various forms and may in some cases require specialist advice. If local services cannot help, contact HemiHelp.

Problems:

  • excessive shyness
  • difficulties with making and / or sustaining friendships
  • excessive anxiety
  • irritability
  • aggressiveness
  • general immature behaviour

For more information, you can also read our specific information on emotional and behavioural problems in children with hemiplegia.

Specific learning difficulties

Reading

Some children with hemiplegia have problems learning to read. Research suggests that they respond better to a phonic, rather than a 'whole word' or 'real books' approach to reading. Teachers should seek specialist advice. You can boost the child's confidence by making the most of his or her verbal skills. See also the paragraph above on computers and audio cassettes.

Mathematics

Some children with hemiplegia have difficulties with number work, especially mental arithmetic. Teachers should seek specialist advice.

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