As an educator who taught in different schools located in three countries with various cultural backgrounds, I was subjected to different types of children including those who were known as the high flyers to those who struggled with certain difficulties. We all know that the classroom is composed of different capacities and capabilities, and I have always said and still believe that a professional teacher is the one who works with students who need guidance and support. That teacher has no credit if her main focus is only on those who are already soaring highly in class – even though they should also be regularly credited for their good work (but this idea is beyond the scope of this particular article).
Ideally speaking, an educator would have to address all the children in his/her classroom by utilizing several teaching methods as well as preparing exercises that target children with different needs. Indeed, an educator helps all of the students to achieve better no matter what that child’s rank in class is or the poor behaviour they might demonstrate.
There are, however, some challenging cases where the teacher alone cannot reach his/her aims. Each student comes from a unique background and has been exposed to many situations that shape their personality and ability. There are children who are delayed due to some physical special needs while others may suffer from psychological and emotional struggles which might hinder their learning.
We as teachers can perceive some significant difficulties, from hearing or vision problems, to hyper activity in a child, but it is mainly the family’s pediatrician who can help out in giving a particular analysis and transfer the child to a specialized therapist who will identify the precise diagnosis.
From my experience in this field, I realised that there are still many parents who are not aware of the professional help they could seek which might be due to the fact that their job titles are not self-explanatory. That is why, I thought of briefly presenting and explaining the professions that might aid in the success of our youngsters, and therefore describe the work that they do.
Occupational therapy helps children who have any physical difficulty, sensory integration (how the child processes information using his senses tactile, hearing, vision and vestibular), or cognitive difficulty. Such therapists work on helping children who struggle in establishing balance, coordination, handwriting, and general gross and fine motor skills, like brushing the teeth or putting on their shoes. An OT helps a child to grow within the norm expected for his age, and help children with special needs to become as independent as possible. They also cover most learning disabilities involving motor and physical aspects, attention deficits, and hyperactivity affecting posture and body control. They can work with children on the autistic spectrum as well.
These therapists work on supporting an individual’s personal development. Psychomotor specialists study the body and its expressivity and work on prevention, education, re-education, and rehabilitation. They work on the gross and fine motor skills as well as sensory integration, but they address the chid as a whole. They take into consideration and implement underlying neurological involvements of learning new motor skills. Finally, they always link the child’s psyche to his body functions. For example, a child who is not able to write on the line might have space orientation issues underlying handwriting, so they address it directly.
Before explaining what psychologists do, it is important to understand the difference between psychology and psychiatry. “Both professionals treat people with problems that vary wildly by degree and type, from mild anxiety to schizophrenia.” (http://www.m.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/psychology-vs-psychiatry-which-is-better)
The difference however, is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor and can prescribe medication for the patient, whereas a psychologist works more with the theory and helps the patient reach tranquillity and calmness through talk.
Educational psychologists mainly assess academic skills and achievements. They run IQ and cognitive assessments, and they can lay an educational plan. Their role is to detect academic difficulties and diagnose underlying issues such as Attention deficits, intellectual challenges, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyspraxia etc.
These psychologists basically assess and treat children and adults with emotional and behavioural issues. They can also run IQ and other cognitive evaluations. Sometimes they are called counsellors or their job is described as counselling. They usually diagnose and treat cases such as divorce related issues, jealousy, depression, eating disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, psychosis, manias, OCDs etc.
A speech therapist helps children who struggle with speech disorders, like articulation, fluency, resonance or voice, and feeding disorders. They assess language and communication disorders and treat them. They also detect and treat learning disabilities where they work closely with other therapists and teachers. A child or adult may consult a speech therapist for different concerns such as;
language comprehension – language expression – articulation – communication skills in general and pragmatic language (highly affected with children on the autistic spectrum) – speech fluency (stuttering) – reading and writing
They also work on the underlying required skills needed for reading and writing such as attention and memory, and phonology.
Finally, they work on enhancing problems related to voice disorders, feeding and swallowing disorders, and hearing impairments affecting language.
This refers to assessing a child’s vision in terms of whether it is developing at an age appropriate level. Optometrists are more apt to use lenses, prisms and Vision Therapy to enhance and improve visual function. These interventions often improve children’s academic and other abilities.
For a more detailed idea on optometry check out the link below:
Applied Behaviour Assessment or ABA:
Known as Behaviour Modification works on implementing interventions to improve significant behaviours. It is a new and much sought method where the work is basically on children with autism. ABA therapists work in a very conditioned manner to inhibit inappropriate behaviours and replace them with more acceptable ones as they incorporate academic objectives while doing so.
Some children have mild problems that can be easily treated but others might have more difficult and lifelong issues. As a teacher, I have experienced students with special needs who have flourished after treatment and others who were left behind secluded as there was no support coming from the parents. No matter what the case is, we as parents have a duty towards our children.
Having a child with special needs is challenging and demanding in many aspects but parents who live in denial won’t be aiding their child to overcome those difficulties. In our eastern culture, many parents find that it is unthinkable to have a youngster who has difficulties or certain delays. They assume that by rejecting the problem, they can solve it. However, it is just exactly the opposite! In fact, they are excluding this child from his/her right to learn, and they are wasting a chance for him/her to succeed.
I thought of including a few addresses in UAE. In case you know of someone who needs it, or you think it is helpful for you, the list is as follows:
In Abu Dhabi:
– The American Centre for psychiatry and Neurology
– Taleem Centre
– kidzfirst in Khalifah City
– Stars for Special Abilities
-Dots and Links
-Child Early Intervention Medical Centre, (CEIMC)
-Dubai Community Health Centre
Tel: 04 395 3939
-British Institute for Learning and Development BILD
Tel: 971 4 309 6450
-KidsFIRST Medical Centre,
Tel: +971 4 348 5437
-Rashed Pediatric Center
-For cochlear implants, therapies, and follow ups related Dr. Muaz Tarabishi and his department of pediatric ENT at the Dubai American Hospital
A big thank you for all those who helped in providing me with the needed information to realize this article:
Mrs. M. Hamed (Elementary School Teacher)
Mrs. M. Marji (Speech Therapist)
Mrs. N. Mounzer (Child’s Rights)
Pictures from Pinterest and Google