What are learning difficulties ?
During his schooldays, a child may experience difficulties in learning. He then has difficulty in mastering the knowledge that is imparted to him. During the year, school reports show results that risk hindering his school progress. The difficulties may relate to a decline in motivation and memory capacity, limited attention and concentration, learning strategies that are inappropriate, or the acquisition of imprecise knowledge that is hindering more advanced learning. The cognitive learning programme sets out to remedy these problems by working specifically with the abilities concerned in the learning process, and in attempting to provide the child with a more favourable approach to thinking i.e. “learning how to learn”. The learning difficulties sector concerns:
- children and adolescents who are scholastically disconnected;
- children and adolescents who have lost the motivation and pleasure of learning;
- children and adolescents who find themselves in difficulty
The aim of the programme is to receive children and adolescents who are having learning problems at school. The approach employed is that of cognitive education. This itinerary leads the professional towards the processes that underlie learning, rather than towards the scholastic content. The method used is distinguishable from scholastic education, which is devoted essentially to the acquisition of academic knowledge. Cognitive education aims rather at imparting the tools of thought – in “learning how to learn” – in order to make the child more self-reliant and effective in its learning. It is indeed postulated in this approach that intelligence is not an unalterable feature, but is educable. The cognitive education programme attempts, therefore, to improve the capacity of the child or adolescent in employing his intelligence and sensitivity as efficiently as possible.
Concerning emotional intelligence
Intellectual capacities are not the sole vectors in learning. Indeed, the principal incentive for learning lies in pleasure and motivation. The emotions are therefore the true stimulus. For this reason, cognitive education takes account of the motivational and emotional aspects allied to learning – knowing how to motivate oneself, finding pleasure in effort, being unafraid of making mistakes, daring to admit that you have not understood, recovering confidence in oneself etc. Jérôme Bruner himself, the father of cognitism, denounced the compartmentalization of emotions and intelligence. “I have regretted,” he wrote, “having acquired the habit of tracing a conceptual frontier between thought, action and emotion, as regions of the mind. We have subsequently been compelled to construct conceptual bridges in order to join something together that ought never to have been separated.»
The individualised programme
The therapy suggested for children and adolescents with learning difficulties is characterised in taking account of the strengths, needs and capacities of the pupil, as well as the expectations of the family or school. Following a period of observation, some pedagogical objectives are determined. Subsequently, some learning procedures of a cognitive, meta-cognitive and conative type are set up in order to enable the pupil to acquire the tools of thought and behaviour that he can re-employ in various learning situations, whether scholastic or otherwise. This approach is based upon the methods and theories of research into the psychology of intelligence and affectivity, and of cognitive education as a systematic approach to imparting the tools employed in the functioning of thought.
What has the therapy to offer ?
For the child or adolescent
- An evaluation of the competences underlying the learning, whether it concerns the ability at the level of attention, memory, logical reasoning, understanding, piloting of information or capacity for problem solving. An evaluation of the way in which the child or adolescent conducts his activities (meta-cognitive competence: control, auto-regulation, planning and strategies). Or, yet again, an observation of the emotional responses that may affect learning (negative representations of scholastic tasks, fear of failure, lack of self-confidence, lack of motivation etc.).
- The development, based upon the observations of aims and objectives corresponding to the difficulties and strengths of the pupil, and the application of various activities designed for the development of tools essential in learning. Through the intervention of the adult, the child or adolescent learns to approach a task in a sensible and intelligent way.
- The opportunity for the pupil to transfer his new competences to other contexts, such as being at school, or working alone at home.
For close relatives
- The possibility of obtaining information, assistance and advice for a better understanding of the difficulties of the child or adolescent, and a greater ability, therefore, to respond to the possible needs.
- The possibility of interchanges, of giving advice, of being heard and of discussing their concerns
- A work of horizontal partnership with educational and health specialists for multi-disciplinary discussions, and as a means of personal reflection of a pedagogical nature.