Many parents of children with learning difficulties do not realise their child needs help, according to Sheena Reynolds, the director of learning development at the British Institute for Learning Development in Dubai. Learning difficulties impede a person's ability to process information because their brain works in a different way to most other peoples'. "It might take a year for a parent to realise that their child has a problem and needs help," Ms Reynolds said.
Sometimes it takes longer, she added. She has seen teenagers come to the institute who cannot read because they have an unrecognised learning problem. She said many parents would rather put their child in a good school and have them not do well, than get them qualified help. "They do not want the label of 'special needs'," she said, explaining that many parents associate it with a lack of intelligence.
"A child might have a high IQ, but if they can't process information effectively, then they can't learn." Doing poorly in school can make the child believe they are stupid, she said, leading to children becoming alienated and disruptive. "It affects their self-esteem," said Ms Reynolds. "A child might have a behaviour problem, but that is just the symptom, not the problem." The situation can worsen when a teacher does not recognise the problem for what it is. "If you are going to introduce inclusion it has to be done properly and cautiously," said Dr Christopher Reynolds, the managing director of the British Institute for Learning Development.
"An environment that is not conducive to helping children with learning difficulties ends with the result that the child becomes alienated in that environment and the situation gets worse. Eventually they don't want to learn. They don't cope, they don't pass exams." The institute is conducting programmes across the UAE to educate teachers about learning difficulties and give them guidance. "If teachers are trained they will be able to identify children with learning problems," said Dr Reynolds. "They will be able to confidently refer children to receive therapy. They themselves will be more effective teachers when they have a stronger ability to interact and lead that child in their learning. It is well documented that Einstein had a learning problem, and he had one of the best minds that ever lived."