As I was walking along our local beach last week to enjoy the last throes of summer, it felt like the seagulls had reclaimed the territory after all the summer tourists left. Wandering through the sand, I noticed one seagull limping, trying desperately to catch up with the other ones in the group. Suddenly the leader soared into the sky, and all the other ones followed his majestic lead. The one with the broken leg was struggling, but it too managed to fly through the blue sky, feeling triumphant.

As I was wading in the cold water, I was thinking about this seagull. It reminded me of students that I work with that have learning challenges. They appear confident as they walk around the school, but there is always this niggling feeling of ‘I can’t read very well, and don’t want others to know”, or “math is just so hard, if only I could do it” or “I wish that my classmates would play with me at recess”.  Coming back to school in September, they might face a new classroom, a new teacher, or other changes, which are difficult for them. As they settle into the new year, what can we do to help?

How can we support these students? One way is by modelling. If we as teachers or educational therapists model a positive attitude, and embrace these students with their needs, this will do wonders to bolster their confidence. Focus on something the student does well, and celebrate it! One student I worked with previously was an amazing hockey player, and always talked about hockey. I decided to watch a game, and was amazed at his skills.  He was so surprised that I took the time to drive all the way to the game, and watch it! If your student likes art, take an interest in their artistic abilities, or if they play piano or dance, come along and watch a performance.

Modelling involves a myriad of activities. Modelling can be done by your lifestyle, how you dress, what you eat in your lunch, what your interests are, and how you prepare your lessons. Modelling organization is excellent for our students with learning difficulties, as they often struggle with organization. Modelling neat cursive writing, good sentence structure and creativity in your writing helps our students to go that extra mile in their workbook and homework. If you notice they have too much sugar in their lunch, talk about the importance of good nutrition for the brain, and model healthy lunches.  Drink lots of water to keep the brain alert!

Thinking back to the seagull limping along the beach, I have to give a shout out for all students who struggle with their learning!  They do extra work, they spend more time at home getting their homework completed, and they usually come to the educational therapy sessions with a willingness to learn and overcome their weaknesses.  Kudos to these children as they start a new year!  Embrace them in class, at home, in the therapy station and if you see them involved in some other activity!  By working to overcome their disability, they can “soar like eagles….or seagulls”.