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Tuesday, 12 October 2021 10:09

Shining a light on supporting children with special learning needs

By Cluey Learning


October is the national awareness month for various special learning needs including ADHD, dyslexia and dyscalculia. Whilst the approach to supporting school students with these needs draws increased attention from parents and the education system, often these students need additional learning support to ensure they are making learning progress in the classroom. 

Having helped over 28,000 students, online tutoring service Cluey Learningacknowledges how difficult it can be for parents of children with special learning needs to seek out the right service to provide additional learning support. Noticing an increased need for such services, Cluey is actively recruiting tutors who have experience and expertise in these areas, as well as training up their current tutor base in order to support the growing number of students enrolling with specific needs.

Over 20 per cent of all students using the services of Cluey have one or more special learning need, with the largest proportion being ADHD, followed by Autism (ASD).

Reflecting the complexity of this area, 79 per cent of Cluey Learning’s students who have special needs have one learning difficulty, 17 per cent have two learning difficulties, 3.5 per cent have three or more learning difficulties.

Whilst each student’s experience of learning need is highly personal and individual, some of the customary steps Cluey takes to supporting students with these conditions are:

  • Despite being labelled with certain special learning needs, no child is the same. An in-depth conversation with parents is the key first step to becoming acquainted with their child’s individual needs and goals, and using this information to match them with a tutor who has experience and expertise in this area. 
  • Adapting the learning format to guarantee the student is comfortable and not overwhelmed is also an important measure; whether that’s in-person or online. For example, at Cluey we’ve found the integration of audio and video with an interactive whiteboard can minimise potential sensory overload, making the experience less confronting than the classroom or in-person tutoring. Students have the option of keeping their cameras off and using the chat function if they are reluctant to speak, which is particularly helpful for kids with ASD.
  • With sessions taking place online at home, the physical environment remains familiar and parents can participate and interact with the tutor if required. This has been particularly beneficial during COVID, ensuring continuity of learning for students despite school closures and other disruptions.
  • The pace of the school classroom environment will often mean students with special learning needs commence tutoring already behind. At Cluey, content is mapped to the Australian National Curriculum, but can be delivered and taught at a pace that suits the student and any areas of concern can be re-visited as many times as needed until the concept is grasped.

Whether it’s ASD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia or another condition that can impact learning, a tailored and personalised approach is key, as well as being matched with the right tutor. For example, students with ASD often find the online learning environment more accessible than in-person learning. Even with audio and video, online learning requires the interaction between the student and tutor to be direct and intentional, reducing the reliance on subtle visual cues that students with ASD may find difficult and therefore misleading and confusing. 

Joanne Netting, one of Cluey’s lead tutors in English and a highly experienced educator of ASD students, says: “Classroom noise,distractions and disruptions can create sensory overload and overwhelm some ASD students, which has a negative impact on their ability to focus. Student numbers and time have often limited the individual attention or customised learning approaches and resources I would wish to offer my ASD students in the classroom. In contrast, tutoring ASD students online with Cluey Learning has been a very positive and rewarding experience for my ASD students and for me. The online platform allows me to provide individualised, student-centric and actively engaging learning experiences with plenty of positive reinforcement. I can minimise distractions and we can also schedule sessions to cater for student needs for routine and consistency. As a result, my students feel less anxious and are better able to pay attention and maintain focus on tasks.”

The online learning environment can also promote the ability of students with ADHD to focus and concentrate, without the distractions of other students working around them. Working one-to-one with a tutor as their learning partner means that they cannot disrupt other learners and incur the disapproval of the teacher and of their peers. Essentially, the one-to-one tutoring environment is a safe learning space for these students and can provide a sanctuary from the sometimes confronting world of school.

Cluey’s approach to dyslexia and dyscalculia, on the other hand, places an emphasis on using our audio and visual tools, systematic scaffolding and problem-solving and building student confidence to break down the negativity students often develop about themselves as learners.

At Cluey, we see ourselves as the learning partner of each of our students. As Cluey Chief Learning Officer Dr Selina Samuels says, “Too often, students with special learning needs think they are ‘stupid’ and give up on learning. Because our one-to-one approach to learning creates a supportive rather than a competitive learning environment, students are free to learn in the ways that suit them best. We see again and again how personalisation and flexibility build the confidence and self-belief of students who find learning in other environments challenging.”

AboutCluey Learning:

Cluey Learning delivers personalised online tutoring support for students in Years 2 -12, across Maths, English and Chemistry. All content is mapped to the Australian National Curriculum and is based on the unique learning needs of each individual student. Cluey has supported over 17,000 Australian students, run over 458,000 sessions with more than 1,450 expert tutors and has been rated 4.7/5 by parents and students.

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