Overcoming Learning Difficulties With Confidence: Parenthood – Back to School, Jan. 2014

Every child differs individually – while some might be able to solve complicated math equations. the others might be better in writing. Children who can swim well, might not be able to dance as gracefully as the rest.They each have their own way to ace. However, for children with learning difficulties. such as Dyslexic. Dyscalculia (also known as math disability),Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their gifts are often suppressed, while being misunderstood and labelled as 0 slow learner, or a lazy student in school which lead them to further believe that they ore just not good enough.

Due to misunderstanding and mislabeling, they are often not provided the right path to reach their full potential and this is where Hils Learning, a centre that caters to children with learning difficulties comes in – to guide these children to look into their strengths which can be used to complement their learning experience. In other words, Hils Learning is a “therapy centre that provides individualised therapy for a child”, explains Hilary Craig, the founder of Hils Learning.

Parenthood finds out more from Hilary. on how Hils Learning guides children with learning difficulties to explore their strengths without neglecting their weaknesses. Besides that, Parenthood also manages to catch up with Susan Moggie and Sarah Hartley, both whose children are attending Hils Learning as they share their experience of overcoming their children’s learning difficulties.

When Hilary was a child, she studied in a local national school in a rural area. There was a boy in her class, who would be believed to be autistic by the experts today. He was practically beaten everyday because he could not cope with the lessons and was often regarded as lazy.
It was such a horror for Hilary to attend school each day hearing his cries.

Until today, Hilary is still affected by the event which drove her passion to help children with learning difficulties. Hailing from Canada, Hilary also has a child who didn’t do well in school and had difficulty to read yet, despite his difficulty in those areas, he was a very bright boy. That’s when Hilary started to develop particular interest in children with learning difficulties as she still sees potential in them.

Having been in the teaching profession for 35 years, Hilary found herself gravitating toward these special needs children who don’t do things the same way as the other children do. “I like the challenges that they presented me with, and I can feel a great deal of sympathy, because my child had learning difficulties too.” Hilary shares.

After obtaining her master’s degree in education and acquired relevant specialist certifications for special needs education, Hilary has also been to around South East Asia and various places to train teachers. After much encouragement from her family and friends, Hilary finally decided pursue her true calling by establishing Hils Learning.

Serving ds 0 “therapy centre” that provides individualised therapy for 0 child, Hils Learning operates on the passionate belief that even children with learning difficulties have their own strengths.

“Children who don’t do well in school, have to be examined to find out the root of their problems.  From there, we will work out on finding their potential, what they are capable of doing.” says Hilary.

“If a child is really good at dancing but she can ‘1‘ do math and language, imagine what kind of time will she have at school? Will anyone in school cares if she’s a wonderful dancer? She’ll be miserable.” shares Hilary, as a thought to ponder.

“Our children who are different learners are often really gifted. If we don’t cultivate them, they may lose those gifts. Even us as an adult, when we are being told that we aren’t good, we will feel down, and we won’t try and give up, won’t we? There’s no difference with children.”she then adds.

With the aim To get children with learning difficulties to function better in school, these children need real focus to determine their strength and to work on their weaknesses. There are no fixed teaching methods in Hils Learning as they work with the motto — If if works, do it.  If it doesn’t, stop it. The child will be matched to a teacher whose skill-area matches his need-area, and through one-to-one learning, the teacher works together with the child’s needs to provide the best learning experience for him.

All teachers in Hils Learning are specially trained to teach children with learning difficulties while working with the same mission to cultivate a child’s potential, they come from different backgrounds — psychologists, social workers, teachers and lawyers, they have all come under one roof to make a difference in a child’s life. To Hilary, it is an added advantage as it gives Hils Learning a good balance without being constricted to just one field.

This year, Hils Learning, located in Solaris Mont’Kiara, marks its tenth year of passion in helping children with special needs.

It started off with math difficulty when Brian was in primary school. He had gaps in logical math where he couldn’t solve mathematical problem just by looking at it while the other children were able to do so. His teacher in school noticed his difficulty and recommended Hils Learning to Susan.

When Hils Learning ascertained that Brian did have gaps in logical math, he was matched with a tutor who fitted his area of needs.  Four years later, when Brian turned 16, Susan had noticed that from certain habits that Brian exhibited — such as mild behaviour of OCD and communication when stressed, there must be something amiss as she can also see things were starting to get too much for him to handle.  So they went to see an education psychologist where Brian was diagnosed with mild ADHD.

It was then that Brian’s certain behaviours made sense to Susan — such as when Brian disliked having his hair cut or when he didn’t allow anyone to touch his hair. It also explained why Brian will only go to the same place for meals, and disliked it when his teachers in school changed. He seemed to be comforted by familiar routine.

Today, although Brian’s math has improved and he no longer faces problems in logical maths, he is still attending Hils Learning for Spanish and English lessons, because Hils Learning provides him with a routine that he needs. Every Monday, Brian will drive to Hils Learning, park his car and attend lessons. Although it seems like any other normal routine we would do on a daily basis, this routine is important to Brian because it helps organises him. That is what works for Brian.

Besides setting a routine for Brian and helping him with his main difficulty, Hils Learning has also helped build his confidence tremendously.

“As Hils Learning works by providing a one-to-one approach, Brian’s tutors help him in organizing his work load at school so that he doesn’t get too stressed out. Their teaching methods are individualised as they understand that not all kids have the same learning capability. It helps him a lot.” remarks Susan.

“For instance, some kids may learn better by listening while some might be better by visualising. The tutors in Hils Learning have done many wonders by following such approach. It’s good because these kids with special needs, they don realise when things get too much for them. They need the help from someone with the right knowledge to guide them with.” she continues.

According to Susan, Brian will soon be attending college/university although for the time being, he is unsure of which course to pursue. Despite that, Susan is not bothered by it.
“He has a talent in Spanish language. He can go for internship to gain working experience, or he can even go to Spain to polish the language. Whatever his interest is, 1 will always encourage him to pursue what he does best. If he is not ready for university, he doesn’t have to go to the university. This is the kind of approach that I’m taking for him because it has to be that way. Otherwise, it will be difficult for him to cope.” explains Susan.

“Regardless of what he chooses, I just wish him to be successful in what he wants to do and to remember me in my old days. I want him to be independent, strong, happy and confident with himself — we all know that feeling when we feel like we could make a difference to the world, it’s a great feeling, and my husband always says, each person creates their own legacy.” she then concludes.

Having been trotting the globe. from Hong Kong to Australia,Taiwan then Spain and Switzerland last before settling down in Malaysia, Sarah and her family have been living a rather interesting life. However, due to the constant moving, it got Sarah thinking if it could be the contributing factor to her son, Jared’s learning difficulties.

It was Switzerland before Kuala Lumpur, two and a half years ago, and Jared was around eight years old when Sarah started to realise Jared’s difficulty in coping with school. He has problem in organisation when it comes to math and time management. Moreover, the education system in Switzerland is project-based where students would need to complete certain projects assigned as part of the school syllabus. To note, the school Jared was in is also a German-English bilingual operated school.

“I can see that he was getting lost there where he couldn’t organise himself while his classmates were doing just fine.” expresses Sarah with concern.

The teachers there suggested that Sarah brings Jared to be tested for learning difficulties. Jared was brought to London for the test, and was diagnosed with dyslexia. However, due to the active nature of the family that is always travelling and on the move, Sarah was not so sure if dyslexia is all that is to Jared’s learning difficulties.

Not to forget, there are also the education system and language difference to be taken into consideration to what might cause his learning difficulties.

“The thing is that he’s been to a Spanish school and a German-English speaking bilingual school, and that really knocked his confidence so much.” says Sarah.

It had really started to ring the alarm that there could be something else that is wrong. Sarah tried to look for help, and went to so many consultants but none could really tell her what really needed to be done to make things better for Jared.

That is why when Sarah and her family settled in Kuala Lumpur and found Hils Learning, it has been a huge relieve for her.

Jared who is now 13, is attending an international school in Kuala Lumpur. Prior to attending the school, Jared has attending Hils Learning for the first eight months to help prep him for school and to cope with his difficulty in math, while also to improve his English.

As they have often travelled and switched to many schools previously, Sarah had noted that it could bring a lot of disadvantages and his confidence could have been affected by that. Hils Learning has helped in regaining his confidence. “After attending Hiis Learning, I think that he is much more confident. We’re still working on his organisation, but he’s getting there.  I can see huge improvement and it’s amazing what he can achieve here,” shares Sarah.

“Coming to Hils Learning really helps, otherwise, we have nowhere else to go for the kind of help that Jared needed. He still comes here (Hils Learning) to improve his confidence, math, and literacy,” says Sarah Thankfully.

“They have the gifts to see what each child needs and how to work things out from there. And because the lessons are done on a one-on-one basis, they can give more time and attention to a child” she gladly adds.