Let your child rise from the shadows

A trained therapist - shadow teacher - can help a special needs child bridge the gap between him and the class, thus building the foundations for successful development.

Are you at the end of your tether trying to manage behavioural or learning difficulties in your child? The solution does not have to result in retracting him or her from mainstream schooling. A shadow teacher could be the answer. Collaborating closely with the schoolteacher, the shadow teacher can motivate the child by breaking down the lesson to better suit the learning style.

The importance of a shadow teacher should never be underestimated. Contrary to the name, the role of a shadow is to make a struggling student shine bright, and if one lesson should be learnt from them, it's that nannies just aren't fit enough for the job.

Defined as 'a professional service offered to the school and family to better manage the needs of students who have a learning difference', the goal of a shadow teacher is to foster a child's independence.

However, all too often, whether due to inconvenience or cash flow issues, parents choose to nominate their personal nannies to accompany their child in the classroom.

"Some schools have their own shadow teachers on site and bare the costs themselves, but for parents sending in nannies to accompany their child in the classroom ... this is simply deskilling the child," said Robert Phillips, Assistant Clinic Manager and Behaviour Consultant at Dubai-based Kids in Motion.

Offering paediatric therapy services including speech, occupational, physical and behavioural therapy to children with special needs, Phillips said the clinic is seeing more and more requests for shadows from parents.

"This is a great sign because it is so much more beneficial to the child's development having a trained therapist shadow them, rather than an untrained nanny."

With Applied Developmental Analysis (ADA) therapists on site specialising in unique personal growth, many of the therapists at Kids in Motion also hold a degree in psychology.

They are also Registered Behaviour Technicians (RBT), practicing under the close, ongoing supervision of the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Solution to problem

The shadow teacher's aim is to motivate the child and does so in close collaboration with the class teacher. As the child's confidence builds and the adapted learning techniques sink in, the child's mode of learning improves and slowly, and over time, he becomes ready to join fellow classmates without the need for a shadow.

"What we want to see is more mainstream schools taking on kids with special needs, but with the support of a shadow teacher. This solution is more inclusive for the child and it is great for development," Phillips said.

What KHDA has to say

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) champions the presence of a shadow teacher and is putting more emphasis on the importance of their role in the development of school children.

Phillips said schools here are slowly getting better when it comes to student inclusion and now the KHDA has a rule to take on a certain amount of special needs children.

"But why stop at that number? Special needs children are well accepted at schools in the UAE but we don't only want to fulfill a set quota. We want all children to be in mainstream schools with the right support," said Phillips. The price for a shadow teacher varies. Some companies are taking advantage of the 'stigma' of having a child with special needs by charging upwards of Dh25,000 per term. But good support does not have to come with such a high price tag.

"Some parents panic and pay huge amounts of money for support because they don't want their child to be different or miss out. But the key to a successful shadow teacher is delivery of service, not price."

Charging around Dh8,000 per school term, Kids in Motion uses experienced supervisors to accompany each therapist (shadow teacher) during the different stages of the therapy sessions - which vary depending on the need of the student. Inclusive education has been a point of discussion for many years across the world, but effective implementation of this clause is far from achieved.

The role of the shadow helps bridge that gap between the child and the teacher, ultimately building the foundations for successful development.

So, don't rely on your nanny. Invest in your child's education and don't let them become a shadow of the person they could become.

Source: Khaleej Times

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