Education Matters

Greetings, I am Dr. Leith and welcome to my very first edition of Education Matters! Without doubt, the domain of Education is enormous. So too are the multitude of issues that impact upon how a child, young adult, adult, old bugger, navigates a course to a destination whereby they can achieve their unique natural potential. I want to clarfiy from the outset of this column, how I am convinced Education is indeed a life long process! A journey that certainly does not conclude once your study is wall papered with numerous university degrees and certificates or even when others are obliged to address you as Doctor or Professor. I aspire to continue to learn until my last gasp.

Education Matters has a simple question and answer format. Send me an email outlining how a particular concern, experience, or even fear is generating problems to attain a positive Educational Outcome for yourself or someone you care about. Then, I put on my thinking hat and venture into the long corridors of memory and experience and usually within a relatively short time, offer my advice.

My very first question comes from Ms Clare of Seminyak.

“My son is 5 years old and is an only child. For some time, he has started to behave rather differently, especially when he is in a group setting of children his own age. For example, he has little or no language skills and has trouble looking at people in the eyes, even though we have tried our best to encourage him to do so. Also, he has real problems socialising with other children. Usually, he will walk away or sit in a corner and go into “his own world”. When he has really bad meltdowns he will throw himself onto the floor and punch/hit sometimes even himself! My husband and I are trying to get our heads around these problems, especially as our son should be getting ready to go into school. Naturally, we are very concerned about what is happening to him. Can you please shed some light on our problem?”

Thank you Ms Clare for your honesty and candour, it is never easy to talk about challenging matters, especially ones that affect those who we love the most. It appears that both you and your husband are aware of and perhaps even acknowledge your son is having difficulties. Having both parents on the same page is a vital factor in order to address your son’s needs. (Don’t get me started on Parental Denial).

You have mentioned a number behaviours exhibited by your son that do in fact present genuine concern, namely:

  1. Language Delay.
  2. Natural Eye Contact.
  3. Poor Socialisation Skills.
  4. Being Overwhelmed by Emotions.
  5. Self Injurious Behaviour.

These indicators, while not definitive, convey to me your son has some serious Developmental Delays. Clearly they are hindering him from achieving what I call, natural milestones in Developmental Growth. For example, by the age of 5 years, Typical Children have already developed a considerable vocabulary and can usually demonstate the ability to engage in sustained natural eye contact. However, it is your citing of “emotional meltdowns” and Self Injurious Behaviour that really does set my whiskers twitching. These two descriptors are indeed hallmarks that Cognitive Disfunction is prevalent. In other words, something is definitely not OK with how your son is managing his world and more importantly, how his brain does not currently have the capacity to do so. It is apparent, he is yet to develop the ability to respond to scenarios or directions he finds difficult or perhaps are not to his liking, in a calm and non confrontational manner.

Developmental Delays encompass a broad range of characteristics and exhibitors, often beyond those readily associated with Education. Other common factors, (one already cited by yourself) include:

  1. Attention Deficit
  2. Poor Memory
  3. Incorrect Perception.
  4. Impulsivity.
  5. Socialisation Skills.
  6. Low Self Esteem
  7. Learned Helplessness.

Ms Clare, back in the olden days, when I commenced working with folk who think differently, it was commonplace for practitioners to focus therapeutic intervention on young children, some even younger than your own son. However, in the fullness of time and after extensive research, which continues to move forward at a rate of knots, the domain of Learning Needs and Developmental Delay has become a life span approach. Such needs, may in fact manifest themselves at any stage in life, furthermore these problems can and do present differently depending on the age of the individual. However, I am convinced the primary characteristics of children who exhibit a Learning and Developmental Need, invaribly lead to deficits in academic performance.

Ms Clare, before we get too far in front of ourselves, it would be most prudent for your son to undergo a thorough Assessment and Evaluation by a qualified and experienced practitioner. It is critical for you, your husband and your son to know what is impacting upon his wellbeing and to devise and implement an effective intervention therapy plan that will facilitate the essential skills he requires.

So there you have it Dear Reader, the first installment of Education Matters! Done and dusted! Finally, each week I would like to leave you with a simply homily, one that tends to encapsulate my thoughts at this point in time:

“If you think Education is expensive, try and calculate the cost of ignorance”??



Dr. Leith is a qualified Primary, Secondary and Special Education Teacher. Has a Master’s Degree in Cognitive Stimulation using Music as a Therapy, A Ph.D in Education Evaluating how Special Education Classroom Teachers Manage Challenging Behaviour. Has lectured and conducted Post Doctoral Research at The School of Psychology and Human Development at The Institute of Education, London University.


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By Dr. Leith

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