FeaturesFEATURES: Learning Helpers: Changing Lives, Improving Outcomes For Children With Disabilities

FEATURES: Learning Helpers: Changing Lives, Improving Outcomes For Children With Disabilities

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February 25, (THEWILL) – Succour is surely on the way for children with special needs and those whose learning abilities in school are being affected due to one form of disability or the other in the country, and their parents as well, as United States – based Special Education specialist, Dr. Olabimpe Abayomi – Ige, unfolds her plans to extend the services of her organisation, Learning Helpers, to Nigeria.

It was an emotional engagement with a select group of Nigerian journalists, Monday, 19 February 2024, as United States – based Special Education specialist and CEO, Learning Helpers LLC, Dr. Olabimpe Abayomi – Ige, could not hold back her feelings during a virtual meeting organised to unfold her plans for the country of her birth.

Speaking about her plans to bring succour to children with special needs and disabilities, as well as their parents, the Pennsylvania-based teacher and Special Education Compliance Monitor, who is also a Lead at a Magnet School, one of the best schools in the U.S., said: “It’s a bit emotional for me this morning to have this opportunity to present to my own people.. I have been doing this for many years but this is the first time I will be talking to my own people virtually in Nigeria.”

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Citing a 2021 UNICEF data which estimates that about 240 million children worldwide have a form of disability or the other that negatively impacts their learning in school, she noted that children with disabilities are left behind by their non-disabled peers globally.

Dr. Abayomi-Ige, who has put in more than 25 years of experience in Special Education with focus on autism, specific learning disabilities (dyslexia and co.), health impairment (ADHD, ADD, emotional disturbance and others, therefore revealed that : ”My desire is to bring awareness and support to parents, caregivers, government parastatals, schools and teachers of children that may need special education support based on their unique needs and how we can be resourceful to the Nigerian environment.”

Describing Special Education as ”specially- designed instruction,” Dr. Abayomi-Ige maintained that in the United States, ”it is at no cost to the parents to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.”

Special Education, according to her, includes ”instructions conducted in the classroom, at home, hospitals and other settings, adding, ”It also includes instruction in physical education, speech and language pathology services or any other related services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, hearing therapy and a host of others depending on the unique needs of a child.”

She explained that in the United States, the IDEA law governs Special Education and there are 13 categories of disabilities covered by the law .These disabilities, according to her, are Autism Spectrum Disorder,(ASD), Deaf-Blindness, Deafness, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopaedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability (Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia etc), Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visual Impairment, including Blindness.

“These are the 13 disabilities categories under which a child would qualify for Special Education in our public schools,” she said, even as she stressed that ”special education covers from age zero to 21 depending on the individual needs of the child.”

Speaking further on the plans of her organisation for Nigeria, Dr. Abayomi-Ige said, “Learning Helpers is a company that was created solely to meet the educational needs of children and adults who find learning particularly difficult due to disabilities, language barriers (English Learners), and other reasons so that they too, can achieve their highest potential in life.

“We are educational consultants who work to help one child, one family at a time, targeting the unique needs of each child and their parents through individualised programming that will meet the educational needs of each child or adult.

”Part of our focus is parent education so that parents of children with disabilities are equipped with the knowledge they need so that they can become the best advocates for their children through our parent empowerment programmes.

“Our company is dedicated to changing lives and improving outcomes for all children with disabilities. By providing individualised education in the form of tutoring, interventions, and parent support. And provisions of other valuable resources that will make it possible for these student population to achieve maximally and for them to become responsible citizens as adults.”

On the methods used to achieve desired goals, Dr. Abayomi-Ige, who disclosed that her doctoral dissertation was actually on analysis of Lagos State Special Education Policy as Compared to that of the United States of America (a two-part study, comparative study and policy analysis), said: “We approach teaching and learning from each other’s zone of proximal development…, meaning that before you teach a child, you must be sure that the child is ready for learning.

”We believe in mastery learning, which allows students to learn at their own pace with no learning gaps and with the ultimate goal of teaching them how to become lifelong self-directed learners. This means that when we teach you something, we teach you to master that thing. That’s how we teach and that’s what makes our methods unique,” adding ”Students learn challenging skills and master them without forgetting the skills they learned from us.”

On those who can benefit from the services of Learning Helpers, Dr. Abayomi-Ige, who is a member of many professional bodies including the American Academic of Special Education Teachers (AASEP), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Council for Learning Disabilities, International Dyslexia Association, Pennsylvania Dyslexia Association and the International Association For Special Educations, listed parents, guardians, teachers, caregivers, school administrators, education stakeholders, corporations, NGOs, children and adults as those that can benefit from the services offered by her organisation.

She however maintained that “Learning helpers is a virtual platform only because we are operating from the United States and we can reach anywhere in the world.”

According to her, ”We do direct consulting (individualised), parent coaching for meetings (individualised or small groups), diagnostic testing (mathematics, reading etc),parent support and awareness programmes, special education awareness programmes, individualised education planning (writing and review), IFSP – Individualised Family Support Programmes and Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA).”

Recalling her local experience during her one-month experience at the Heart of Gold centre in Surulere, Lagos, Dr. Abayomi-Ige disclosed that she was there to volunteer in helping the children there with her son for a whole month and the experience there was one of the reasons that made her to decide to write her dissertation on Lagos State, adding that she had also done a live presentation at the Kwara State University in Ilorin some years ago before the COVID outbreak.

“I was at the Heart of Gold in Surulere for a whole month with my son, teaching and helping the children. It was then I discovered how children with disabilities in Nigeria are deprived of knowledge and learning because we still follow the ”welfare model” whereby we just feed and house them and we’ve turned it into a charity thing. Like when somebody is having a birthday party, they go there with food and gifts, without even considering that these kids could actually go to school, and can even do better with themselves.

“I have done a few things in Nigeria, I have consulted with some professors in Nigeria but I haven’t really done anything with the NGOs but would like to do so if approached. Would like to work with them, women groups, churches and others to impart the needed knowledge to better the lives of children with special needs as what we do is to actually train the trainers.

“I have been doing this here in the United States for 25 years and I see what is working and what is not working here and how can I bring it here to my country. I have seen how children still struggle with their parents, if they are not getting the right people and resources to work with them, even with the huge amount of money being pumped into Special Education by the government . The goal is to actually train people and provide them with what they would need so as to be better prepared to help these children in their environment. My goal is to train and empower people to be better prepared to help their children,” she stated.

Lamenting situations where children are lumped together on the assumption that they have same challenges without proper diagnosis and examination of individual cases, Dr. Abayomi-Ige expressed her desire to come down to Nigeria with her team of experts in different areas of special needs to offer free services to groups, churches, non-governmental organisations and others involved in taking care of children with special needs given adequate preparation and assurance on safety and security of the team members.

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Olaolu OLUSINA is the Editor, THEWILL Newspaper.

Olaolu Olusina, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Olaolu OLUSINA is the Editor, THEWILL Newspaper.

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