No Two Children the Same – Celebrating Difference

Recently I was privileged to attend an interactive talk for parents by Fintan O’Regan, who is an experienced additional educational needs consultant from the UK. The presentation was a breath of fresh air for parents interested in how attitudes in education are changing to understanding more about non-traditional learners. Basically, any child who doesn’t ‘fit in the box’.

Fintan, who has written a multitude of books on the subject, reminded the audience of how many ‘non-traditional learners’ had been incredibly successful and how in fact the world needs different people. In education he feels that we need to nurture difference instead of trying to stamp it out. These children are not naughty or willful just ‘quirky’.

He touched on the nature verses nurture debate and how often people who believe in the ‘nurture’ argument often perceive bad parenting as the problem. But today with advances in research it is generally agreed that ‘nature’ is key and basically no two children are the same.

When working with non-traditional learners, as parents and teachers we need to be aware of possible ‘quirks’ that might be misunderstood as challenging behaviour or lack of concentration. Some of the things he touched on were the need to move – often in young boys – ‘fidgeting’ is a way in which they may learn new information. Moving about while revising can actually help some young people to absorb and learn more. He also spoke about ‘predictable distraction’ where sometimes it helps kids to actually wear headphones and play music while doing their homework rather than being distracted by what is going on around them. Sometimes the solutions themselves need to come out of a better understanding of the needs of non-traditional learners.


How can parents make a difference

By recognizing some of the things that affect us as adults also affect our children in their learning process. Learning can be affected by environment, interest and mood. Understanding the environment that supports non-traditional learners can really make a difference to their learning experience. Fintan works directly with schools to help them in this process but parents can learn more for the home environment from his website or some of the practical books in our Additional Educational Needs – Recommended Reading Section.

Children like adults are also much more tuned in to learning things of interest to them. Parents can help this process by providing ways in which what they are learning can come alive by using the Internet, visiting places of interest or just by engaging in their child’s homework (may be age dependent). Most important to this process is mood. We all have BDS – Bad Day Syndrome and children also have the right to feel like this sometimes.

Parents of non-traditional learners may struggle with mood management sometimes. However, we all know that moods can be changed. With young children we often use distraction as a technique and this may be a useful behaviour when dealing with older children. Recognising that you or your child are not in the mood to learn may be key to ‘getting the head right and the rest will follow’. Why not suggest a break, do something completely different and plan to get back to the books when the head is in a better place.

The three things he suggested that might help our children get through the school years were an understanding that boys generally need more movement, that being organized is key to survival (and they may need some help with this) and strategies to disguise boredom rather than ‘acting out’ would be useful.

He finished the presentation with some amusing little gems to help us understand our children better and possibly key into their needs:


What Boys Need to Know

Who’s in charge?

What are the rules?

How are they going to be enforced?


What Girls Need to Know

Why are there rules?

Why are You in charge?

Give me back my phone!



Article by:  Lynn Frank who is a coordinator for Passage.

Last updated:  Friday 17th April, 2015