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  1. #1
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    Default to instructors: A question

    Ok, the context it came up was not HR, but for all of you who teach the young set:

    What do you do when you are presented with a kid with educational challenges?

    More particular: Do you have any tips as to how how extract the information from the parents as to what exactly the hindrance in normal information absorption is?
    How do you go about it, without upsetting the parent and well, when you suspect the parent is also not playing with a full deck?

    This is a bit frustrating since I want the kids I come across to have a grand time, so later they can look back and say 'Yes, this riding lesson was the most fun' - or horse camp or whatever.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.



  2. #2
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    Well, I certainly would never ask a parent "what exactly is your child's hindrance in normal information absorption?" unless you want to lose a client.

    Why do you need to know?

    Even IF the kid has a learning disability, knowing what it is doesn't necessarily make your job any easier. Riding isn't a "typical" learning situation, so anything that might apply in a classroom isn't necessarily going to be the same while on a horse.

    That said, a lot of people without disabilities have trouble coordinating all the skills when they begin riding. As an adult beginner, I very clearly remember finding it next to impossible to actually post and steer and keep my heels down while listening to my instructor and trying not to run anyone over.

    I remember a lesson well into my riding where my trainer told me about 20 times "move your foot underneath you". After the lesson she got on the horse and put her feet farther back than her hips and said "you look like this". And I said "Why didn't you just say 'you look like a duck?'"

    She thought she was giving perfectly clear instructions and probably thought I had some sort of 'hindrance'.

    I guess I'd try different things with the kid to see if a different approach works better.



  3. #3
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    When I was teaching, I had several students who had learning delays. Usually the parents were up front about it from the beginning, but there were a couple that I had to pry the information out of the parent. The best approach, I always found, was to be straight forward. For example: "Susie seems to have a hard time focusing during her lesson. Is she challenged with this in other activities as well?" I would then find out that said child was diagnosed ADHD and the parents didn't give any medication on the weekends. So, in that case, you have to change your teaching strategy. In this case, I broke the lesson into 5 minute increments - every 5 minutes, we would do something else. Did we get a lot accomplished? Not really, but it allowed the child to be more successful than before I knew about the issue.
    Something to keep in mind, not every lesson is going to be "wow that was so much fun". You may have to remind parents and students of this. It is like learning anything else. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it sucks, but at the end, there is always learning going on.
    For me, it was always easy to adjust my style because I taught school before I taught riding lessons, so I was used to different learning styles.
    My new mantra - \"Life is too short not to eat ice cream.\"
    ReRiders Clique


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  4. #4
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    Well, You can't ask a parent that, that's for sure. Not in these words.

    However the issue needs to be addressed.
    it's not so much a matter of having to sort out the new body sensation of being on a horse, but more one of 'the light is on but nobody is home' kind of deals.

    You know, things that you do take for granted from a kid of that age, but that don't seem to be there.
    The kid is a sweet one, but very quiet. Things get lost.

    Which reminds me....need to ask that other kid a few questions....

    I mean, unless the parent is in the same boat and a few short...it is a problem it seems that recreational instructors are getting ids tossed in their lap that need a bit special attention (which I am happy to give, no questions asked) but without the slightest hint.
    It would make it easier for me to adjust my tools and more pleasant for the kids if we could do that without much trail and error!
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.



  5. #5
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    A simplified answer is you have to give them (selected) opportunities to fail then have the nerve to step back to see how they manage through the issue without jumping to correct the problem



  6. #6
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    It comes down to asking the right questions the right way when you notice something. The way you ask the question needs to provide a sense of concern and trust and non judgement.

    Usually parents are honest with me, but I've had some that haven't been, and it was information I really needed. By asking the right questions, I got the info I needed to change my teaching style to be the most effective and to come up with different goals.

    Usually something along the lines of "I noticed Suzie occasionally doesn't seem to hear me when I am at one end of the area. Does she have hearing loss or am I just speaking too quietly?" Something that simple can lead into a) Yes, a hearing loss b) no hearing loss but an attention deficit disorder or even c) Suzie says she's bored with your program.

    There have been bigger things that have come out from a line of questioning that started like that as well. Things like sever OCD, hefty panic issues that led to lengthy hospital stays etc.

    It all comes down to how you ask the question. I always phrase it in a way that I am feeling like I am failing at my job and looking for a better way to teach the child, because at the end of the day, that's true.

    But you also need to beware when you are in over your head. Just because you want the child to have a great time and learn and benefit from spending time around horses, sometimes there are issues that you and your animals aren't equipped to handle. And in those cases it's always better to send them to someone trained and equipped with years of experience in the therapeutic equine industry.

    It IS frustrating when parents don't tell instructors information that can very much effect not only their experience but their safety. But I also understand that sometimes they want their child to be able to have normalcy in some part of their lives. I think many are afraid they will be turned away and not allowed to ride.

    Regardless of issues, I ask every single kid what their favorite subject in school is and why. It gives me an idea of their learning style and thought process.
    "Aye God, Woodrow..."


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  7. #7
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    "Hi Mom. You know your child best, and I always like to ask the experts what works best for Susie. When you're showing her something new, are there any strategies that you think work best? Does she learn best when watching someone do something, when being told verbally, or do you physically help her do the new thing? Anything you can think of that they do at school that works well for Susie?"

    Agree with the others to also just experiment with visual, audio, and physical cues and see what clicks. Also--think about task analysis: break the skills down into more manageable steps. Keep instructions very short and allow her time to process what you've said before diving into the next "thing". Start with one- or two-step instructions and build from there. And give lots of advance notice before you do something. "On the next lap. we're going to reverse directions on the diagonal." instead of saying three strides out "Ok change directions....".
    Finally: shut up every now and then. We tend to fill the silence with lots of words, and she may really need time to process your previous words without you adding more words to the mix.
    PS same advice applies to the parent.
    Try to break down crushing defeats into smaller, more manageable failures. It’s also helpful every now and then to stop, take stock of your situation, and really beat yourself up about it.The Onion


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  8. #8
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    It is amazing what parents won't share with an instructor. A bunch of years ago we had a 6 yo girl start to take lessons. The girl appeared to be really shy and didn't respond to the instructor's questions but seemed interested in the pony so the instructor didn't push it figuring the kid would warm up as they went along. As the first lesson is basic grooming and a glorified pony ride, no big deal. Halfway through the second lesson with still no response to questions or the apparent ability to follow the directions, the instructor asked the mom for help phrasing it like "I seem to be having a tough time having little Becky follow my instructions. Do you have any suggestions?" The mom said, "Well, she's only been in this country a month and doesn't really speak or understand much English yet." You would think the mom might have volunteered this information a little earlier!


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  9. #9
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    Tread carefully.

    I have a good instructor friend who has also been in the equine therapy world. Her barn is next to a place that formally does that. Parents come to her explicitly so as to avoid the "labeling" thing they don't want to do, or their kid doesn't want to do.

    So ask yourself what all those lettered diagnoses or the autism spectrum mean to you. If they help you significantly change your pedagogy, then it's worth asking. If not, can you just avoid the formal diagnosis and figure out the kid's learning style?

    That works best for my friend-- happy kids and happy parents. Oh, and I think it's wonderful that you want to give a kid an experience tailor-made for her sense of fun or accomplishment.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


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  10. #10
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    OP, do you have specialized knowledge (like a special education teacher, social worker, psychologist) that would make knowing a diagnosis beneficial? If not, I don't see how it would help.
    "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanuel Kant


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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by clanter View Post
    A simplified answer is you have to give them (selected) opportunities to fail then have the nerve to step back to see how they manage through the issue without jumping to correct the problem
    while with some kids I do agree it can be a good learning experience, the one I am eyeballing would be a pretty bad candidate....I prefer to set them up for success, make the right thing easier.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.


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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by LauraKY View Post
    OP, do you have specialized knowledge (like a special education teacher, social worker, psychologist) that would make knowing a diagnosis beneficial? If not, I don't see how it would help.
    details? No, I don't need to know.
    But there are things in my scenario that are required knowledge, like medication, etc. Even as non professional, I am slipping in the spot where I interact and teach youngsters, I do not want to make grave mistakes that could be easily avoided by a little more background knowledge.


    I can appreciate the fact that the parents don't want to broadcast the 'condition' or that the kids do not want to get labeled, but under some circumstances it makes it an unpleasant encounter, for the child as well as the instructor.
    I can still make myself knowledgeable and tailor my approach to the child.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.



  13. #13
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    Hmmm. I know that you want to know, but I disagree that you need to know diagnosis or medication. It's an invasion of privacy unless the kid is in a therapeutic setting. What you do need to know are the results or likely impacts of these things. You can describe to the parent the important skills or abilities needed to do XYZ activity safely and ask if there are likely to be difficulties in any of these areas / what assistance does the parent think the child needs. (Assuming riding lessons: balance, trunk control, fine motor skills, hearing, sight, etc.) Emphasize that deficits in any of these areas are not barriers to participating, but that it's important for safety reasons to know in advance if accomodations are needed.
    And then be smart enough to know if your program is really equipped to handle those accommodations. No crime in saying it's not a good fit, and you can go the extra mile by making inquiries and see if you can point them to the right place.
    Try to break down crushing defeats into smaller, more manageable failures. It’s also helpful every now and then to stop, take stock of your situation, and really beat yourself up about it.The Onion



  14. #14
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    Even better than "behavioral" is "physical".

    I volunteer/assist in lessons at a riding camp. Obviously, we get lots of beginners.

    We had one kid show up this past summer. Grandpa tells us, "I used to ride, she's been on a horse a few times, blahblahblah..." Great. We put her on our cob-type horse, since she was a older (15?) girl and we figured she was strong/balanced/coordinated enough to deal with something that is over 13 hands. And we don't like to out bigger kids on smaller ponies if we don't need to for skill levels to match up, etc.

    So we get her on. The usual first lesson stuff, steering, cones, lalala. Girl does awesome, rides like she's done it tons, just out of practice. Line each kid up to do a lap of trot with a leader. She goes around with me at the horse's head, we have them sit and hold mane the first few times. She starts leaning, saddle starts slipping (horse is a cob, kind of round), we tell her LEAN RIGHT. She leans more to the left and eats fencepost.

    Grandpa upon picking her up at the end of the day; "Oh, well, yes,she does have some balance issues.... falls down a lot.... sometimes she starts leaning and doesn't realize it"

    WELL THANKS, DUDE. We could have easily saved the kid from some ugly bruises if we'd known that... like a horse with better withers, one that baby-sits better... ugh.

    Even better was the mom that tried to drop her kid off for camp (Residential camp, no less). Health problem section on the form was great, no problems.

    Kid gets there, and is in a WHEELCHAIR. We are not set up to be wheelchair accessible. We wish we could be, but its an expense we can't undertake at the moment. The website is VERY clear about this. We have no ponies suitable, the staff don't have the training... no to mention the specialized equipment we lack. Heck, the kid couldn't even get into the barn, there's steps at both doors.

    We had to send the poor kid home, we all felt awful... the mom completely freaked out, even though we gave her back all her money and the non-refundable deposit. The website and forms are very clear, its not a therapeutic riding center. But we were all horrible people for not being able to cater to her childs needs, with no notice.


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  15. #15
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    Is the kid old enough for you to ask them how they prefer to learn? When I was 12, a riding instructor spent about a month with me trying to figure out why I had such a hard time in lessons. Turns out I need to watch someone do something (new riding technique, new exercise, etc.) before I do it, otherwise I find some way to botch it up. I don't have any learning difficulty, I'm just very visual.

    Could be something like this? Identifying how they learn is a valuable skill for the kid, too, that way they can focus on learning strategies and help themselves learn and succeed.

    Like now, with my current trainer, at horse shows I can't be the first one on course. I have to watch a horse and rider pair go around so I can remember the course. Walking the course first and taking mental "snapshots" of what I see when I'm on course is also essential for me. (At home when I'm in a private lesson, I memorize the order of fences by color: blue single to the red, three strides to the yellow, then purple diagonal, etc.) When my trainer wants to introduce a new concept to me, he'll show me (on another horse or my horse, doesn't matter, I just have to see it). It's not any sort of disability, just a specific learning style. I'm very grateful that my instructor as a kid helped me figure it out, because I am able to use that knowledge to my advantage now.
    Last edited by bluebuckets; Jan. 23, 2013 at 12:39 AM. Reason: More info



  16. #16
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    I could see how you'd want to know, I had a coworker a year ago that we could NOT bond with, we're a tight knit little pet store, it was hugely frustrating. He also didn't seem to understand directions that well, we had to tell him things over and over, and he never quite bonded with the customers. We found out he was autistic, aha! We stopped pushing him and gave him different tasks (ie more back work, less customer service, etc.)

    Having a kid who seems in the clouds, and not listening could drive a person nuts. Am I doing something wrong? What do I need to change in my teaching style? Etc. so I'd approach the parent and say something like "I don't think we're clicking yet, how does your child learn best?"



  17. #17
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    I usually was able to adapt to these situations, particularly if the parent advised me ahead of time. I did have one case though that I could not deal with. Kid was excited to learn to ride but very forward right off the bat, opening stalls, tack trunks, "helping" feed by putting an entire bale of hay in a stall, trying to pick up a foot while the farrier had another foot in his hand. Parent would bring her very late and I would have to either give her a short lesson or none at all or she would come very late to pick her up. When I addressed the parent about these issues she said I could just let her sit on the wall to wait, even if I were gone for the day! The child was a compulsive, shall we say, teller of tales that were untrue", when you gave her an instruction, she would look straight at you, nod, and they proceed to do the wrong thing. She would ride around, staring at other riders and not pay attention to where she was going. When teaching a group how to ride a simple 20 meter then 10 meter circle, including demonstrations, she never got it while the others did. I finally took the mother aside and told her that her child was a danger to herself, other riders, and the horses and until she was able to take orders she was not to come back. (she never did)I think the kid had a learning disability of some kind that the parents we ignoring or just not seeing!



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by HungarianHippo View Post
    Hmmm. I know that you want to know, but I disagree that you need to know diagnosis or medication. It's an invasion of privacy unless the kid is in a therapeutic setting. What you do need to know are the results or likely impacts of these things. You can describe to the parent the important skills or abilities needed to do XYZ activity safely and ask if there are likely to be difficulties in any of these areas / what assistance does the parent think the child needs. (Assuming riding lessons: balance, trunk control, fine motor skills, hearing, sight, etc.) Emphasize that deficits in any of these areas are not barriers to participating, but that it's important for safety reasons to know in advance if accomodations are needed.
    And then be smart enough to know if your program is really equipped to handle those accommodations. No crime in saying it's not a good fit, and you can go the extra mile by making inquiries and see if you can point them to the right place.
    No, I do not need to know the particular alphabet soup label.
    But it is to fair to the kid to pretend nothing is going on.

    The kid had a meltdown because we were operating under the assumption that we were just dealing with a mild learning disability.

    I much prefer knowing a bit more over the olden ways, shoving a kid into the background, considering it a dummy.

    The child needs a bit more tailored approach which we (we are a small group of adults, in addition to the group of kids) clearly cannot provide if we can't manage to get a clue. The kid would be the loser. Not really an option!
    Last edited by Alagirl; Jan. 23, 2013 at 08:15 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.



  19. #19
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    Alagirl, i think you 've misunderstood. I do not suggest pretending nothing is going on, shoving him/her in a corner, or setting the kid up to fail. All I'm saying is that you don't have a right to know the diagnosis/medications-- clear privacy issues-- but you CAN ask questions about the outward impacts. (along the lines of my first post). Same end result.
    Best of luck with it
    Try to break down crushing defeats into smaller, more manageable failures. It’s also helpful every now and then to stop, take stock of your situation, and really beat yourself up about it.The Onion



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alagirl View Post
    No, I do not need to know the particular alphabet soup label.
    But it is to fair to the kid to pretend nothing is going on.

    The kid had a meltdown because we were operating under the assumption that we were just dealing with a mild learning disability.

    I much prefer knowing a bit more over the olden ways, shoving a kid into the background, considering it a dummy.

    The child needs a bit more tailored approach which we (we are a small group of adults, in addition to the group of kids) clearly cannot provide if we can't manage to get a clue. The kid would be the loser. Not really an option!
    Why don't you suggest private lessons? There are many beginning riders that do much better in private lessons than group. If you don't offer private lessons, than I would tell the parent "you know, I think Suzie isn't ready for group lessons yet, and would do better in a private lesson. We don't offer private lessons, but Jane XYZ down the road does, and she's fabulous - you should call her."

    You said:
    Even as non professional, I am slipping in the spot where I interact and teach youngsters, I do not want to make grave mistakes that could be easily avoided by a little more background knowledge.

    What are the grave mistakes? It's a riding lesson. If you are talking about basic safety and the student is not capable, then again, I would tell the parent to seek out private lessons. Whether or not she has a disability (and/or knowing what it is) really isn't going to help. If they tell you she is autistic -- how does that help? Can you offer her private lessons now?


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