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Learning difficulty clinics rise in China, addressing both children's struggles and parental anxiety

By Xu Zhesheng | | Updated: 2023-12-13 19:30
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A growing network of "learning difficulty" clinics in Chinese hospitals is tackling not just children's academic challenges but also the anxieties of their parents, offering a holistic approach to educational struggles.

Spurred by increasing demand from parents concerned about their children's poor academic performance, these clinics have emerged in major cities across the country, including Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, and Nanjing. Parents report symptoms in their children such as difficulty concentrating, procrastination, frequent complaints of hunger or fatigue, and limited knowledge retention.

The Fourth People's Hospital of Chengdu opened its learning difficulty clinic in March, and appointments are consistently booked solid, according to Hu Yalan, head of the hospital's children's psychology department. Hu emphasizes the diverse causes of learning difficulties, ranging from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and specific learning disorders to intellectual disabilities, autism, and emotional factors like depression and anxiety. Additionally, she highlights the importance of individual interests in shaping learning experiences.

The Chinese Medical Association defines specific learning disorders as neural conditions impacting cognitive function and leading to difficulties with reading, math, and spelling. Hu notes that ADHD is the most common diagnosis among clinic patients, and surprisingly, some graduate students visit seeking to improve their learning abilities.

However, Hu clarifies that the clinic doesn't offer magic solutions for academic success. "It's unrealistic to expect us to turn struggling students into top performers," she says, emphasizing the importance of realistic expectations and recognizing that some children may not require specific interventions.

Shi Ping, director of the psychology department at Tianjin Children's Hospital, echoes this sentiment, blaming excessive parental pressure on academic achievements as a potential contributor to developmental disorders impacting learning. "Parents should reflect on themselves and adjust their educational methods," Shi said.

Hu adds that setting reasonable learning goals and avoiding judging children solely on academic performance is crucial. "Academic success shouldn't define a child's entire life," she emphasizes.

Online discussions reveal diverse experiences with learning difficulty clinics. Some parents acknowledge their own parenting shortcomings and lack of quality time spent with their children, while others discover their children simply thrive in non-traditional learning environments. In such cases, parents have chosen to let their children develop naturally and focus on exploring areas aligned with their talents and interests.

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