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The Apps Learning Centre / advertising feature

Changing rules to inspire special children THE Apps Learning Centre at Ainslie shops is a tutoring service that specialises in working with children who have special needs. Founder Mary-Anne Apps explains that the centre’s individually tailored programs take a holistic approach, linking all areas of learning and development in a fun, positive environment, and says there are few other services like it in the ACT and surrounding region. “The main difference between us and other tutoring services is our extensive and broad understanding of the barriers a lot of children face in the classroom,” she says. “It’s one-to-one tutoring in an environment where a child can be completely and individually tailored for.” The upbeat, passionate educator has a masters degree in special education, and has undertaken extensive study into various disorders that can affect a child’s ability to learn in the classroom. She has lectured undergraduate students on special needs, inclusive education and how positive reinforcement can be used to modify behaviour for the better, “instead of just saying ‘no’ all the time”. With this approach, The Apps Learning Centre caters for students with dyslexia, ADD or ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, global developmental delay, sensory processing disorder or difficulties with fine and gross motor skills. “With any of those issues, we can strip away that shell, that barrier, and do whatever we need to, one-on-one, to make it work for them,” says Mary-Anne. The centre also develops behavioural management plans for children in the classroom to identify what triggers negative behaviours and find positive solutions. Over a 20-year career as a teacher with expertise in special needs, Mary-Anne has seen how challenging classroom education can be for some students, so her learning centre takes a completely different approach, underpinned with a firm belief that “fun is the key to learning”. “The rules that you have to enforce in a school that take away the fun aren’t here,” she says. “We don’t need to have rules that say you can’t have a piece of chocolate, for example. If we want them to remember something like the sound “ch”, we can give

20  CityNews  Jun 6–12

Apps Learning Centre founder Mary-Anne Apps, left, tutor Allison Rice and teacher Nicole Spillane... “The naughtier or the harder the child is, you just love them more and give more,” says Mary-Anne. them a piece of chocolate. They can paint on the tables and write on the windows, too, and there’s a lot of hands-on work, a lot of craft, a lot of fun.” Most children – especially those who aren’t thriving at school – find the idea of even more teaching a bit of a drag, but Mary-Anne’s whole approach focuses on helping them be themselves, be their best and be happy at the same time, in stark contrast to the classroom. “We look at developmental age, not chronological,” she explains. “Often when a child walks in, their parent

says something like, ‘He’s in year 3 so we want him to get to year 3 level,’ but he might only be at kindergarten level. We remove all those expectations and work out where they are, we go back to where they’ve missed out and then, all of a sudden, their ability just jumps up.” Students who come to The Apps Learning Centre start with an initial assessment that “looks at the whole child”, she says. This covers not only their academic development but also links it with their physical and nutritional needs, as

well as sensory and behavioural allowances, all designed to promote self-esteem and wellbeing. There is a particular focus on good nutrition and the importance of regular exercise through activities such as yoga, team sport, bike riding, swimming and running. “Every child is different and the programs are not just academic, our whole approach is about trying to be holistic,” says Mary-Anne. “Maybe they’re having trouble in maths and literacy when they come here, but that doesn’t mean we would just look at maths and literacy; that’s just one part of it. “With that individual support, their self-esteem just goes up and they improve across all their learning. They feel so much better about themselves, just with someone understanding them, and then they can apply that across everything else.” While its expertise is in special needs, The Apps Learning Centre also offers more standard tutoring services to help older primary school and high school students who want to excel in the highest level subjects, or get the best scores they can in major assessments. Mary-Anne strongly believes in the service she provides and hopes to win Government funding to make it available to students with special needs, who can’t come to the little learning centre at Ainslie shops for various reasons. “One thing we’ve noticed is that kids in rural areas outside of Canberra and kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds have limited access to anything like this,” she says. As another teacher with many years experience in schools, who now works alongside Mary-Anne, Nicole Spillane is also a strong believer in how successful the learning centre’s methods are. “One of the things I’ve noticed as a relatively new staff member here is that Mary-Anne’s used her experience from doing this job in a school for many years to then bring out the best of it, adapt it, but leave all the expectations and the rules behind,” says Nicole. “It’s taking something that’s been tried and true and used in schools for many years, but then fine-tuning it down to make it child-centred learning in here.” The Apps Learning Centre, upstairs at Ainslie shops, Edgar Street, Ainslie. Call 0412 544 173 or email mapps@

130606 citynews  
130606 citynews  

SEEMS sort-of comforting in the lumpy-Budget edition to feature Civic’s tax-free “free hugs guy”. He stands there “feeling the love” in Gare...