Extra Lesson (E.L.)

The Extra Lesson was originally developed by Audrey McAllen in the UK and is based on the holistic developmental perspective of Rudolf Steiner's philosophy of education.


I have been working with children with this method for over a decade. E.L is based on the holistic development educational philosophies of Rudolf Steiner. It is an individualized 1-1 intervention programme for children and adolescents with learning, fine or gross motor problems, social or behavioural difficulties; including ADD/ADHD, Dyspraxia, Aspergers etc., concentration, memory or motivation difficulties. E.L. provides a fun programme which includes; drawing, colour therapy through water colour painting, sensory integration, rhythm etc. Steiner believed that we have four bodies; the physical, astral, etheric, and ego. The thought is that for example, culturally we move far less than we used to therefore our difficulties with memory and concentration is because the etheric (which loves movement) is weakened, so E.L. involves lots of rhythmical movement to strengthen the etheric body therefore strengthening the memory. The Extra Lesson has a very complicated theoretical base but is very simple and fun in its application to the student.


What is the Extra Lesson?

The Extra Lesson intervention programme is based on the paradigm that learning difficulties are related to developmental difficulties in the first seven year phase of the student's overall development, learning and early experiences.

This means that the student has not developed some of the ways of processing sensory information, which are at the basis of our learning processes. Sensory development has not developed and matured as fully as it could to give the student the optimum in learning faculties. For some it is difficulty taking in the information and for others it is difficulty showing that they have taken the information in and understood it.


What are some of the common characteristics of children or adolescents who would benefit from the Extra Lesson?

Tick off ones that a apply to your child;


- Performing below age level academically
- Avoids reading and handwriting tasks
- Difficulty with social relationships
- Easily frustrated or blames others
- Awkward or tight pencil grip
- Skips lines when reading
- Reversals in handwriting/reading or reversals persisted longer than peers
- Easily distracted, short attention span
- Behaviour problems at home and/or school
- Disorganized and/or looses things
- Clumsy or accident prone
- Poor balance, lack of co-ordination, low muscle tone
- Difficulty remembering or following instructions
- Over emotional or hypersensitive
- Mood swings
- Anger attacks
- Ambidextrous
- Difficulty learning or performing new tasks
- Diagnosed as ADD or ADHD, dyspraxic or dyslexic.

A cluster of three or more of the above indicates that your child has some developmental difficulties and would benefit from an intervention as such the Extra Lesson. Adolescents may have had some of the characteristics at an earlier age and have found ways to compensate.


Why does my child have learning or behavioural problems?

Disruption of a child's early development and initial sensory learning experiences can interfere with the subsequent development and learning as the child grows older.

The first seven years of a child's life are primarily focused on the physical and sensor development pf the child and lay the foundations for all later academic learning and behaviour. The analogy can be made of a house with faulty foundations, in that the house is structurally sound however cracks in the walls may appear. If the child has "faulty foundations" then later learning may require additional effort and the learning process for the child is not an easy or enjoyable one.

Learning is a spontaneous process in most children that comes from curiosity, so a child who finds learning difficult or one who has to put in extra effort all the time may end up feeling frustrated and this is an indicator of underlying developmental issues.
Common interferences to early child development:

- Problems of accidents during pregnancy
- A difficult, prolonged, too quick, or interrupted birthing process
- Illness e.g. ear infections, tonsillitis or the need for a lot of antibiotics
- Time in a walker, jolly jumper or limited movement opportunities
-  Excessive passivity e.g. lots of TV, game boy
- Trauma or emotional upset in the family life
- Adverse reactions to medication or immunizations
- Allergies and food sensitivities
- Post natal depression
- And many other interferences.

Sometimes the cause is unknown and often the circumstances were unavoidable in the parent/s situation. The main focus is identifying what the developmental issues are for the student and doing something about these rather than focusing on the past that cannot be changed.


Why is the Extra Lesson different to tutoring?

In the Extra Lesson we work on the idea of giving the child or student a second opportunity to learn by working on the underlying difficulties so that learning can proceed unimpeded. At a later date after the underlying issues are addressed the student can go back in acquire the learning that was missed earlier if necessary, although this is often unnecessary.

The Extra Lesson intervention process can take up to a year, however if learning can then proceed with enjoyment the student is free to learn for a lifetime not just catch up on yesterday's schoolwork.


What is involved in an assessment?

The Extra lesson intervention program involves you and your child or adolescent in an initial assessment.

The assessment covers the following:

- A standardized test to assess reading accuracy and comprehension if applicable
- Parent interview about early development and the areas of concern
- A reflex assessment
- Dominance and laterality assessment
- Fine motor skills (e.g. handwriting), hand eye co-ordination
- Overall co-ordination, balance and rhythm
- Spatial awareness
- Eye movements
- Memory and auditory processing
- Behavioural checklist
- General impression of the student's sense of self and wellbeing.

An Extra Lesson program involves weekly sessions with a trained practitioner working through an individualized intervention program to address the underlying developmental difficulties behind the presenting problems or concerns and involves a short daily home program.

The program will include movement, co-ordination, speech, drawing and painting exercises to work with the student's underlying developmental issues.

The length of time required for the program varies with each child and the time available to parents to support the program.

Parents maybe referred to a doctor or other professionals with experience in the area of learning difficulties e.g. a behavioural optometrist for vision and eye movement problems.


How would I know my child could benefit from the Extra Lesson intervention?

- If you feel your child is of average intelligence and is not enjoying learning as you would expect then the Extra Lesson would make a difference in your child, especially if you found a cluster of characteristics that fitted your knowledge of your child.


- Parents often know what their children's issues are and although at school your child maybe coping you may see the extra effort of frustration needed for them in learning or managing their behaviour.


- Students with a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD commonly have underlying developmental issues and if the opportunity arises to address these issues it provides the student with an increased ability to control their behaviour and improve learning outcomes.


Practitioners of Extra Lesson

  • Robyn Ritchie