Sometimes, when school reports come home, they are not what we as parents are hoping for. Here are ten areas where some kids struggle at school and some ideas about what parents can do to help.
Before we break it down lets look at some general points to keep in mind:
Be open. A parent's emotional attachment to a child is like no other, so when you feel like your child is being criticised it's hard not to be upset or defensive, or sometimes even angry. This is especially so if you know your child tries very hard and still struggles. It 's also hard if you know you are working hard to support your child at home and feel like it's not helping. It is tough too if you think your child is doing well and a poor report seems to come as a surprise out of the blue.
Try to remember that teachers teach because they care about kids, so you and your child's teacher are on the same team, trying to help your child. If there is anything you feel unsure about make a time to meet and discuss it. Remember teachers are busy and you may need to make a time to meet later on rather than trying to catch up in the class when there are other things to attend to.
Communicate both ways. Be clear if there are areas in your child's report you are not sure about. Ask the teacher to explain what your child is doing currently and what they should be doing. If you have concerns about things like homework explain to the teacher what is happening at home and ask for support if you need it. "Caitlin takes over half an hour to write out her spelling words each night. Should it take that long? Are there any things I can do to help her with it?" Teachers can often modify homework for children who are struggling or give parents extra tips or ideas to help, but only if they know there is a problem.
Ask if there are any other things you can do to help. When a child needs extra help such as an assessment, or extra support outside of school, parents often wait for suggestions from teachers, while teachers worry about upsettting parents by suggesting things. I thought for a long time that one of my children needed occupational therapy, but waited for the teacher to suggest it. She didn't, (probably becuase she knew I was a speech pathologist and could therefore work that out myself) however when we finally discussed it we both thought it was a good idea and it turned out to be very helpful. It is easier for teachers to discuss options of they know you are likely to folllow up with any suggestions they make.
Here are some common areas of concern and some suggestions of things that may help:
1. Reading. A child's ability to read is so important because reading abilities impact on all other areas of learning. Helping your child to develop a good attitude to books and reading is really important. Make sure you spend time reading and sharing books together so that your child develops a postive attitude and a desire to read. Make sure you do your child's reading practice regularly and follow the suggestions from your child's teacher about how to do reading practice at home and how to help your child when they get "stuck".
If your child tries hard, loves books and you do regular practice and they are still struggling they may need extra support. Reading difficulties are most often related to difficulties with phonological awareness (which is an understanding of sounds in words and closely related to phonics). To find out more about phonological awareness and how to help your child click here. Children with difficulties with phonological awareness will also often have difficulties with spelling.
If your child has adequate phonological skills but still struggles with reading they may have a language based difficulty. This is often the case for older children who do well with the early stages of reading but struggle as the language of the books they are required to read becomes more complex. These children often benefit from support to develop their language skills. To find out more about how language difficulties affect school progress click here.
2. Reading comprehension Some children can read well when reading aloud but have trouble comprehending what they read. This is also often related to language skill difficulties as reading is a language based activity. It relies on our understanding of words, sentences structures and grammar in the same way as speaking and listening does. These children also benefit from support to develop their language skills. To find out more about how language difficulties affect school progress click here. Some schools require children to answer questions about what they have read in order to move through levels of reading. If you find that your child has trouble understanding or answering some types of questions you may like to find out more and practice questions with your child.
3. Spelling Spelling is another skill that is strongly related to phonological awareness skills. Children with a history of ear infections or hearing problems are more likely to struggle with these skills, so if you have concerns have your child's hearing properly tested. Children with a history of speech problems are also more at risk (as are those who still have speech problems). If you are concerned about your child's speech development click here.
Some parents worry that their child may have dyslexia. This means that a child has problems with literacy skills which are not explained by a low level of intelligence or lack of good teaching. This is also something that is often related to language skills. To find out more about dyslexia click here. Developing phonological awareness skills is the best way to help children with spelling.
4. Writing Some children can spell quite well but have trouble forming sentences, using grammar and putting their ideas on paper. This is also a language based skill in the same way as forming sentences, using grammar and telling about something that happened when we speak. Here is a link to some general strategies for helping children with written language and there are some links to other ideas and activities to download here.
5. Handwriting Some children struggle to write neatly, form letters with the correct shape or the correct size. They may not be able to write quickly enough to keep up with work or they may tire easily. Occupational therapsist help children develop the skills needed for neat, efficient hand writing. To find out what an occupaitonal therapist would suggest to help click here.
6. Sitting still Some children wriggle, jiggle, fiddle and just can't keep still. It's not that they don't want to, or don't know that they should, they just can't. This makes it harder to do other tasks such as writing well. Wrigglers often have poor core muscle strength and occupational therapists can help here too. Click here to find out more about helping your wriggly, jiggler.
7. Listening and paying attention. Some kids have trouble sitting still which makes it hard to pay attention, while others just seem to not listen well. If you are worried that your child does not seem to listen click here to find out more about how to help with listening skills. Other kids can listen for short periods but can't concentrate on anything for very long. They may move around alot or they may just sit and "drift off". If this is your child and you are worried they may have ADD or ADHD click here.
8. Following instructions. Some children can pay attention, listen and then just forget what they need to do. This can be related to diffiuclties with auditory memory, which is about remembering things that you hear. Click here to find some fun ways to develop your child's auditory memory.
9. Completing tasks. Some kids find it hard to complete tasks. They may have trouble getting started and seem overwhelmed, or they may get lost along the way. Visual supports such as schedules are a good way of breaking tasks down and help children to sequence all the steps. Because they can see what they need to do they can refer back to it themselves and be more independent. If they can see a reward at the end this helps motivate them to get there. Click here to find out more about visuals and if you think they will help your child at school feel free to share the information with your child's teacher.
10 Getting along with others. Some children struggle with the social aspects of the classroom and with knowing how to communicate, share or play with others. Social stories are one thing that can help with that. Click here to find out more about social stories. There are also activities for helping your child learn to manage their emoitions and to understand the emotions of others.
If you are concerned about any of these aspects of your child's schooling it is always a good idea to ask for extra support. A formal assessment of your child's skills by a trained professional can help pinpoint areas of need and provide the right kind of support to develop your child's skills and help them succeed,
Talking Matters provides speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychology services to kids of all ages in Adelaide, South Australia. To find out more about our team and what we do browse our website and see how we can help your family.
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