Today was a good day, because today we had parent – teacher conferences at Seven Gen. I’m pleased to report that not only is Amelia doing well, she’s making excellent progress. I knew she was kicking butt in spelling (thanks to working with her every night for about 10-15 minutes) but today, I learned her progress in everything else. She’s at class level in EIC, which really amounts to science. She adores presenting in front of the class (I didn’t know!) and she’s really doing very well with behavior. She’s starting to come along in art class, and Spanish is more about social skills for her than learning a language. She’s awesome in gym – I don’t know where she gets this, but she loves basketball! No soccer for this kid.
As we reviewed and set goals, a lot of good information was shared both ways between myself and her school team. Here are some tips I have learned to my learning disabled child succeed in school:
5 Ways to Help Your Learning Disabled Child Succeed in School
1. Utilize lots of parent-teacher communication.
It’s critical to keep in contact frequently with the teachers and your child’s team. This also means using what works best for you: notebooks, daily sheets, phone calls, meetings. Don’t limit it to the IEP and don’t be afraid to call for new IEPs – or re-evaluates or more casual meetings if it applies. Ask your therapist team, if you have one, for progress represented with line charts. Ask your guidance counselor what topics are being covered if your child is in a group. I’m really gratified that my team (teachers and aides from school along with my own) outpaces me on keeping on top of this. If yours doesn’t, its time to step it up for them. Even typical children benefit from an active partnership.
2. Daily academic practice at home.
This is for those of you who have a school with no homework, for long break periods like Christmas vacation and summer, and for when your child just plain seems to be slacking. Back in 2010, I wrote, “On Monday, we get spelling words and it takes 5 days for Amelia to learn the words she doesn’t know yet, and mostly master spelling them. This daily practice is helping her handwriting too.” Now that we have had several intervening years without homework, I can tell you that I did drop the ball on this. However, re-adding Bible study several times a week for my children has helped them understand that learning will be done. As Amelia returns to public school this fall, nightly homework will reappear. And since I want Zoe to focus on her math strengths, that too will be something we’ll look into – math that stretches her!
3, Play to your child’s strengths and adapt for weaknesses.
Back in her 2nd grade year, I wrote, “The interesting thing about the parent-teacher meeting is that the strengths review topped their discussion list, and there was no ‘weakness’ review, even though we discussed areas and times that she has difficulties. For example, the math learning support teacher discussed what she was doing with Amelia, reviewing successes and how she had a hard time transferring that skill. They will work on it this week, then move on and revisit the problem area another time.”
At the time, this worked well, but later on it hasn’t benefited her. So please do discuss the weaknesses with an eye to how you – and your team – think you can conquer it. A knowledgable, experienced team will have tools and ideas to help that newer teachers/staff may not know about.
4. Understand your child’s limitations…
It may take many failed attempts to see what works and lots of breaks or cues, but it’s critical to remember that while learning can take time for a child with a disability, it doesn’t mean she can’t learn. Be sure to include what your child likes and don’t just wade through the exercises or go over what they don’t get a million times. Gage their attention and mood. Are they stressed out? Tired? Hungry? Back then, the teachers had a system for Amelia where they have her select how she is feeling every few minutes. Three “happy’s” in a row got a reward, so she was inspired to keep feeling good about the work. As she got older that kind of intense system was no longer appropriate and she learned to tell us how she was feeling. Mostly, that is. She IS a teenager after all.
5. …and yours as well.
No one learns by screaming, yelling, threatening. While it is tempting to resort to punishments or time outs to get things like homework done, does that help develop good study habits? I don’t think so. Breathe in and out, pray, meditate, sing, or give yourself a time out to help diffuse building impatience when your child is home from school and leaping for movies or video games. Let him relax, break out a snack, and just chill with him, then offer a reward for completed homework. (“No movies until you finish your homework.”) Make homework time peaceful and full of honest praise, and encourage him to “try again” in a positive way when there are errors. Review over and above what’s asked of, but make it FUN for the child. Amelia, for example, used to like to spell out her vocabulary by clapping so we do that whenever we think of it.
Another blast from my past: “That’s what I’ve learned in less than 2 months of second grade. I feel like a better mom already! There are a few things we do need to work on, though, and Zoe needs more structure to her day as well. Oh, and a little mommy bragging: Amelia’s greatest strength is her social skills, but according to her teachers, it’s more than that. “She kind and genuinely cares about others.” [BEAMING WILDLY] That’s my girl!”
That last part is still true but much has changed. I can’t really discuss Amelia’s last year at her charter school (what I think of as a manufactured disaster) but she made the best of it. Now, I’m hopeful that public school will get her up to speed with academics and will keep Zoe moving ahead as well. Let’s how that works!
What do you do to help your kids succeed? Share your best tips for going to “clueless about teaching” to “helping my kid succeed in school”?