Tag Archives: struggling students

Your IEP Child: Starting Off the New School Year Right

20 Aug

It’s a new school year!  New clothes, new supplies, new teacher!  Exciting, right?  For children that struggle in school, the coming of the new school year can be a difficult transition time.  Past experience may have taught them that school is not a pleasant experience.  My own son, who struggles with ADHD and dyslexia, has, in the past, dreaded the coming of the new school year.  When your child does not have a healthy and happy attitude about school and learning, it makes their struggles even more painful for them and you (as their parent).  This does not mean that you should just except that your child will never enjoy going to school.  Many of my students that are on IEPs are  happy at school. Some student’s have a naturally positive attitude, but most of my struggling students need support to develop a healthy and happy attitude about learning.   I am happy to report that my son is looking forward to school beginning in a few weeks.  He has gotten a lot of support over the last school year and this summer, through his summer program.  He is looking forward to starting his new language based program and seeing the friends he has made.  Here are some ideas for building a healthy and happy attitude toward school that I have seen work with students on IEPs:

  • Be sure that your child’s educational needs are being met.  Nothing will bring down any student more than not getting what they need.  Ask questions of your child and the teachers that will tell you if the IEP is not being adhered too.  For example, you coud ask “Are you being given extra time to complete your tests?”
  • Remind your child OFTEN of the strengths they have.  Plan games and activities that emphasize these areas. For example, if your child is good at math, have them be the banker during a board game and be sure to say, “Mary is going to be the banker because she is so good at math.”
  • Let the teachers know about your child’s likes and dislikes.  Set your child up for success by informing the teacher right away of how to please them and how to avoid a melt down.
  • Experiment with homework times to find the best suited time for your child.  Try to set up and stick to a homework routine, this will reduce meltdowns and set expectations.
  • BE POSITIVE!  If your excited about school and learning, the chances are your child will pick up on your attitude and may imitate it.  Ask questions in a positive way.   For example:  “What great things happened at school today!”  “Tell me about something you were proud of today!”  “How many fun activities did you get to do today!”
  • Call out school staff that are being overly critical or negative about your child.  If you sense that a teacher’s attitude is affecting your child, you can call that teacher out (politely).  You could say something like, “Joey has been upset lately about some of the things that have happened at school.  He feels like he is being called out a lot and not being complimented enough.  How can we work together to fix this situation so that Joey can be happier at school?”

How to Get Help for Your Child that Struggles at School

15 Aug

It is heart breaking to watch your child struggle with school-related issues.  It is frustrating when school officials are not responding to your pleas for help.  Here are some ideas to help you get the school on your team:

The saying the squeaky wheel gets the grease is never more truer than in a school system.  As a teacher, I have seen this 1st hand.  Last year, I worked with a student who had mild dyslexia, but with extra time she could complete grade level reading work.  Her mother swooped into the school the very first week of school and demanded services for her child.  She was aggressive and threatened the principal, who promptly gave in to her unreasonable demands.  I was tapped to give the services to this student that had never been qualified for special education.  This may seem like an extreme example of the squeaky wheel, but it happens a lot.  I am not suggesting that any parent use aggressive tactics to get help for their child.  In the end, this child was taken off my caseload because I was able to gather data (or proof) that she did not need my help.  This child also has a severe case of  under-achieving because she quickly gives up when something is difficult.  I believe this could be the result of her mother underestimating her abilities and giving her help with things she can do on her own.

Meanwhile, in the same classroom there was a student that was reading well-below grade level, who was not receiving any help.  He was very shy and silently struggled in the back of the room.  Once his teacher figured out his troubles, she talked to his parents about getting him tested.  They agreed that he was struggling, but the parents never wrote the note asking for testing.   It takes a lot longer for a teacher to get testing for a student than it does for a parent. The testing did not happen until spring, and his services are set to begin this September.  A whole year was lost for this child.

In order to get help for your child you may need to do a couple of things.  The first thing you may need to do is to reach out for help.  There are people at the school that are there specifically to help struggling students, but sometimes struggling students do not get help.  It may be that they are struggling in silence and using strategies (yes, sometimes cheating) to fool you and the teachers.  It could be that the classroom they are in is overrun with struggling students and the teacher can’t get to everyone.  Whatever the reason, if you know your child is struggling and not receiving help, you need to ask for it.  You should state exactly what problems you see in your child and ask for their help in correcting these problems.  If the teacher has done something that did not help, but in fact caused more difficulties, speak up about it.  Teachers use strategies that they have had success with in the past, but what works for one may not work for your child.  Also, comment on successful strategies you have seen used with your child.  Once a plan of action has been established, follow up on it.

Following up is the second thing you need to do when you are trying to get help for your struggling child.  Remember that sometimes progress is slow, but look for any signs of improvement.  Keep track of your child’s progress yourself, saving their papers is one way to do this.  Speak again with the teachers, asking them for any signs of progress.   Ask to see proof of the progress.  If the teacher has not held up her end of the action plan, find out why and report this to her supervisor.  If there is no progress, now it is time to refer your own child for testing.  I have posted on how to do this in the past, so I will not repeat it.  Getting involved in the special education process can be frustrating at times, so don’t give up.

Not give up is another thing you need to do to get the help you want for your child.  You would be surprised what perseverance can get you at a school. Research your child’s educational rights and your parental rights.  Get free advice (the Federation for Child with Special Needs offers free phone consultations with trained advocates).  Knowledge will be your biggest advantage to getting what your child needs.  Arm yourself to the hilt with it.

Helping the Learning Disabled Child Overcome Obstacles to Their Success!

1 Aug

How to help your child with a learning disability (LD) overcome social and emotional obstacles and be proud of who they are!

In my last post, I talk about social and emotional vulnerabilities in children with LDs.  I wanted to make sure that I also posted about how your child can avoid those obstacles.  Like I said, there is no reason that a child with LDs cannot feel and be successful regardless of the severity of their disability and the past failures they have had.  In fact, many children with LDs experience success later in their education or careers because they have learned to persevere more than the non-disabled students.  Your job, as a parent of a child with LDs, is to make sure they have the best odds to learn that perseverance and overcome the pitfalls of LDs (anxiety, depression, anger, low self-esteem).  Having hope for your child will help to instill a feeling of hope in themselves.  

Here are some tips for instilling hope and pride in your child with LDs:

  1. Learn about the Disability:  A great place to start is to learn all about the disability, then explain it to your child in a positive way.  This will help them understand themselves better and take some of the pressure from them.  Once my son knew that his struggles were not caused by something he had done wrong, I saw an almost immediate change in his self-esteem.
  2. Find Success Stories:  Find other people who have learning disabilities that have gone on to be successful.  There are many actors (Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford), professional athletes (Michael Phelps), and historical figures (Albert Einstein, George Washington)  that have LDs.  My son loved learning that one of his Star Wars heroes (Harrison Ford) has dyslexia like him.
  3. Don’t Hide the Disability:  Telling other friends and family about the LD will show your child that you are not ashamed about it and will teach them not to be either.  Being honest about their weaknesses will help your child to not be ashamed to ask for help when they need it, an important self-advocacy skill for all children.
  4. Be Patient:  Allow your child to grow and learn at their own pace, but with your gentle encouragement.  Try not to force them to master something that they are not developmentally ready to learn yet, this will only increase their frustration levels (Remember:  You have to walk before you can run).
  5. Be Kind:  Try not to criticize or discourage your child, instead be understanding and supportive.  This can be hard at the end of a long day and your child is having a homework meltdown, but your child is probably already condemning themselves in their own mind.
  6. Don’t Enable:  Never do something for your child that they can do for themselves.  You don’t want your child to learn to be helpless, they need to see that they can do something for themselves.  Give your child the least amount of help that they need to still be successful.
  7. Be Flexible:  When nothing is going right… go left!  Try new things until you find what works…
  8. Never Give Up:  If you give up, your child will give up.  Put something aside, find a new approach, ask for help… but never, ever give up completely!
Quotes that I keep handy and refer to often:
  • Never discourage anyone who continually make progress, no matter how slow.  -Plato
  • An ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of preaching. -Gandhi
  • A jug fills drop by drop.  -Buddha
  • Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.  -Ben Franklin
  • …the hardest victory is over self.  -Aristotle

Learning Disabilities and Social/Emotional Difficulties

31 Jul

Student’s with specific learning disabilities (such as dyslexia) often struggle with social and/or emotional difficulties, but these difficulties do not cause learning disabilities. Learning disabilities (LDs) are believed to be largely genetic based, and are not caused by anxiety, depression, or poor parenting.  Social and/or emotional difficulties could be a result of the discouragement that children with LDs experience.  These children are intelligent. Their teachers and parents can sense this, but they wonder why they are not able to meet expectations.  Many of us think that if these children would just try a little harder they would do better.  What we don’t know is that the learning disabled child is probably trying harder than any other child to do well, but they are consistently not able to meet their teachers’ and parents’ expectations.  This is frustrating and discouraging for both the child and the adults, and many children with LDs end up feeling stupid.  Learning disabled children do not get to experience the fruits of their labor the way other children do.  This is why evaluations and diagnosis is so important.

As a parent, I loved being able to explain to my child that you are not stupid, in fact you are very bright, however your brain works differently than other people’s.  I saw a weight lifted off my son’s shoulders when I was able to explain to him why he was having so much trouble learning to read and write.  Many of his anxieties over school and school-work have lessened since his diagnosis with dyslexia, but as a teacher I know that children with LDs are vulnerable to social and/or emotional problems relating to their disability.    This list may seem daunting, but I believe that knowledge is power and that by acknowledging these vulnerabilities I can help my child try to avoid them.

Here is a list of problems associated with LDs in children:

  • Anger:  Children with LDs may be angry about the frustration that they feel.  They may have outbursts at school and during homework.
  • Anxiety:  Children with LDs may be fearful of school, school work, or other social situations because they fear they will experience failure.
  • Depression:  Children with LDs may experience depression related to sadness they may feel about their inability to achieve at the same pace as others can.  They may have a low self-esteem if they turn their anger about their LD in at themselves.
  • Self Image:  Children with LDs may feel inferior to others, powerless and incompetent because of the failures they have experienced.
  • Social Skill Difficulties:  Children with LDs may be immature compared to their peers and they may seem awkward in a social situation.  They may also have trouble reading social cues (or body language) or  have trouble with oral language (stammering, pauses while speaking, etc.)
While there are many negatives associated with having a learning disability, I believe that children with LDs can experience some extreme positives when they are able to overcome their challenges and experience success despite their LDs.  My next post will be ideas of how you can help your child avoid these problems and come out on top!

Signs Your Child May Have a Learning Disability

26 Jul

When their children begin to struggle in school, many parents worry that their child may have a learning disability (LD).  But most children struggle at some point in their education and most children do not have learning disabilities (it has been reported that only about 5% of students have a specific LD, such as dyslexia).  A specific learning disability is defined as a disorder in one or more of the psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language.  The disorder cannot be the result of a visual, hearing, or motor handicap, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or an environmental disadvantage (such as poverty).  Children with a specific LDs are not cognitively impaired.  As a teacher, I often hear parents say, “I don’t understand why so and so is struggling, they’re so smart.”  My usually response is, ” You’re right, they are smart!”

So… how do you know if your child is just struggling or if they have a learning disability?  Special educators look for the student that is not achieving as expected in one or more of the following areas:  oral expression, written expression, basic reading skills, reading fluency skills, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, mathematical calculation, and mathematical problem solving.

Special educators will ask themselves many questions about a students that is suspected of having a specific learning disability as they observe them in a classroom setting.  While some students without a LD may have some of these characteristics, students with an LD will have many of these characteristics.  If you are concerned that your child may have a specific learning disability, here is what to ask yourself :

  • Are their language skills (oral, reading, listening, and writing skills) age appropriate?
  • Do they have difficulty regulating their speech?  [For example: Do they talk too loud or too soft? Do they use a lot of fillers (umm, you know, etc.)?]
  • Do they have trouble naming people or objects?
  • Do they often mispronounce words?
  • Do they have difficulty staying on topic?
  • Do they have difficulty re-telling what has just been said?
  • Do they or did they have difficulty rhyming?
  • Do they or did they have difficulty counting?
  • Do they avoid reading and  writing?
  • Do they or did they confuse similar-looking letters and numbers? or often reverse letters and numbers?
  • Do they or did they have difficulty associating letters and sounds and blending sounds into words?
  • Do they, while reading, guess at a word rather than sound it out?
  • Do they have illegible, or nearly illegible, hand writing?
  • Do they have difficulty understanding instructions or directions?
  • Do they find it almost impossible to organize a task or activity?
  • Do they have difficulty sustaining attention(or is easily distracted) in work and/or play?  and/or lack self-control at times?
  • Do they have difficulty ‘joining in’ with peers? and/or not respond appropriately to others?
  • Do they appear awkward or clumsy?  and/or have trouble with buttons, learning to tie, or holding a pencil?

If you notice many of these characteristics in your struggling child, you may want to ask that an educational evaluation (or core evaluation)  be done as soon as possible.  For more advice on how to request an evaluation, see my earlier post entitled:

Requesting an Educational Evaluation: How to Get the Right Evaluation for Your Child

Emotional and Behavioral Disorders and Special Education

20 Jul

Some children have disabilities that affect their ability to behave in the expected way while at school.  For some of these students, their educational performance is affected and they may qualify for special education.   A child with an emotional and/or a behavioral disorder (EBD) that qualifies for special education will have special protections given to them that other students will not have.  If you suspect that your child may have EBD, or they have already been diagnosed, you may want to think about getting them qualified* for special education services to protect them.  Without a special education (sped) qualification, some students with EBD will be punished for behavior that it out of their control.  Some students are even suspended or expelled from school for their behaviors.  Most parents do not want to see their child miss out on their education because they have a disability, but are unsure how special education professionals can help their child.

Some children with EBD have externalizing behaviors.  This is acting out behavior that gets them into trouble with authority figures.  A child that is receiving sped services will not be able to be suspended for more than 10 days in a school year, or expelled, without a hearing to decide if the behavior is a result of their disability.  Also, if your child’s disorder becomes too acute for the school to handle, the school will have to place them in another educational setting. Other children have internalizing behaviors.  These are behaviors directed at themselves, such as feelings of self-hatred, depression, or suicidal thoughts.  Most schools have professionals on staff that can help students deal with these kinds of behaviors while at school. If the school cannot help the sped student with internalizing behaviors with the resources they have, the school will have to offer an alternative educational placement.

What children with EBD qualify* for special education?

Students must have a behavioral or emotional disturbance that will last over a long period and to a degree that it is affecting their ability to achieve at school.  What this means is that if a child experiences an emotional shock (such as a death of a parent) and begins to act out, they would probably not qualify for sped because they haven’t been experiencing the disturbance over a long time and the effects of the shock may improve.  Also, the disturbance must be severe enough that is affecting the students ability to do well in school.  For example, a student that is mildly depressed may have some difficulties, such as a poor self-image, but they may not be severe enough for them to need special services while at school.  Here are 5 factors that will qualify a child with EBD for sped services:

1.  Low academic achievement that cannot be explained by another reason (such as a learning disability)

2.  Low social skills (can’t keep up relationships with peers and teachers)

3.  Unexpected behavior in normal circumstances

4.  Depression or pervasive unhappiness

5.  Fear and anxiety associated with school issues

Specific illnesses that qualify children with EBD are:  attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), oppositional defiance disorder (ODD), depression, and bipolar disorder.

*For more information about qualifying your child for special education, see earlier posts.

Getting What Your Child Needs at School

11 Jun

What Every Teacher Would Love to Tell You but They Can’t

Your child is struggling at school and the teacher calls you in for a conference.  She tells you that she is concerned about your child’s progress, but you leave the conference with more questions than when you got there.  Does my child need special education services?  Why didn’t the teacher just come right out and suggest it?  Most likely it is because, like many teachers, she’s under pressure not to.  She may be trying to get you to make a special education referral for your child without saying it out right.  You may have mixed feeling about special education and be confused about what your child really needs.  As a teacher, I can tell you that if she’s called you in for a conference, you have reason to be concerned and should, at the very least, investigate her concerns.

A teacher can make a special education referral for a student, but it’s preferrable for the parent to do it.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that it takes longer for a teacher to make the referral.  A teacher has to go through a process of trying different things and documenting if they are successful or not.  This can take several months to do.  If a parent refers their own child, the testing starts within 30 days of your written consent to testing.  The second reason it is more preferable for a parent to refer their own child is that some school systems subtly pressure teachers not to refer students for special education.  SPED costs a lot of money for public school districts and they are obligated by federal law to offer these services to any child that qualifies.  The only way for a district to keep their SPED costs down it to qualify less students.

What Will Happen If I Don’t Refer My Child for SPED Testing?

Your child’s teacher can help them if you don’t refer them for SPED testing.  Many schools have a way to help general education students that are struggling.  It is often called RTI (response to intervention) and it can be helpful.  The classroom teacher may be the one to give the intervention (extra help) or it could be a teacher’s assistant, a Title One teacher, a reading or math coach, or other qualified school staff member.  All good intervention should include regular assessment to be sure that it is working.  As the parent, before agreeing to intervention services ask:

  • How much intervention will my child get? ( Once a week for 30 min. is not enough.)
  • Who will be providing it?  (It should be a qualified, trained person.)
  • How will they know it is working?  (They should be assessing every few weeks.)

Realistically, they can probably fit this extra help into your child’s schedule about 3 times a week for 30 minutes.  Do not allow this extra help to be provided by an untrained staff member, it may end up being a waste of your child’s time.  Ask for the assessment results to be sent home so you can keep track yourself.  This kind intervention is enough for some student’s to be brought up to grade level in reading or math.  However, for some it is not.

If your child’s school is providing this kind of extra support for your child I would check in after about 8 to 10 weeks.  I would ask for a review of the data that they should of collected on your child.  (By data I mean results from an assessment that they should be doing to track progress.)  Make sure that what they are doing is getting results (the scores should be going up consistently).  If it is not, the intervention is not working and a referral for special education should be made.

What Will Happen if I Refer My Child for SPED Testing?

You will need to write a letter asking for testing.  In your letter you should state what you suspect may be the problem and list the types of assessments you want done.  You will have to sign a consent form.  Do this quickly, because the testing will begin within 30 days of the school’s receipt of that signed form.  Within 45 days of that consent, you will have a meeting with the school to review the results.  Ask for the results to be given to you before that meeting in you original letter (they have to give this to you at least 2 days before the meeting).  This is a good idea to do for two reasons.  First, you will need time to read this report on your own and look up any terms you don’t understand.  Second, sometimes schools wait until the last (and I do mean last) minute to test your child.  Tests are done in haste and reports can be shoddy.  If you ask for the reports to be given to you before the meeting, the district will have to complete the testing and report at least 2 days before the meeting and they will know you intend to give the report your full attention (meaning a shoddy report isn’t going to fly with you).

Here is what to include in you referral letter:

  • Reason for referral (something like… my child is struggling in school and attempts to help have failed…)
  • Suspected disability (it could be a specific learning disability, a health disability, a developmental delay, an emotional disability, etc.)
  • Assessments you want done (some types of assessments are: learning/educational eval., speech & language eval., psychological eval., behavioral assessment, occupational eval., attention/distractibility scale, sensory scale, reading skills assessment, math skills assessment, auditory processing eval., etc.)
  • Request evaluation reports given to you at least 2 days before the scheduled meeting

*****For more information on this, see my “Testing (Core Evaluation)” posts*****

To Medicate or Not to Medicate Your ADHDer?

10 Jun

As a teacher, one of the more common concerns I hear from parents is about medications for children with ADHD.  As a parent, I’ve had to decide if I wanted to give my child medication for ADHD.  I know what a tough decision this is for a parent.  You may be thinking:  I love my child’s love of life and endless energy!  I get a kick out of my son’s goofy personality.  My child is not sick, so why am I giving them medicine? My child is smart, they just struggle to get the work finished.  Knowing what I know about ADHDers in the classroom, I decided to give my child the meds.  There are 3 types of ADHD:  inattentive (the daydreamer), hyperactive/impulsive (the mover and shaker), and combined type (the whirlwind).  I have a “whirlwind” and a “mover and shaker” in my family, but I’ve seen all 3 types in the classroom.  Here’s what I know, as a teacher, about the effects of ADHD.

ADHD Meds From a Teacher’s Point of View

There is a child in my class that has enormous academic potential, but because they suffer from the effects of ADHD they are not producing what they could be.  They are struggling with motivation and self-esteem issues because they cannot make themselves meet the expectations of the teacher and their peers.  They try, but continuously fail because it is beyond their control.  This child cannot focus on oral instruction because they are so distracted by things in their environment (other students, something out the window, noises from the hall, what’s hanging on the walls, etc.) and miss up to 50% of what is happening in their classroom.  This child has trouble working with a group of his classmates because they say something or do something before thinking it through (they misuse the materials, grab things before others can get a chance, blurt out answers, speaker louder, and make more body movements than the others) and this annoys the other students.  This student requires many more reminders than other students, so they hear their name being called by the teacher (or lunch aid or bus driver, etc.) many more times than other students (_____ pass in your homework, _______ put your name  on your paper, _______ return to your seat, and so on and so on).  This child cannot sit still so they sometimes get into other children’s space, knock things over, get hurt on the playground, or fall out of their chair.  These are just some of the ways that ADHD can affect a child at school.  Because there are 3 types of ADHD, it does look different in different children (especially in girls).  However, the overall effects are the same… lower self-esteem due to the fact that they have the academic potential to do well in school but struggle because of a condition that is beyond their ability to control.  I have seen medication do wonders for some children with ADHD.  One day they have all the side effects of it, the next day they come in and the symptoms are gone.  I have also seen some children (not many though) not get that affect from medication.  Generally medications for ADHD work really well and the children are happier  because most of what they struggle with goes away and they are able to reach their full potential. Friendships become easier to make and keep for some students and school becomes a happier place to be.

As a parent and teacher, I feel very strongly that parents should not arbitrarily dismiss medication for their child.   It is wise to first put yourself in your child’s shoes.  Imagine what they struggle with daily.  For your child, being at school for 6 hours with un-medicated ADHD may be like an asthmatic running a marathon with out an inhaler.  If your child is old enough, ask them how they feel about having ADHD and about medication.  Talk about the positives and negatives with them and get their opinion.  Observe your child in the classroom, compare their attention and movement level to their peers.  Watch other child react to them.  Deeply consider all the ways that their ADHD might be affecting them (socially, emotionally, academically).  Medication may not be right for your child, as their parent you are best suited to make this decision.  However, I caution you to put aside any personal judgements you may have about medication and try to make the decision that would best benefit your child.  Keep this in mind:  I know more than one adult with ADHD that often says, “I wish my parents had gotten me help for this when I was a child.”

What Could Happen if I Put My Child on ADHD Meds:

  • They may be able to concentrate better on instruction.
  • They may develop better peer relationships.
  • Their grades may improve.
  • They could stay up later or have trouble falling asleep.
  • They may not struggle as much with homework and classwork.
  • They may not get into as much trouble at school and at home.
  • They may not eat as much and may lose some weight.
  • Their self-esteem may improve because they are struggling less.
  • School may be a better place for them.
  • They might wonder why they need to be on a medication when they are not sick.
  • They might feel “right” or calmer or less worried.
  • They might feel happier.


How to Use the Summer Break to Your SPED Child’s Advantage

9 Jun

Summer is here, and so it the freedom that our child love so much.  Many of us worry that our child will lose all the gains they have made over the past school year during the long break (sometimes called a summer slide).  Some of our children do well with the structure school provides and struggle with too much free time over the summer.  If your child experienced a “summer slide” last year, you should ask your district to put your child in the summer program.  It is free,available to most children receiving sped services, and is usually only a few hours a week.  It may be too late this year, but keep it in mind for next year.

How can you make the summer break work to your child’s advantage?  I like to work on my child’s self esteem over the summer.  Try out different things until they find something they are good at or enjoy doing.  Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist at Harvard’s School of Education, has a theory of multiple intelligences.  Gardner’s theory  states that  humans have several different ways of learning, and some of us learn better when information is given to us in this way. Gardner says the ways we learn are through:  linguistic (language), logic-mathematical, musical, spatial (visual or artistically), bodily/kinesthetic (through body movement), interpersonal (through socializing with others) and intrapersonal (by oneself).  Try activating one of these areas in your child, let them discover where their abilities are.  Having a hobby will help your child feel successful and, when September comes, they will be refreshed and ready to start another year of school.  Here are some ideas for activating different areas of intelligence:

  • Find a social skills group or sensory gym for your child to go to over the summer.
  • Check out the resources available at your public library.  They may have a free summer program going and they usually offer free passes to area attractions.  Do a fun summer research project (let your child pick the topic) together, then take a related field trip.
  • Encourage your child’s sense of wonder by taking nature walks at a beach, lake, or park. Make a scavenger hunt they display what you’ve found in a box.
  • Build your child’s creative side.  Get some art supplies or go to a free concert in the park.  Research an artist and try to copy their style.  Try knitting or sewing.  Make a scrapbook, try your hand a photography, or sketching.
  • Give your child a journal to record their thoughts or sketch their feelings in.
  • Visit a local attraction and encourage your child to write a poem or story about it.  Offer to take dictation for them or let them record the story.
  • Find some fun math logic problems or riddle math problems to solve with your child.  Play board games that require problem solving.
  • Find some tennis, golf, or swimming lessons to keep your active child busy.
  • Let your child use the kitchen.  Pick a fun recipe or two to try out.  Plan a picnic or BBQ and let your child make the menu.  Have a bake sale for charity.
  • Build something together.  Make a fort, a bird house, or lemonade stand.
Even if your child doesn’t find an activity or hobby that inspires them, they will probably love the idea that not everyone is traditionally “smart” that some of us are “smart” in non-traditional ways!

 

My Child is Struggling in School… How Can I Help?

7 Jun

If you are reading this post, then you know the heartbreak that a parent feels when their child struggles in school.  Every child struggles now and then, but if your child struggles daily you are probably searching for ways to help them.  Some children struggle with a certain subject, while other children struggle with classwork in general.  Some of our children are fine academically, but struggle with the social aspects of school, or what some people refer to as the hidden curriculum (more about that later).  No parent wants their child to struggle daily at school, but many of us are at a loss for what to do.

I am parent of a child with special educational needs and a special education teacher myself.  I have personally experienced success and failure in trying to get help for my child.  It is not always easy to get the help your child needs, but I can guarantee that if you stick it out, advocating for your child is definitely worth the fight.  I have found the following ideas to be successful ways to help your child that struggles:

  1. Start by communicating your concerns directly to the teacher.  Make an appointment to meet with them, or ask them to call you during a mutually good time.  Tell them exactly what is concerning to you, fill them in on any past successes and failures at school, and ask them to observe your child and report back to you what they think may be the problem.
  2. Come up with a plan of action.  Ask for a meeting with the teacher and the pre-referral team at your child’s school.  All schools have this, but they all call it something different (Child Study Team, Teacher Assistance Team, Instructional Support Team).  This team meets to discuss struggling students and make suggestions for ways to assist the student in the classroom.  This is NOT special education.  Any struggling student can get help this way.  The team will write a plan of action and then meet back in 4 to 6 weeks to discuss success or failure of the plan.
  3. Refer your child for an educational evaluation.  Write a letter asking for your child to be evaluated for eligibility for special education.  Be specific in your letter about what you suspect may be the problem and what kinds of testing you want done.  (For example:  Please evaluate our child for a suspected specific learning disability in reading.  Please complete a full educational assessment, including reading ability testing.)  The school will have to contact you with in 5 days to confirm your request and start testing within 30 days.  You will receive the results at a meeting that must take place within 45 days of your request.
  4. Take an active role in planning for your child’s educational needs.  You need to be aware of your rights as a parent and your child’s rights to receive a free and appropriate public education.  As the parent, you should be included in every decision and your opinions should weigh as much as any other team members.  However, many sped teams will not automatically treat you this way.  You will need to speak up at meetings, ask questions, research the options on your own, and make your opinions known.
  5. Get an outside evaluation done if you disagree with the school’s testing.  You may or may not have to pay for this testing yourself.  Tell the school right away that you are not satisfied with the testing they did.  Put it in writing and explain why you are unsatisfied.  Ask the school about the districts policy for getting the testing paid for by them.  Find a reputable educational testing facility (most pediatricians can recommend someone) to test your child.  Once you get the results, you must give a copy to the school if you want them to consider the results.  The law states that they have to consider the findings as valid unless they can prove they are not.
  6. Be reasonable and professional when you are communicating with the school staff.  Do not yell, use profanity, write insulting emails/notes, make unfounded accusations, or get overly emotional. Try not to over communicate, teachers will not be able to call or email you everyday (they may have over 20 students in their class).