When to Worry about Your Child Being Behind at School

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At some point pretty much every parent worries about their child not reaching their potential, especially at school.

It’s natural, we all want the best for our kids, for them to do well, feel confident and experience success.  Sometimes it’s also because our children’s success can define us, but that’s for another post.  The best way to put to rest any anxiety or questions you might about your child at school  is through communication and having realistic expectations.

Communicate with your child’s teacher

First of all, maintain constant contact with their teacher.  That is the best way to know how your child is going academically and socially at school.  The best way to get time with your child’s teacher is to book a time with them, instead of just showing up at the door (after school  is often the best time).  Each school will have different procedures around how to go about this.

Be realistic

Firstly remember what kind of student you were.  If you were a solid C at school don’t be expecting your child is going to be getting straight A’s.  Sure it can happen but don’t set your expectations so high that it’s unrealistic.  Remember a ‘C’grade or the equivalent at your child’s school means they are at year level and they are exactly where they should be for their age.  B’s are “above” average, and A’s are “well above” average.  I don’t think people realise how well a child has to be doing to actually get an ‘A’ these days.  Depending on the demographic of your school area there might only be one or two students per class who are getting A’s.

Find out what the year level  standards are

If you’re super keen you can Google the educational standards covered by your child’s state/grade to get an idea of what they should be able to master  this year and next year.   Details on the Australian Curriculum are available at http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/.   However, don’t be surprised if you find it difficult to understand, teaching has a language all of its own.  Also, If you’re working closely with your child and reviewing homework with them, you’ll see where they are falling short.  Most importantly though, talk to their teacher.

Don’t Delay

Too many parents wait until the ‘signs’ of failure have already caused the child too much frustration. At this point, getting the child motivated and engaged can be difficult. Instead, parents should seek help at the first signs of struggle, which include frustration every evening during homework time, papers coming home with D’s or E’s or the child expressing that he just doesn’t ‘get it’. The child’s teacher should be the first source for help. If he or she can’t offer private assistance (because of their limited time, not because they don’t want to), an independent tutor or tutoring centre can help the child catch up and regain their confidence in the classroom.

A signs that they may be struggling

Being Consistently Confused

Sometimes a child is under-performing because they simply doesn’t understand the homework. If they are repeatedly puzzled by certain concepts, they may not be keeping up with grade-level expectations. It can be difficult to discern if your child is confused because the curriculum concepts aren’t clear or if he simply wants to avoid work. But if your child repeatedly expresses anxiety about a test and is defensive when you try to help, a tutor can help him comprehend each subject at the current level to ensure grade advancement.

A student can be struggling at school because they have gotten behind for some reason, or they may have a more significant issue that impacts their learning.  Below are some clues that might help you discern what level of intervention your child might need.  Remember, when in doubt see their classroom teacher and any other expert consultants that may be available at the school.

What are the clues to look out for with a learning disability?

(from: http://www.ldonline.org/article/5735?theme=print)

In preschoolers, look for:

  • Communication delays, such as slow language development or difficulty with speech. Problems understanding what is being said or problems communicating thoughts.
  • Poor coordination and uneven motor development, such as delays in learning to sit, walk, color, and using scissors. Later watch for problems forming letters and numbers.
  • Problems with memory and routine; for example, not remembering specifics of daily activities and not understanding instructions. Possibly, problems remembering multiple instructions.
  • Delays in socialization including playing and relating interactively with other children.

In primary school, look for:

  • Problems learning phonemes (individual units of sound) and graphemes (letters, numbers). Problems learning how to blend sounds and letters to sound out words. Problems remembering familiar words by sight. Later, difficulty with reading comprehension.
  • Problems forming letters and numbers. Later, problems with basic spelling and grammar.
  • Difficulties learning math skills and doing math calculations.
  • Difficulty with remembering facts.
  • Difficulty organizing materials (notebook, binder, papers), information, and/or concepts.
  • Not understanding oral instructions and an inability to express oneself verbally. Some types of LD are not apparent until middle school or high school. With increased responsibilities and more complex work, new areas of weakness may become apparent.
  • Losing or forgetting materials, or doing work and forgetting to turn it into the teacher.
  • An inability to plan out the steps and time lines for completing projects, especially long-term projects.
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts for written reports or public speaking.

If you see these clues and believe your pre-school or primary-school aged son or daughter might have LD, contact the principal of your child’s school and request a meeting to discuss having your child evaluated for learning disabilities.

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