When a baby takes its first step, everyone holds their breath. I remember our oldest son took his first step on the ferry going to Prince Edward Island. He was so excited to walk, he almost ran on his wobbly feet, back and forth between our arms. When a junior kindergarten student takes his or her first step into the world of education…mother and father are holding their breath as the youngster lets go of their hand and joins the classroom. Kleenex boxes are readily available, for parents and children. (Maybe even for the teacher by the end of the day.)
The last four weeks we have been blogging about “Help and Hope for Struggling Students”. How do we take the first step when a child seems to be “at risk”? What are teachers and parents looking for, and when do we look for more help from a specialist? Is your child just very young and slow to mature, or could there be a learning challenge? When do we start to show concern, and how do we broach this with parents?
The first step is voicing a concern about the child because of being aware of his/her frustration. Close observation and a screening process can be put in place to identify the learning needs. “Search and Teach” is an excellent tool to use for screening children in Kindergarten for early identification of weaknesses. (Find out more about this screening test here.) If you as teacher are concerned, consult the SERT and call a team meeting with the parents. This step is hard, and many meetings end in tears, as the parents begin to realize that the educational journey for their child may be challenging with some roadblocks. Assure the parents that early identification and support for the child will make a huge difference, and the child will not experience the feeling of hopelessness which they might feel at present. When children realize that their peers are reading, and the words just stare at them from page without making any sense, there is a feeling of frustration. Once the learning need is being addressed, work is modified, self-esteem improves, and the child begins to experience hope. Parents need to know that there is a team at work for their child, and they are part of the team.
How do we address the learning needs, once they are identified? The National Institute for Learning Development (NILD) states in its philosophy “Educational therapy does not seek to improve academic areas directly as tutoring does, but instead focuses on improvement of a person’s areas of difficulty in perceptual and cognitive functioning, seeking to teach HOW to learn, not WHAT to learn.”(nildcanada.org)
With my experience as an educational therapist for 16 years, I can truly say that by working with students targeting and strengthening their areas of weakness, along with building on their strengths, I have seen huge changes happen! With this directed help, there is hope for each unique child! Anxious children face the classroom with newly acquired competence and confidence, equipped with the ability to think! I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Once that first step is taken, and there is acceptance, the road is wide and open for growth!
(Next week find out more about the next step, and how it has changed lives!)