When your child is struggling in school, it’s difficult as a parent to always know what to do.
Many of us will spend hours helping with homework, sitting on the couch reading together or breaking out the dreaded flashcards, but what if that isn’t enough?
When your child is really struggling in school, whether it’s with social skills, behaviour, anxiety or because they can’t grasp concepts, it can be hard to know what steps to take and who to turn to for help.
The first person to talk with is your child’s teacher.
Parent-teacher interviews often happen in October. By then, your child’s teacher will have a good sense of who your child is as a person and have an idea of where they may be struggling.
Parents can let their children’s teacher know what is happening at home, whether it’s frustration with a certain subject or behaviours that have flagged concern.
Sometimes children will behave one way at school and another at home, so it’s important to share.
While parent-teacher interviews are an excellent opportunity to connect with the teacher, parents shouldn’t hesitate to contact them and ask for a meeting at other times during the year.
At this stage, the teacher will be able to acknowledge your concerns and potentially develop some early interventions.
These may be very simple, such as introducing subject matter in a different manner, re-teaching concepts or a change in classroom seating.
Teachers monitor how these first interventions help and, if there is no improvement, they may ask the learning assistance resource teacher (LART) for ideas and help. The teacher should be able to let families know what they are going to do to help a student.
Additional interventions may be implemented, such as peer tutoring, one-on-one reading, academic intervention or other directed supported learning, if a child is still struggling.
Teachers will pay attention to developmental benchmarks and will note if students are falling behind, if behaviour continues to raise concerns or if skills don’t develop as expected.
Communicating with your child’s teacher to let them know how your child is feeling about school and how they are behaving is an important piece of information that will help them evaluate whether or not interventions are working.
When learning interventions don’t work and it appears students are experiencing more than just a skill delay, teachers may enlist further help from within the school.
They may consult with the principal, the LART, school counsellors and other teachers.
This school-based team works with students and families to identify individual challenges more precisely. At this stage, the LART may recommend evaluation tests.
The role of the school based-team is to develop strategies to assist children and, if necessary, bring in additional experts.
District staff members, such as school psychologists, school family consultants or counsellors, speech and language pathologists and other specialists are all professionals that may be enlisted to form a school-based team.
It is important to note a child does not need an individualized education plan to access additional support. Support can be provided in multiple ways, from simple interventions to short-term intensive strategies to bolster skills, as well as longer-term, ongoing supports, depending on student needs. Each child is different and will need different supports from different people.
As the first point of contact, teachers will continue to provide support and assistance as students and their families move through the process. Regular communication between parents and teachers will assist in finding a solution for struggling students.
– Kathleen Karpuk is a Kamloops-Thompson board of education trustee. This column appeared first in Kamloops This Week.