There are times when we question whether our child’s academic performance or behavior is typical. Maybe the school has expressed concerns. Perhaps you’re comparing your child to their sibling or to other children their age. Or maybe you’re just worried because you want the best for your child and you want to make sure you’re doing all the right things to be able to support them. Not sure where to go or who to turn to? You could have a fantastic resource in your child’s school. Your child’s teacher is with them the majority of their day and should be able to recognize any issues they may be having. In addition, your child’s teacher can bring in support staff, such as an occupational therapist, speech and language therapist, or behavioral therapist, if additional assessments are needed. Nowadays most teachers are accessible by email, but you could also call the school or go in to the front office to set up a conference with your child’s teacher. Teachers are typically very welcoming and appreciative of parent involvement! Be honest and share the types of behavior you’re seeing at home to find out if this is consistent at school. Together you and the teacher can discuss possible triggers and preventative strategies. For example:
- Offering choices may help a child who is struggling with completing tasks. Provide the student with two or more choices that you will fully accept, for example, “you can either do your work sitting at your desk or sitting at the table”.
- A child who is having difficulty with communication or social interactions may need acceptable behavior to be modeled and reinforced. Take sharing, for example, among a couple of preschoolers: A great exercise would be to provide supplies that encourage the children to take turns, such as play dough. Give one child scissors and a rolling pin and the other child cookie cutters and molds. The children will have to exchange tools to use with their own play dough.
- When dealing with emotions like frustration or anger, a child may benefit from being taught calming strategies like deep breaths or taking short breaks. You may even want to look into a meditation app geared toward children.
Being on the same page will allow you and the teacher to use consistent strategies both at home and at school. If you are concerned about your child’s academic performance, your child’s teacher can discuss what’s developmentally appropriate for their age. If the teacher feels that your child would benefit from some added resources this is where the school’s support staff can step in. In addition, you can ask for activities that you can do at home to help reinforce the lessons they’re learning in school. If your child is performing below grade level then it’s important to intervene with a significant amount of time left to catch up before the end of the school year. Once you have spoken with the teacher it’s important to keep the window of communication open, especially if there are any negative changes or new developments in your child’s performance. Set up a time to check in so you can discuss how the strategies or activities you’ve implemented are working or what can be done to further assist your child. Most importantly – if you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to contact the teacher. Trust your parental instinct and reach out for guidance and assistance. Students do better in school when their parents are engaged in their education. Written by: Erin Agnello Edited & Designed by: Jamie Schmalenberger Images by: Bearfotos, Pressfoto / Freepik
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.