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How to talk to your child’s teacher and be heard.

Approaching your child’s teachers can be very difficult.  You have concerns but don’t want to be too pushy, take up too much of their time, the teacher may not seem approachable and you may not be certain of how to explain your concerns and you may worry that you won’t be taken seriously.

As a mother myself I understand this hesitancy only too well, but if you don’t speak up, you may risk your child not receiving the support they need whether they are identified as dyslexic or not.

Book a meeting

So  the first step is to book in a telephone/ Zoom/ in person meeting with your child’s teacher.  If you are using Zoom, I suggest you use book the meeting yourself and set it to record so you can refer back to it at a later date to remember what was said.

Plan for the meeting

Once this is done have a look over the talking points below and note your thoughts on any relevant questions.  Feel free to add to this list depending on your child’s areas of strength and difficulties.  You may want to write out a structured table like the one linked here to prepare for your meeting.

At the meeting

When you have the meeting, ask what they perceive to be your child’s key difficulties and discuss your own concerns too

Once your child’s difficulties are identified, then ask the teacher:

  • How they are helping or how they plan to support the development of these skills?
  • Which programs do they or will they use?
  • When will the support start?
  • How often the support will be given? 
  • Who will provide it?

Don’t be afraid to put them on the spot (but obviously be polite).  If there is any hesitancy in answering the questions, or there isn’t a plan in place, make an appointment for a few weeks’ time to discuss your child in more depth, and perhaps this time ask that the SENCO attend too.  If they can answer these questions then ask to make an appointment to review any progress before or very soon after February half term.

If your child has to isolate, or the class/ school has to close then ask for any recourses they can spare and books as well as login details for any computer based programs they are using e.g. Nessy, WordShark, Prodigy etc.  A number of the computer based programmes have printable work sheets too so ask for the relevant PDFs  to be sent to you.

Talking points

Is there a discrepancy between their verbal and written ability?

Letter formation – Are there gross or fine motor difficulties which have been identified? Have they developed the correct pencil grasp? Do they understand the principles of letter orientation? Have they learnt correct letter formation techniques?

Early reading skills – Can they recognise and generate rhyme? Can they explain what syllables are and can they count them in words? Which phonemes have they grasped with reading?  And with spelling? Can they match the correct sound to the letter/ grapheme? Can they say the letters in a word in the correct sequence – left to right?  Can they remember and recognise them time and again? How are they doing with sight words?

Sequencing – Have they learnt their alphabet in order? Could they put words in alphabetic order? Can they use a dictionary/index? Do they know the sequence of the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons?

Comprehension – How are they doing with explicit comprehension (understanding what they have read based solely on what is written)? How are they doing with inferential comprehension? (reading ‘between the lines’ – using clues from the text to gain a greater depth of understanding of what is happening)?

Reading Fluency  – Do they: tend to read very slowly? Find reading difficult and tiring? Tend to misread or misinterpret text? Have to read text over again to make sense? Have difficulty finding information in a text? Lose their place when they are copying from the white/black board? Lose the place when reading? Forget the beginning in longer questions? Find black print on white paper difficult to see clearly?

Spelling – are there any patterns to their spelling errors (certain sounds, certain prefixes, suffixes, etc)? Are there repeated spelling errors that you could work on at home? Have they mastered how to spell the top 100 high frequency words? 

Writing – Do they find it harder to organise ideas on paper compared to explaining? Find it hard to listen and take notes at the same time? Have difficulty copying accurately at the same speed as others? Have problems finding the exact word they want to use? Miss out or add in letters of words? Confuse or reverse letters in a word e.g. b/d; b/p; f/t; n/v? Have problems writing essays/reports in the right order? Have messy or handwriting that’s hard to read? Have difficulties with spelling, grammar and/or punctuation?

Maths –  do they mix up numbers or confuse maths symbols? Confuse dates and times? Have difficulty with directions (left/right)? Find it hard to remember tables? Find it hard to get information from graphs and charts? Have problems holding numbers in your head when calculating? Get muddled when doing a complicated maths problem? Have problems reading and understanding maths words? Find it hard to remember the order of steps to solve problems?

All the best with the meeting. Do ensure you follow up on any actions or if you don’t feel heard or taken seriously contact the SENCO and raise your concerns with them Remember if you have any comments of questions about this or any other area of your child’s learning then head over to my group, Raising Confident Dyslexic Children, a thriving and welcoming community of parents where we and discuss information on dyslexia and  share tips and ideas of how to support our children’s learning.

Author: Zoë Brown

I am a dyslexia specialist, qualified in assessing dyslexia and literacy related difficulties as well as tutoring dyslexic children and those who need additional literacy support. Having been diagnosed as dyslexic at an early age, I have a personal understanding of both the challenges and advantages that dyslexia brings. I feel strongly that when given the right support and positive encouragement, dyslexic people of all ages can excel in confidence and academic attainment.

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