What does that mean? Where can I get help?
“My child’s teacher wants to set up a meeting: she says there are too many “red flags” all over the place concerning her performance at school. She thinks we might need to have her tested.”
In the “old days”, students with different learning styles or learning disabilities simply didn’t fit it – they were labeled “dumb”, “slow”, or “lazy”. They fell between the cracks, fell behind, and ended up in vocational or trade schools. The Toronto school system decided early on what their outcomes would be, and that was that.
Today, students who are not achieving or meeting expectations in elementary school are discovered, but the way we deal with them has changed enormously. It is a good thing when teachers call home, letting parents know their child is having difficulty. It’s time to put heads together and see what’s up.
What the teacher might be seeing is behavior such as social withdrawal, nail-biting, fidgeting, poor attention, acting out “being the class clown” etc. At home, you may have bed-wetting, Sunday night stomache-aches, or even school refusal starting to kick in. All of these markers provide clues that your child may be struggling with regular grade-level work. On the flip side, it can also indicate your child is bored – that the classroom work is beneath his/her abilities.
If you or the teacher suspect a potential learning disability, it’s time to join forces and request a meeting.
Gather information to share:
- Is this new behavior?
- Was your child having challenges last year?
- How is your child doing socially, outside of the classroom?
Parents can provide an enormous amount of information to support the classroom teacher’s observations.
Pay attention to your child over a week or so, and take notes about:
- His or her mood after school – is he wiped out? Stressed? Angry?
- What else is he/she doing during the week – how many extra curriculars have you booked?
- What subject areas does he/she love? Hate? Refuses to even look at?
- Is he/she reading for pleasure – what level? Picture books, graphic novels, chapter books?
- How much screen time is allowed at home? (computers, devices, TV, gaming systems etc)
- Bedtimes. How many hours of sleep does he/she get?
Bring all this to a meeting scheduled with your classroom teacher, and be open to what they have to share about what they observe in the classroom. Then, together you can decide if further investigation is warranted. In the Toronto public school system, the next step is asking for a “team meeting”. Your teacher can set this up for you.