Once you suspect that your child needs some kind of reading intervention, it’s time to get the ball rolling.
Step #1 – Rule out any physical problems
Talk with your child’s doctor about your concerns. Physical problems can be at the root of academic problems. Let your doctor rule out vision, hearing, attention problems or any other physical concerns that may be interfering with his reading progress.
Step #2 – Make an Appointment with the Teacher
Once you know there is not a physical problem at the root, it’s time to make an appointment with your child’s teacher. Often waiting for conference times scheduled by the school through the course of the year is not a good idea because teachers are seeing parents one right after the other and there are tight time constraints. Call or email the teacher and ask her to block out thirty minutes or so to meet with you at a mutually convenient time. If possible, attend with your spouse and leave the kids at home so you can focus your full attention without being distracted or interrupted.
Step #3 – Collect Information and Come Prepared
A teacher worth her salt will be gathering data about your child to share with you. As a parent, you need to do the same. Think of this as a team effort and come prepared with data of your own. Here’s how:
- Bring a Written List of Important Information Teachers are busy people. When parents come in prepared, it helps the meeting move smoothly, address all the issues and establish a sense of teamwork. Spend time before the meeting carefully observing your child and making a list of behaviors that concern you regarding your child’s reading or academic habits. Use the list in the previous post to help you Does My Child Need Help? Ten Warning Signs of a Struggling Reader. Be prepared to discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses, sleep or emotional issues, how he perceives himself and any insights you can provide. In addition to current behaviors, reflect on any information about your child’s early years that might be helpful. For example, issues with ear infections, delayed language development, difficulty learning letters and sounds, and so on. Information that only you have may be very helpful in diagnosing the specific interventions that will help your child.
- Bring a Written List of Questions Jot down your questions so that you don’t leave the meeting and realize you have neglected to get answers.
- Consider Your Expectations It’s important to have a sense of what you would like to see happen and how the teacher will follow up on your concerns. Be specific and nail down a date and time to touch base again (this can be via an email or phone call) to check in on progress.
What to Expect
Chances are if your child is in fourth grade or beyond and the school has never suggested evaluation for special education or mentioned a learning problem, your child will simply need some extra help from the teacher or reading specialist to boost progress and confidence. Your concerns are valid and you should go into the meeting with an expectation of receiving support. Typically, the teacher will create some kind of action plan, try it for a while, collect data and meet with you again after an appropriate period of time. At that point, if there has been no improvement, usually other staff (school psychologist, reading specialist, etc) are called on for support and planning.
It’s important to remember that you play an essential role in implementing support for your child. The school may suggests that you do certain things at home on a regular basis to reinforce their efforts with your child. Keeping open the avenues of communication and creating a positive working relationship with the school is one of the best ways to insure that your child receives the support and intervention that will move him forward.
Parents, most professionals realize you are worried and that it is not easy to take these steps. Keep in mind, however, that there are people committed to helping you and your child learn about the reading process and implement strategies that will boost not only your child’s academic progress, but also his confidence and ability to enjoy reading. I welcome your comments, questions and concerns. Good Luck!