Ministry of Education
Provincial and Demonstration Schools Branch

Amethyst

Work hard. Be nice. Believe in yourself

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Information for Parents

Eight Ways Parents Can Help Children with Learning Difficulties:

  1. Understand what a learning disability is.
  2. Identify goals.
  3. Be the best advocate.
  4. Learn how to access help.
  5. Get to know your child.
  6. Provide help at home.
  7. Teach self-advocacy.
  8. Foster a growth mindset and grit.

Getting To Know Your Child: A Checklist

* NOTE THAT THERE MAY BE MANY MORE SPECIFIC DIFFICULTIES THAT CHILDREN WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES MAY EXHIBIT.

* THE CHECKLIST !S DESIGNED TO HELP PARENTS IDENTIFY CERTAIN AREAS THAT MAY BE “WORKED ON” AT HOME.

ALSO, IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT HAVING A LARGER NUMBER OF ITEMS CHECKED ON THE CHECKLIST DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT A CHILD IS MORE SEVERELY LEARNING DISABLED.

* RESEARCH INDICATES THAT SELF-ESTEEM IS A MORE POWERFUL DETERMINER OF ACADEMIC SUCCESS THAN INTELLECTUAL PERFORMANCE.

Peer Relationships and Social Skills

Answer yes or no to the following statements:

  1. Has friends to play with or talk to.
  2. Thinks before speaking or acting.
  3. Can ask questions to start conversations.
  4. Realizes when he/she annoys others.
  5. Smiles frequently.
  6. Makes eye contact.
  7. Shares things with others.
  8. Says “Hello”.
  9. Takes care of appearance and dresses appropriately.
  10. Shows maturity appropriate for his age.

Peer relationships and social skills: What you can do

  1. Provide opportunities for interaction with peers through clubs, church groups, camps, teams, etc. Talk with leaders to help them understand any difficulties your child may have with reading, following instructions, or any other important information that may help your child have a successful experience.
  2. Help your child learn how to ask questions to begin and to develop longer conversations with others. This is something your family can model frequently at home. Be sure to explain what to say and why, and give examples of how to improve.
  3. Teach your child the importance of smiling, making eye contact, saying hello, and presenting friendly body language.
  4. Encourage positive comments and finding the good in things. Both children and adults dislike “put-downs”, ridicule, and sarcasm.
  5. Teach your child ways to control impulsive behaviours. Two very good methods are 1) Self-talk (The child learns to say to himself, “Stop – Think – Then speak or act!”) and 2) Hand signal known by family or a friend or the leader of a group. The signal simply acts as a reminder when something inappropriate occurs.
  6. Help your child to learn the qualities that people like in friends.

Self Esteem and Self Confidence

Answer yes or no to the following statements. Suggestions follow.

  1. Is willing to take a risk.
  2. Is able to ask for help.
  3. Feels worthwhile and accepted by family and others.
  4. Takes pride in accomplishments.
  5. Shows interest in others and empathy for others.
  6. Is content with present home and school life.
  7. Does not put self down.
  8. Takes care of health and exercises regularly.
  9. Is able to say “no” to things not in his plans.
  10. Sees mistakes as opportunities to learn.

Self Esteem and Self-Confidence: What you can do

  1. Provide opportunities, such as tasks, errands, chores or cooking in which your child can be successful. This will encourage taking risks, and it will develop trust.
  2. Try to provide many new and different experiences. This will not only broaden your child’s knowledge, but it may lead to the discovery of new talents or abilities.
  3. Give positive reinforcement when you catch your child saying something or doing something which is good. Let him know that what he does and how he does it really matters.

Work Habits

Answer yes or no to the following statements. Suggestions follow.

  1. Starts tasks quickly.
  2. Stays on-task well.
  3. Can work independently.
  4. Organizes equipment and tasks.
  5. Manages time well.
  6. Strives to do best.
  7. Can follow instructions.
  8. Completes tasks as required.
  9. Produces satisfactory results.
  10. Works well with others.

Work Habits: What you can do

  1. Help your child use a weekly planner to keep track of homework assignments, projects due, meetings to attend, and family events. One page for the week is good. This could be posted at home, and may include chores. If reading or writing creates a problem with this, someone could help with that or often the use of visual pictures or symbols can be very effective.
  2. Provide a quiet place to do schoolwork at home and set a specific time for that purpose. It helps to have an adult nearby to answer questions and to help your child stay focused. A regular routine for schoolwork each night is important.
  3. Praise your child for getting started on time and staying on task and completing work. You may require a system of rewards to encourage a child who has difficulty with these things.
  4. Help your child with the organization of materials, books, and the order to follow when he has more than one thing to do. Help him to develop a plan for the completion of longer projects. Set dates for each of the steps required.
  5. Help your child break assignments into chunks which are shorter and more manageable. Encourage him to make his own decisions about how much he can do, and if you find that he has too much homework, teach him what to say and rehearse what to say when he goes to the teacher to request a reduction in the amount of work assigned.
  6. Teach your child how to study by providing simple methods that work: Memory tricks, highlighting important points, using colour, etc. Make it fun and usually the sillier the better.

Auditory Disabilities

Answer yes or no to the following statements. Suggestions follow.

  1. Doesn’t listen well.
  2. Doesn’t remember directions or instructions.
  3. Has a limited vocabulary.
  4. Has trouble discriminating between similar sounds.
  5. Has trouble sounding out words.
  6. Responds better when closer to the speaker.
  7. Talks to self or repeats instructions.
  8. Cannot sense direction of sound.
  9. Has difficulty focusing on one sound when others are present.
  10. Frequently asks “What?”, “Pardon?”, “Huh?”.

Auditory Disabilities: What you can do

  1. Be close to your child and look him in the face when speaking to him. It often helps to say his name first before speaking. This lets him know that you are speaking to him.
  2. When speaking to your child be concise and relevant, and give only one step or instruction at a time.
  3. Ask your child to repeat what you have said to be sure that he knows and understands what you have said.
  4. Use an elastic on his wrist, a word or symbol written on his hand, etc. to help him remember.
  5. Children with auditory difficulties benefit from a multi-sensory approach to learning and understanding. This means that when you are explaining things try to use pictures or colours that he can see and also things that he can touch or manipulate at the same time.
  6. Try to eliminate as many other noises in the background as possible.

Visual Disabilities

Answer yes or no to the following statements. Suggestions follow.

  1. Responds slowly to visual tasks like reading, math, writing.
  2. Has difficulty distinguishing some letters, numbers, words.
  3. Squints or uses one eye when reading or writing.
  4. Has difficulty copying.
  5. Loses place or omits words when reading.
  6. Drops, spills, bumps into things.
  7. Disorganized work space or room.
  8. Has trouble finding things.
  9. Can’t remember what he/she has seen.
  10. Misreads words.
  11. Prefers to print.
  12. Reverses letters when reading or writing.

Visual Disabilities: What you can do

  1. Teach your child to use a card or a ruler under the lines as he reads.
  2. Have him use a bingo chip or a little statue to mark his place so that he can quickly find it again.
  3. Organize pages with boxes or lines or colours or charts so that the various parts stand out clearly.
  4. Help your child organize his workspace or his belongings so that he can easily find what he needs.
  5. Spend time teaching your child to discriminate between similar letters, words, numbers, mathematical symbols, etc. Common difficulties include: b-d, p-q, u-v,m-w, r-n, was-saw, no-on, when-where-why-who-what-which, 3-8, 2-5, 9-6,+ X, :> ~.
  6. Practise copying letters, numbers, words, sentences, or paragraphs neatly and correctly. Exercises such as circling every “b” or “5” or “the” on a page can also help your child be more alert to the details of things.

Oral Language Disabilites

Answer yes or no to the following statements. Suggestions follow.

  1. Speaks in incomplete sentences.
  2. Vocabulary is immature.
  3. Has trouble finding words to express himself/herself.
  4. Doesn’t participate in discussions.
  5. Reading comprehension is weak.
  6. Mispronounces words.
  7. Thoughts are often “mixed up”.
  8. Verb tenses are often incorrect.
  9. Uses gestures instead of words.
  10. Doesn’t wait for his turn to speak.

Oral Language Disabilities: What you can do

  1. Model good statements and questions, and take the time to explain any words or expressions which you think your child may not understand.
  2. Explain the meanings of things that others may say or things that are heard on television or in video movies.
  3. Allow your child time to process what you have said and time to formulate a response. Be patient with this.
  4. Often speak using the words “First …. Second …. Third… ” to help your child to realize that the sequence of thoughts is ordered.
  5. Have many conversations about things that your child is familiar with so that it is easier for him to participate. This allows him to practise what he is learning, and eventually oral expression will improve, and he will be willing to take a risk with unfamiliar topics.
  6. Notice what your child says, and if necessary, tell him a better way to express what he has just said.

Written Language Disabilities

Answer yes or no to the following statements. Suggestions follow.

  1. Doesn’t remember how to write certain letters or numbers.
  2. Distorts shapes and lines are wobbly.
  3. Is slow to complete work.
  4. Continues to print long after introduction of cursive style.
  5. Reverses letters or whole syllable (“saw” for “was”).
  6. Omits punctuation.
  7. Capitals are incorrectly used.
  8. Content meaningful in spite of poor handwriting.
  9. Runs letters and words together.
  10. Has an unusual way of forming letters.

Written Language Disabilities: What you can do

Most children like this have difficulty getting anything on paper because they have poor fine motor skills and can’t write well and/or they have processing difficulties and are in need of a plan to help them transfer their thoughts to paper.

  1. Provide your child with a computer and teach him to use one particular word processing program. These programs have a spellchecker and a thesaurus, and allow a child to produce good quality work of which he can be proud. Look into assistive technology which can assist in the reading and writing process. Younger children may be able to learn proper typing techniques, but many develop satisfactory speed and competence using only two fingers.
  2. Teach your child a writing process which will enable him to over learn the steps to generate ideas, organize, write, edit, and publish. These five steps can be applied to any written assignment whether it be a paragraph about visiting the zoo or a project in Geography, Science, or any subject at both elementary and secondary levels. A common writing process is based on the acronym TOWER: T is the Thinking step; O is the Organization step; W is the Writing step when you write your 1st draft; E is the Editing step; R is the Rewrite step making all necessary changes and corrections.
  3. Consider the use of assistive technology. Computer programs have been designed to assist in the writing process. Speech to text, text to speech, word prediction programs and spell check assists students to produce a high quality product. Graphic organizer software programs allow students to create thought webs to help them organize their ideas.

Attentional Difficulties

Attentional difficulties are common among children with learning difficulties.

Some may be diagnosed as having an Attention-Deficit Disorder. The following suggestions have been proven to help these children:

  1. Provide regular routines for mealtimes, chores, homework, bedtimes, etc. These children are at their best when there are no changes or surprises. Let them know in advance when there are changes and explain why. They even like to know in advance what is being served for dinner. Some parents post a weekly plan.
  2. Be consistent with daily instructions or rules. Consequences for misbehaviours should be known and understood ahead of time, and consequences should be administered immediately without ridicule.
  3. Remove distractions (sights and sounds) when concentrated effort is required.
  4. Praise any and all desirable behaviour and performance immediately. Try to ignore minor inappropriate behaviours.
  5. Monitor frustration levels and try to provide freedom to release pent-up energy. This may prevent loss of self-control.
  6. Shorten instructions, tasks and chores. This usually will result in the successful completion of them.
  7. Always cue your child before speaking to him.
  8. Try to involve your child in making plans or setting rules. Also point out choices for him. Being more involved in these things helps to make him more responsible for his actions.

* PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE MAY BE MANY MORE SPECIFIC DIFFICULTIES THAT CHILDREN WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES MAY EXHIBIT.

* THE ABOVE CHECKLIST !S DESIGNED TO HELP PARENTS IDENTIFY CERTAIN AREAS THAT MAY BE “WORKED ON” AT HOME.

ALSO, IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT HAVING A LARGER NUMBER OF ITEMS CHECKED ON THE CHECKLIST DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT A CHILD IS MORE SEVERELY LEARNING DISABLED.

* * * RESEARCH INDICATES THAT SELF-ESTEEM IS A MORE POWERFUL DETERMINER OF ACADEMIC SUCCESS THAN IS INTELLECTUAL PERFORMANCE.

Comments on specific cases should be addressed to the special education personnel in your school district, or refer to referral process page.