What is a good way to share our child’s talents and needs with teachers? Better yet, how do we teach our children to advocate for themselves? Teachers and other school staff want to know how to support your child’s learning. You can help them by creating a design for how your child learns best.
First, we need to be able to talk about and list your child’s strengths. If your child is old enough and willing, ask for their help with the list making. It can be an enlightening experience for both of you. Ask, what does my child do well, enjoy, or find engaging? This list should includes activities outside of the school building as well as within the school setting. Often our children have exceptional talents and skills-hidden from view in in school. For example, I had a client who loved to draw and paint pet portraits. He also enjoyed volunteering at the local animal shelter. He decided to paint and sell pictures of the animals in the shelter as a fundraiser. This task takes artistic skill, planning, and organizing. He is a child with dyslexia and struggles academically; and when the academic skill performance is the primary measure of how he is valued within the school setting, he struggles to maintain his motivation and self-esteem. Finding a way to share his exceptional talents with the school campus helps teachers see beyond the poor reading and miserable handwriting.
Second, how does my child struggle in the classroom or social setting? What are the barriers to my child’s learning experience? Often, and unfortunately, this is the easiest list to make. An important barrier to note is how tired your child becomes when doing homework; how much time does it take to complete a task; or how difficult is it for them to engage in specific tasks? How much support does my child need to finish homework?
Next, what does or can my child do to support their own learning? For example, elementary and above students will begin to use digital tools and other accommodations that remove barriers when in a classroom. For example, does my child benefit from using spell-check, editing tools, changes in background color, or spacing between words and lines on a page.
Finally, what strategies or accommodations have other teachers or tutors used that work with my child? If you are not sure about answers to this questions, ask your child about teachers that they like and what they like about those teachers. If you know the teachers, ask them what they did to support your child.
One way to package all of this information for the teachers is to use use power point or a Prezi presentation. Put each of the four questions presented above on a separate slide. Brainstorm ideas for each slide and make your lists. Work with your child to add clip art, background patterns, and video to enhance the information and personalize the power point. If your child is supported by special education or 504 programming, present the power point at the next meeting. If not, request a parent/teacher conference and present the ppt. to the teachers. If your child is interested, invite them to assist in the presentation. This activity will give voice to your child’s strengths, talents, and gifts and provide ideas to the teachers about how to remove barriers to their learning.