What parents can do to help


I know that it can be incredibly stressful having a child who appears to be underperforming at school.  For some parents the diagnosis of a learning difficulty comes as a relief since once you know what the problem is, then surely it can be treated.  Often this is the case and some schools are extremely good at providing all the help and support these children need.  However, in other cases the situation becomes even more stressful since you now know what your child needs at school but the school is not able to provide it.  I hope that my tuition will help make up for what your child may not be receiving at school but here are some ways that you, as parents can also help your child.
How to help your child
  • Help your child to want to read.  This is much easier said than done as I suspect you already know.  Don’t worry too much about the content of what he is reading (within reason!)  If he is willing to look at books about ‘Captain Underpants’ or comics or football magazines rather than books, then this is better than nothing, it is exposure to print that is important.  Help your child to choose books which aren’t too difficult for him (if he make more than five mistake on a page then he needs something easier).  If your child prefers to have books with illustrations on each page then this is fine, as long as he is reading then it is ok.  Waterstones have put together a useful guide on how to encourage your child to read.   
  • Read to your child as often as possible.  Parents tend to stop reading to their children once the children are able to read a little for themselves.  However, children with reading difficulties will be reading books suitable for younger children.  It is important for your child’s vocabulary development that she has access to books appropriate for her age group.  It is also important that she is exposed to the same books as her peers so that she can join in discussions about stories.  Your child may hate reading but the right story can stimulate her into wanting to read so keep reading to her to show how wonderful good books can be.
  • Show the subtitles on television.  You know that when you watch television and it has the subtitles on, your eye keeps being drawn to them.  This will help children’s exposure to print and some research has been found that it improved reading age.
  • Encourage your child to learn to type.  Older children may be allowed to use a laptop at school for their work and they will certainly be using a computer either at home or at school.  Being able to type will speed up your child’s work, improve what it looks like and once he achieves a good speed he will be the envy of his friends (a great boost to your child’s self esteem).  It can be hard work persuading your child to learn to type so try to get a fun computer programme to help him.  You may need to use rewards and incentives to keep his motivation up but it will be worth it in the long run.
  • You may find it helpful to get a firm diagnosis for your child.  This may sometimes lead to increased funding and support for your child although this is not guaranteed.  It may however give you and your child some peace of mind, a child knows that he is not doing as well as his peers and may think that he is ‘stupid’ or ‘thick’.  A diagnosis will show him that he is not – a great boost to his self esteem.  I can carry out some assessments which will give a clear indication of his difficulties although I cannot offer a legally binding diagnosis. 
  • Try not to be stressed in front of your child.  If your child knows that you are stressed and worried about his lack of progress this will worry him and make him aware of his failings.  Keep reassuring your child that everyone learns at different rates and he will learn to read as well as his peers although he might need some extra help.  Keep stating that these problems are very common and that you are not worried about it.
  • Keep working with the school.  Talk to your child’s teacher, find out what she is doing in class and then practice it at home.  Work with the teacher, supporting each other almost always works better than refusing to co-operate with her.  If you would like me to talk to your teacher to discuss your child’s assessment results and subsequent teaching programme, then I am very willing to do so.
  • Play word and memory games with your child.  These could be either with pen and paper or just talking, either way will encourage your child to listen carefully and to think about how language is used.
Games to play with your child
  • Eye Spy.  This might seem very dull to some adults but children still enjoy it and learn from it.  The basic game can be altered so that you child has to find something (or as many things as possible) beginning with particular sound blends (‘cl’, ‘sp’, ‘st’ etc). 
  • Label everything.  Put a label on as many objects as you can (‘kettle’, ‘toaster’, ‘window’, ‘bed’).  Make a game of it by asking your son or daughter to place the label on the object – you can make it easy by having three labels and three objects and ask her to match the label to the object.  Keep playing the game, swapping or removing labels so they can be replaced.  The greater your child’s exposure to print the better it is for her reading skills.
  • Word searches.  Children’s comics and magazines have them and you can get them off the internet too.
  • How many words in....?  Write down a long word and see how many words you can make out of it, e.g. ‘television’.  You could impose some rules so that the adults are only allowed to find words with five or more letters.  (There are in fact 104 words in television).
  • Crosswords can be devised for children, have a look on the internet or make up your own. 
  • Alphabet dot to dot.  When your child is still struggling to learn the alphabet, this is a good way of encouraging them to practice it.
  • Hangman.  Parent and child can take it in turns to think of a word (that the child can already spell).  The other has to guess each letter, if the letter is not in the word then a bit more of the hanging man is drawn.  The winner is either the person who guessed the word or the person who thought of a word the other could not guess.
  • Kim’s Game.  An old party favourite, place objects on a tray give 15 seconds to memorize what’s there then cover them.  Take one away and the challenge is to remember what has been removed.  You can make this harder by increasing the number of items and reducing the amount of time to memorize them.
  • ‘I went to market and I bought.....’  Start off with this sentence and add one item bought at the market.  The next person then has to repeat both the sentence and the item bought as well as adding a new item to the list.  This continues until someone makes a mistake.  The game can also be played so that items have to be bought in alphabet order, ‘apples, bananas, cucumber’ etc.(This is a very useful game for a dyslexic child but they usually find it quite difficult so don’t play it with too many people otherwise your son will be out of the game very early on.)  Encourage your child to visualize each item in the basket, this will help him remember them.