What if My Child is Behind?: The Inside Scoop on How to Do Early Intervention at Home

Yesterday, I talked about the importance to have a reset this summer after the upside-down year we have all had in education. You can find that article here:

But for some children who are struggling and behind grade level in a way that is significantly impacting their access to the curriculum, it may be necessary to take time this summer to help them be ready for the upcoming school year. Some examples of this are a student who has just finished second grade and is still struggling to decode and comprehend basic text, conduct basic math, or a child about to begin first grade that is struggling with their alphabet letters, sounds, or number recognition. In such cases you might consider some steps that close these gaps.

Early intervention is key to preventing later challenges in school. I often compare the ongoing scope and sequence of school to a gigantic snowball of grade level standards that must be mastered. And like any snowball, it initially starts off small but gains mass as it rolls down the hill. The obvious statement is that it is easier to stop a snowball when it is small and this statement rings true with grade level expectations, which tend to build upon each other. So much so, that core skills are identified in each grade level that are critical to success in the following grade level.

So, back to our earlier examples: if a child going into third grade is still struggling to blend words and use grade-level appropriate spelling (not perfect spelling), then it is time to step in. With that said, it is important to do it in a way that is not overwhelming to the child.

Watch “unspoken dialogue.” Remember, children are masters at deciphering unspoken messages. Try to pick resources that are age appropriate, especially if your child is significantly delayed. An accidental message of “I can’t learn” can impact a child long after they have uncovered the key to reading.

Pick resources that are age-appropriate. This is one of the most significant challenges for working with a child who is behind grade level or delayed. Their maturity and interests are still the same as their grade-level cohorts and we can easily risk “insulting” a child’s level of developmental maturity.

Use resources that grab their attention and are fun. For example, if your child is behind the game with frequency words or letter/ number recognition, the Preschool Prep Series may be just for you! I used these videos all the time in my kindergarten classes during snack and sent these videos home with students who were struggling. Plus, I used it with my own kids to marvelous results. You may feel like pulling your hair out after hearing the same letter, number, etc. repeated for the billionth time but the kids love it and they are like magic: it works! Plus they have these videos for all the different things that kids need to learn to recognize and you might just get some quiet while the kids are learning something and entertained at the same time…there is no downside here!

Let it be natural. Depending on the skill, maybe workbooks are the answer. However, I encourage parents to make it a fun time with hands on activities. Lego building is a great time to talk about shapes or counting. Geometric boards can help build spatial skills and are great even through grade 3. Use a egg carton to make a ten frame (just cut two off)…hello, common core math! Play with alphabet letters. Shake out syllables by doing a little dance or count the number of sounds in a word. Play “Guess My Word” by saying each sound in a three to four letter word by itself and having your child blend it back together. (By the way, this is one of the most crucial pre-reading skills!)

And most importantly: Read! Read! Read! Visit the library and stack up on lots and lots of books! Point out words that your child knows when you read. Let their finger trace each word as you read. Let them re-read books.

Early intervention is critical to prevent the challenges we see later on in learning in middle and high school and parents are their child’s first teacher. When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be.

If you would like to schedule a consult with me to go over intervention activities for your child, please reach out to me at

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