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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: https://deannawestedt.com/2021/06/03/summer-learning-what-parents-need-to-know/.

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 deanna@deannawestedt.com

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Summer Learning: What Parents Need to Know

Our students have just completed what has been described as one of the wonkiest and stressful years in their educational lives. What are the steps parents should take this summer to help their child prepare from the perspective of a curriculum and instruction expert? You might be surprised!

Take time to recharge. This is first on the list for a reason. Adults and children alike need a chance to recover from a year that has felt strange and different. Put the pause button on “learning loss worry”. Instead, just focus on connecting with your child outside of academics. Without the opportunity for a reset, burn out can take over for both parent and child. Students will be able to take on a new school year and be prepared and more likely to feel positive about re-entering the classroom if their brain is well-rested.

Make space for downtime. Allowing children to bask in unstructured play and activities is an invitation for preparing them for life. Innovation is something that can be flexed, but never forced. Get curious about what activities your child likes to do when there is nothing on the schedule and encourage them to think outside the tech box. Do they like to build forts, draw, color? Help them identify things they like to do and then just let them have space to do it.

Be experience oriented. This doesn’t have to be costly, either. Go to the park. Have a water play day. Find a local bakery and ask if they would be willing to show a few interested elementary age kids what goes on behind the scenes. Get creative. Get curious about what’s out there to do. Don’t worry about fancy and expensive outings if that’s outside your budget. The memories will be just as special. And who knows? Maybe a new family tradition or activity will be discovered!

Of course, I always encourage parents to provide opportunities for reading and math literacy. But this year, more than ever, our children need to experience that little bit extra of childhood, free from the concerns of academics.

When you parent, you are your child’s first teacher. When you teach, you touch the future and that’s a pretty amazing place to be!

Tune in tomorrow as I will share ideas on how to address learning in fun ways that blend in with summer activities