It is critical to work with your child at home to help them prepare for the school setting, says Ally Albers, of EB Pediatric Resources.
Albers and Heather Bragg, founder of Learning Decoded, shared easy ideas at the Neighborhood Parents Network’s Developmental Differences Resource Fair that parents can use to help their children succeed, both in school and at home.
Most important is remembering that there are many facets to the learning process, including things like processing speed, reasoning and organization. Just because your child might need more time to process information or “mull it over” doesn’t reflect on his or her intelligence level.
Work on fundamental skills, such as understanding and following simple directions, as well as working on their expressive skills, especially in young children.
Promote language skills at home by “vocalizing back” what they say to you and then expanding on what they say. Engage your child in play and talk about the things you are playing with. For example, if you’re playing with a truck, talk about the truck and describe what it is doing and where it is going, Albers says.
She also emphasizes the importance of reading with your child as much as possible. Expose them to music and simple nursery rhymes or finger plays to promote positive language development.
Talk with your child’s teachers to see how they reinforce language development. It also might help to observe your child in school, to see if they are successfully getting their point across to their teacher and peers.
Work on listening skills. Can your child understand most of what you’re saying? Can they follow two-step directions and understand basic concepts? Do they hear and respond to questions?
Assess your child and see how best they learn, says Bragg. Some children are visual learners, while others learn by listening or even by touching things.
Sometimes kids struggle because the way they’re being taught in school doesn’t match their preferred learning style, she says. For example, if your child is a visual learner, just listening to the definition of a vocabulary word might not help them learn that word. In those cases, seeing a picture of the word can help them connect meaning to it.
Address concerns about your child’s academic career right away, because waiting and letting them struggle might have a long-term impact on their self-esteem.
“If you think something is going on, take action,” Bragg says. “Kids internalize things, and if they think they’re not smart and get turned off towards education, that’s something that’s hard to undo. There is so much benefit to early intervention.”