The good news is that there are ways to help!
If they need a different kind of teaching:
- Children learn in different ways and some kinds of instruction work better for certain kids.
- If this is the cause of your child's trouble, some new teaching strategies can help! An example: Small Group Instruction. A few kids may work in a group with the teacher to get more personalized instruction for part of the class.
- Your school has a whole menu of strategies, or interventions, that teachers can try. But if they don't help, there are other options.
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Your child's teacher may suggest trying some different teaching strategies, or interventions to see if that helps your child make progress.
Sometimes these are called Response to Intervention (RTI). This approach can help students in the classroom before referring them for special education services.
- It could be that a child does not have a learning disability, and the reason they are struggling is because of poor instruction or preparation for school. If that's the case, this process will try to improve the instruction they get and may solve the problem.
- RTI has different levels of interventions. One example of an intervention: the teacher may have your child work in a small reading group to get more intensive instruction.
- The teacher will start with the lowest level and move up to a higher level if there are no changes in your child's behavior or learning.
- The school should monitor your child's progress carefully to see if the interventions are helping.
- If the interventions don't help, then the school will refer your child for an evaluation. But you still have the right to ask for one at any time. An evaluation should tell you if your child has a disability that requires special services.
If they have a learning disability:
- There are several types of learning disabilities that make it harder for kids to learn. The most familiar one is Dyslexia, but there are other kinds as well.
- There are tests that can identify if a child has a learning disability, and there are teaching techniques that can help your child learn.
- If they have a learning disability, they should qualify for special education services.
If they have a developmental disability:
- Developmental delays or disabilities can also affect learning. Autism is one example. Kids can also have specific kinds of delays that affect their communication, motor coordination, or ability to regulate their emotions. These can all affect learning.
- There are special therapies to help kids with developmental disabilities. Examples are Speech Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, and Occupational Therapy (OT).
- If they have a developmental disability that affects their learning, they should qualify for special education services.
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There are many different types of therapy that can help children who have developmental delays or disabilities.
Here are some of the most common examples:
Speech and Language Therapy — A therapist (sometimes called an SLP, or Speech and Language Pathologist) helps with communication skills at all levels. These include talking, understanding others, and also non-verbal ways to communicate.
Occupational Therapy (OT) — A therapist uses movement to help your child to develop the motor, cognitive and emotional skills they need for the things they do. A child's "occupations" include play, self-care (like eating and dressing), social engagement, and academic activities like writing.
Behavioral Therapy - A therapist helps to encourage positive behaviors and discourage unwanted ones. Desired behaviors are broken down into small tasks to build skills.
Developmental Therapy - A therapist uses relationship and the child's interests to build the areas of development that a child needs help with. These include things like relating and communicating or logical thinking.
Physical Therapy (PT) — A therapist works with your child to improve muscle strength, coordination, and movement.
Any of these may be helpful to your child. It depends on their unique mix of challenges and strengths.
Source: Autism Research Institute
If they have trouble focusing:
- There are some simple ways to reduce distractions and help kids focus.
- Examples: putting their desk up front near the teacher, doing individual work in a quiet corner with dividers around their desk, or using headphones to cancel noise.
- An evaluation can tell if someone has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This is a condition where their brain processes things differently. There are strategies and medicines that can help. If a child has ADHD and it affects their learning, they should qualify for special education services.