Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dyslexia: First Days at School

The first days of school are difficult for all children but they can be expecially difficult for children who are suffering from a form of dyslexia.

This is especially the case if the child knows that they have difficulties with words and reading. Their apprehension will be even greater, so you need to make the transition to school as pleasant and as comfortable as possible.

Preparation is the key word to help your child transition between the comforts of you and your home and the unkown scary world of school. So, the key things to address in the beginning is to make the experience less 'unknown' and less 'scary.'

Similar Experiences
Take time to explain to your child what the structure of their day is going to be and make it as real as possible for them. If they have already experienced being at a pre-school nuresery or class, then simply use that as a basis to explain the differences to come.

Older Children
You can ask older children to explain what school is like but this can be a bit tricky because some older children will tease and joke around, thinking they are being funny but instead they are frightening the child more.

So, this has to be a supervised event. Stay with them and correct any negative or scare tactics as and when they occur.

Making Friends
Hopefully your child will have already made friends with other children of their age and that they are going to the same school together. The school is just another place for them to go and play and have fun together. This is certainly the best scenario but it doesn't always work out that way.

Do some mother to mother networking in the neighbourhood. Use your own be-friending skills to introduce yourself to another mother in similar circumstances i.e. their child is preparing to go to school for the first time. Explain how you would like the children to make friends with each other before going to school, so that they will have a friend in situ.

The friendship may not last but by that time they will have made other friends and school will be just another place to go and have adventures.

Use Your Own Experiences
If your child is going to a new school and doesn't know anyone there, spend some time beforehand telling them about how quickly you made new friends at school. Use your own positive experiences. Let them see the pleasure in your face when you talk about it.

Separation Anxiety
Inevitably, separation anxiety impacts the mother as well as the child but it should be a transitional phase that both can overcome. The mother knows that they will be re-united at the end of each school day. The child has been told this but may take some time to realise the truth of it.

Constant reassurance does help but the best way to prepare the child for the separation process is to introduce the concept to them slowly and regularly, during normal day to day activities.

Leaving your child in the care of a responsible adult for a short time until you do something else, should not be an alien experience for the child but the difference with going to school is the length of time that the child is separated from it's parent.

It is important, in the first days of a new school that the parent is there, waiting outside the school, to pick up the child and no excuses will be accepted for avoiding this responsibility.

Ask the School
Most schools understand that starting school is a stressful time for children and parents and will arrange a pre-intake visit and if not then you can suggest it to them. A brief introduction to the 'child-friendly' teacher should alleviate some of the child's fears.

Re-assure the child in the presence of the teacher, that they can approach the teacher with any concerns and that they will be as safe and well taken care of in the school, as they are at home.

Raise Concerns
I recommend that you make an appointment to speak to the teacher, before your child goes to school and point out any concerns that you have about the child's ability to read and understand words. At this time you can develop a strategy and a plan to help the teacher, you and your child work on this issue.

Do not expect your child to do this because they will find it far too difficult. If you make this approach early enough, then the teacher may recommend some simple tasks to help you build up your child's confidence and understanding, before starting school.

It is rare to find a teacher that will not help you constructively with your child's difficulties but it does happen. You should persevere with this but if, after 2 or 3 visits to the school, you are unable to engage with the teacher, then simply ask the head of school to intervene.

Be positive and assertive, but remain polite and considerate throughout, because you need their support. You do not want to damage the relationship you have with them or that they have with your child, at this early stage. You will need them on your side for the duration of the term and probably longer.

Preparation, familiarity and reassurance will help your child approach their schooldays with excitement and as a great adventure. Yes, there will be difficulties and the occasional upset but they can be dealt with, if and when they happen.


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