Helping your child to manage the school experience remotely is one of the hardest things tasks that a parent will experience. However, you will be less anxious and more confident as the years go on, if you resist the temptation to do everything on their behalf. Instead, begin this journey by doing things together, using prompts to build independence.
Talking to Teachers
A great deal of formal and informal information is given to students in school, and very little of this is written down. Sometimes, teachers are in a hurry to give instructions to students, perhaps at the beginning or end of the lesson, making it hard for young people to write everything down in their school journal or diary.
Agreeing on methods of communication between home and school is vitally important, and is a task that you should address at the beginning of each school year.
This might include:
- All teaching staff to be aware that a printed version of instructions / homework tasks need to be provided to your student, or if the student is expected to write this down in the lesson, to check that this is accurate.
- Communication between parents and the learning support / SNA / class teacher is maintained using the home school diary, journal or by email.
- Regular progress meetings to be scheduled with learning support / Special Needs Assistant / class teacher, in addition to regular parent-teacher meetings.
- All teaching staff to be aware of the use of communication or prompt cards.
- All teaching staff to be aware of sensory processing difficulties.
It also helps to be mindful of the most appropriate / convenient times of the school day or week for contacting your student’s teacher. Teaching staff have many other roles and responsibilities associated with the school, for example, organising and supervising clubs or activities, marking homework. It’s a good idea to establish a good communication time at the beginning of the school year, and to stick to this.
Your son or daughter may have used a visual timetable in primary school, and these are essential for managing the additional subjects and activities in secondary school.
- Enlist the help of your young person to make the timetable. This is important.
- Use an A1 sheet of paper, the blank side of a piece of wrapping paper, wallpaper or poster. You could also use a whiteboard.
- Print out the symbols on the following pages and and laminate these. Cut out the symbols and stick them to the paper or whiteboard using double sided tape or poster putty so that you can move these around.
- Display the timetable in a family space such as the kitchen.
- If you are totally non-crafty, use the inside of a kitchen cupboard door and use washable markers.
Using the visual timetable
- With your student, model how to use the timetable to check lessons and activities for the following day.
- Remind your student of the name of the teacher for each lesson, and the location of the classroom. Check the route to the classroom.
- Make a list together of the items needed for the following day.
- Check whether additional items are required for special activities or events.
- Supervise your student in locating these things.
- Supervise them to pack these things in their bag, but do not do this for them.
Photocopy the Pack-A-Schoolbag Checklist template. You can laminate this and keep it beside the timetable or place it inside a plastic sleeve and use a non-permanent marker. Or you could copy the checklist onto a small whiteboard which can be sourced from a stationery or office supply shop.
Make it fun, and make it relevant.
But Dr. Alison, where are the resources that you mentioned? Where are the subject symbols and where is the Pack-A-Schoolbag Checklist? Well… this post is an extract from Ready, Steady, Go! Planning the Move to Secondary School: A Workbook for Children and Families, which will be published in January 2017. (Currently being ‘inspected’ by a focus group of children and families). As soon as we have a passing grade, I’ll link them to this blog.