It’s that time of year again: report card season.
Student with learning disabilities can sometimes bring home a report card that just doesn’t reflect their potential. It can lower their self-esteem and cause endless arguments at home.
If you are a parent and you don’t think your child’s report card reflects their capabilities, here are 5 tips we think will help make things easier and more constructive for you and your student.
1. Set a good example – stay cool.
How you react to a poor report card will deeply affect how your student will deal with disappointment and failure now and in the future. Like most things, your children learn how to react to events from you.
Chances are, if you’re like the rest of us, you’ve had your share of failures and disappointments in life. Reflect on your reactions: did you flip out, quit in despair or beat yourself up?
Hopefully not. Children learn how to cope not by what you say, but what you do! When it comes to dealing with difficulty, the best thing to do is try and keep a cool head and figure out where to go from there.
2. Reassure, Reassure And Reassure Some More
We know you might be disappointed, but keep in mind this is not the time for more criticism or anger. Your student already feels badly enough even though he or she may not show it.
Remind your student that one bad report card does not determine life success. It’s not a reflection of their worth as a person, or the sum of their abilities in life. Try bringing up the histories of successful people who also had a hard time in school or had learning disabilities but went on to lead successful lives, such as Stephen Spielberg, Ted Turner or Michael Phelps.
That said, don’t discount the problem altogether. A disappointing report card is academically a serious matter, especially for students with learning disabilities. You don’t want your child to simply ignore their problems or avoid the areas they’re doing poorly at, you want them to get stronger.
If you want your student to be self-confident and be able to bounce back from failure you have to believe and reassure them that, with a little hard work and dedication, they can improve next year.
3. Find Out the Reasons Why
Now that the initial shock has passed, it’s time to find out what it is that’s giving your student a hard time.
While they are the best source of this kind of information, your student may not be aware of exactly why it is they’re having trouble, so directly asking them “why are you doing badly in math” may not lead to any useful information.
Here are some indirect questions that they may help shed light on potential issues:
- How did you feel when you took your exams?
This information will help you figure out if they really didn’t understand the material or if they had test anxiety.
- Was it hard for you to complete your assignments?
If your student failed to complete assignments, this may be due to the fact that the assignments were just too long. This is a good starting point for the next IEP or parent teacher meeting.
- Was it hard for you to pay attention in class?
Even if your student has been diagnosed with attentional issues, some classes may be harder to concentrate in than others
Your student may be able to explain why this class was more difficult to concentrate in than other classes. Was it especially noisy and chaotic, was it too loosely structured, or did your student feel “lost” i that class because it was just too hard?
- How did you feel about your teacher?
Sometimes students just don’t like their teachers and can blame them for their disappointing grades.
However, if your student’s teacher belittled them or made them feel bad or nervous about themselves, that is a problem that can result in lower motivation (and grades) and can severely impact your child’s self-esteem.
- What is it like going to school every day?
This question gives you the chance to find out if he or she is being bullied in school. You can be sure that bullying can and does affect his or her performance in school.
4. Use the summer to encourage them in the things they are good at.
Summer is the perfect time to encourage students with learning disabilities to do things that they enjoy and are good at.
Whether it is in the field of sports, baking and cooking, computers or looking after younger children, you can give your student more opportunities to do the things they are good at and enjoy and praise them for what they accomplish.
5. Set them up for success next year with expert tutoring.
Since academic knowledge and skills are usually cumulative, difficulties in one or several subjects will likely carry over to the next year. Use the summer to work on building up the fundamentals or to fill in knowledge gaps so that your child starts the next school year more prepared and prepped for success.
There are many tutoring companies that operate special one-on-one programs during the summer. Some, like FocusedLD, are designed for students with learning disabilities and are totally online, letting you fit a few hours of tutoring within your busy, fun-packed summer schedule, rather than the other way around.
Whether your student has gaps in skills or knowledge in Math, Science, English or Social Studies, summer is the perfect time to close those gaps.