Identifying Your Child’s Needs First Steps in Getting Support
If your child is entering school with special learning needs or if you and/or the classroom teacher find that your child is having difficulty learning, certain areas need to be considered to plan appropriately. To find out more about your child and how he or she learns, a teacher may look at the following areas:
- social or behavioural skills
- communication skills
- cognitive/learning skills
- physical or sensory skills
A doctor’s diagnosis of a specific condition or disability does not provide enough information for planning for your child’s individual needs. No two children are exactly alike. Children identified with the same diagnosis often have different abilities and learning needs, and require different supports.
For example, two children could be diagnosed as having fetal alcohol syndrome, but each child could have very different learning needs. One child might function quite well in the classroom with the regular curriculum and need a little support to be successful, while the other child might have severe difficulties and need programming outside the curriculum as well as close supervision at all times.
First Steps in Getting Support
If you feel your child is having difficulty learning, the first step is to talk with the classroom teacher. To identify your child’s learning needs, the teacher may:
- talk with your child
- observe your child during classroom activities
- analyze your child’s class work
- assess your child’s abilities in areas such as mathematics, reading, and so on
As a parent, you can also gather information that may be useful in the assessment process. This information could include medical reports and observations you have made about your child’s learning needs and recent behavioural changes outside of school.
After taking these steps in assessing a student’s needs, the teacher, in consultation with the parents, may decide that a referral to a specialist for support or further assessment is necessary. Written parental consent is recommended before any referral to other teaching or clinical resources within the school/division is made. Each school/division has different assessment procedures, so talk to your child’s teacher or the school principal about what kind of assessment or referral will take place and how long it will take.
Early identification and intervention for young children with special needs often leads to better school adjustment and performance. The assessment will help determine the child’s individual needs. Some children may have difficulties learning at a particular time and may require short-term assistance. However, many special needs may be lifelong needs. Your child’s needs may change, depending on the environment and the coping strategies he or she develops. Many other factors can affect a child’s educational needs, and it is important that the school team meet regularly to identify and discuss these factors, and adjust the child’s programming as needed.