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Help me help my DS (aged 6)

(9 Posts)
JumpingJellyfish Tue 11-Oct-11 21:38:16

Just had a quick talk with DS's teacher today. It appears again that DS is struggling and currently bottom of his class in terms of literacy and not doing that much better in numeracy (but not struggling quite so much). We live in Northern Ireland so he has just started P3, which I think is the equivalent of yr 2 in England (he's an April born child, now aged 6).
I am worried for DS and I am feeling horribly guilty that I am somehow failing to help him enough to stop him struggling. He has struggled since he started school. I think of him as quite a bright child (not biased at all wink) as he is very interested in books, soaks up factual info very readily, (which he then recounts to anyone who'll hear him out), he's kind and pretty good at swimming, running, PE. But he is not like most of the other boys. He is sensitive (and is too aware already of what his peers can do and what he "can't"), a bit emotionally fragile, but very empathic of people. He's a great big brother to his sisters. However his confidence now in his literacy and numeracy is pretty shattered in spite of attempts by DH & me and his teachers to help. He just finds it so hard. He's has grasped phonetic sounds, knows his alphabet well, can read words after phonetically breaking them down, but doesn't seem to retain recognition of common words that most of the class readily read (she, he, then, that, etc etc.). I have tried to practise as much as possible at home, and he gets a LOT of homework, but with 2 other DCs (one of whom has serious medical condition), working 20hrs a week I fear I haven't spent enough time doing this with him.

Please help oh wise ones. As DS is my firstborn I am new to all this. I have a parent meeting with his teacher in 2 weeks' to discuss his "issues" and how we can work together to help. I just wish I could help it all "click" for him. I know I shouldn't compare but DD1 (4) just finds it all so easy, I wish it could be that way for DS.

DH thinks the school are pushing him too hard, that it will all come in time, and that as he is quite enthusiastic that's a good start but pushing him too hard could backfire. I can see his point.

FWIW DS was born 10 weeks premature. No serious medical issues thankfully as a result but given his tough first few months I do wonder if that's had an effect... He does always struggle staying on task (unless it's reading geology/palaeontology/nature books), has done since a preschooler.

Wow sorry that was far too long. Must work on being succinct!! smile

whomovedmychocolate Tue 11-Oct-11 22:05:03

I would say, go into the meeting with his teacher in a fortnight with an open mind and go with what you know works. If he is mad of dinosaurs, let him read books about them - it doesn't have to be Topsy and Tim to count! smile

Also to learn about nature you have to learn about maths - if you can relate his learning to something that matters to him (like Fibonnaci etc.) then he's more likely to take it in.

And you may have to accept he's not academically gifted - so what. Someone has to be average. smile That doesn't mean he won't excel elsewhere, or that he won't find his niche later on. He's still very little to be so worried about him. smile

JumpingJellyfish Tue 11-Oct-11 22:19:10

Thanks WMMC smile I agree, he is still very little, but that could be the protective parent thing coming out too! I am in full agreement, someone has to be average, but from what I heard today and from his teachers in P1 & P2 he appears substantially below average with respect to literacy, and below average in numeracy. This seems a little at odds with my own perception of his abilities in other areas (like general knowledge) but again I know I am far from objective, and they are concentrating on the two key skill areas of literacy and numeracy so knowledge of deep sea creatures or spending hours digging for fossils not high on the agenda! grin

Yes will try the encouragement with the right reading genre for him, good idea... Just feel so pushed for time to invest in all this (awful mum I am) I want to make sure I'm helping him in the best way I can with the little time I seem to have...

Ferguson Tue 11-Oct-11 22:56:32


. . . no don't worry about it being long; my replies to 'posts' invariably are too!

I have worked with children for twenty years, mostly as a Teaching Assistant (male), after starting as a 'parent helper' when our DS was at primary school.

It's great that your DS has these mature interests and personal qualities that many boys do not have, and I am sure the academic stuff will fall into place eventually. Many children I work with are still really struggling with reading in Year 3 or above. Others seem to read fluently, but it's just 'words' and they have no understanding of any meaning. Some things seem to defy any rational explanation: thus, a child might read a word on one line, then exactly the same word is on the line underneath, but they can't manage to read it!

I'm inclined to agree with DH that pushing too hard can do more harm than good, especially with a sensitive child. If he is getting 'uptight' and worried about his performance in class, that can maybe stifle his ability to read, or do other things. Like an adult taking a driving test; one knows how to do everything, but nerves take over and you mess it up!

What sort of homework does he get? Our younger ones don't get real homework, other than to read their book and maybe learn a few simple spellings. I wouldn't have thought a 6 year old should be expected to do much homework, and if there is homework there should be several days or a week to complete it.

What's he like at writing, drawing, painting, crafts or building (Lego etc), music, drama, ICT? There are so many subjects for little ones to cope with these days, and when you think about it, it isn't really that many years since he learnt to walk and talk!

If you answer a few of my queries, I'll try and help more in day or two (unless other people have beaten me to it). Do it on a Personal Message if you like, rather than on the 'thread', though I find they don't always work too well.


JumpingJellyfish Wed 12-Oct-11 22:23:07

Ferguson thank you so much for your thoughtful and supportive reply, much appreciated smile

DS gets quite a lot of homework in my opinion- on Mondays to Thursdays he brings home a literacy sheet, which can be writing sentences for example they provide a written answer and he has to think of a question (x10!), or comprehension of his reading book (again up to 10-15 sentences required), he has a numeracy sheet once a week (to be done that night)- up to 40 simple sums now moving up to number 50 (he struggles beyond 20), plus he has a nightly reading book (currently Songbirds Level 1+, which in my opinion is a little dull for him and he does read it without much difficulty so long as he's allowed time....) and also 7 spellings and 7 "tables" (sums) each night. It can take us up to an hour of cajoling to get through this, often with me having to help him write every word of a sentence simply because he tires of it.

I personally think for my DS this is too much. We love Fridays, Sats and Sundays with no homework (though I do try things like reading signs, asking how he'd spell random words, counting out money- day to day stuff but not getting heavy about it). DS does struggle with concentration- especially in a distracting environment which I'm afraid is often the case at home (DD2 is 22 months and climbs about raiding the pens etc., and DD1 now has homework too so I'm helping her also). I know other boys of his age who seem to be able to "fade out" external distractions and keep on task, but DS watches everything going on around him so that obviously slows his work down....

His writing has improved a lot, he even occasionally voluntarily writes notes in his notebook (this is a big thing for a child who was almost adverse to writing 12 months ago), and it's quite legible too. He easily confuses 'e' with 'g', 'b' with 'd', 'p' with 'q' when writing (and reading 'b' and 'd' too) but I've been assured this is common at his age. His dad has got mild dyslexia and to this day finds reading a LOT harder than I do, so of course I wonder about DS, the processing involved in word recognition just seems to take him a lot longer than other boys in his class, like he has to go back and forth a few times in his mind rather than one simple thought process IYSWIM..

In terms of other subjects again his drawing ability has improved greatly the past few months- he was late to want to draw and took a while to form recognisable pictures compared to his peers, but the other day drew a copepod in class (no one else knew what one was, and DS proudly explained- but showing it to me (I'm a marine biologist) I was very impressed at the detail!). He enjoys crafts esp. pottery/playdough moreso than painting- but won't sit on task all that long - again he seems to be improving in the detail he puts into things. Loves lego. But at home he plays mainly imaginary role-play games when given free reign, often for prolongued periods (loves nothing better than dressing up). Apparently he is getting quite good at using the computers, and often enjoys the numeracy games in ICT at school, but I have to admit he gets hardly any chance to use a computer at home and we don't have a playstation/wii or similar either at home. Not a really conscious choice just no money- and we're quite outdoorsy people so our kids play outside a lot (chasing chickens, digging, riding bikes, climbing trees). He enjoys listening to different types of music and is keen to learn the trumpet- we're waiting a bit as he gets a chance at auditioning for music lessons as school after xmas - but he blows away at DH's old one!

I feel after writing all that that perhaps his development is just a bit out of sync with his peers. Copes well in some spheres but not in others. Emotionally he is quite fragile- frightened of certain not-very-scary things on TV, power of suggestion etc. And very in tune with the mood of others (knows when I'm sad etc.). But he has a great imagination and curiosity and if only we could get ahead a bit on his literacy and numeracy without stiffling all that we'd be flying....Maybe?!

School are giving him extra support and have put a plan in place for some classroom assistant support for literacy and numeracy- this was put in place after Easter- but in a large class I worry he's very distracted and not making progress as fast as they'd hoped.

FWIW I just read about the Star Wars DK Readers books for early readers and ordered a couple, in the hope it helps inspire him (he adores Star Wars)...

Your advice would be very, very welcome. Sorry this is an epic essay to wade through! Lost the ability to be succint or pithy when I had kids! smile

Mousey84 Wed 12-Oct-11 22:36:42

Id def look into getting him assessed for dyslexia and maybe also dyspraxia. My mindee has both and sounds quite like your DS. However, my DD also is somewhat similar and its only now in P5 that writing has suddenly clicked. Both girls self esteem is quite low, but def focus on things he is good at and make a big fuss, and play down things he struggles with.

Find some good maths and english websites - bbc bitesize and coolmathsgames are good - so that he can practice those skills without the stress of writing. In the case of my DD, her reading and maths skills are both over 2 years above her actual age (on a computer test) but when doing a written test, she felt so overwhelmed about writing that she did really poorly since she didnt finish all the questions.

NOt sure about being sensitive - DD and mindee I mentioned above are both v sensitive, and all Ive managed is to practice roleplay "comeback" lines to bullying or how to ask someone if they want to play etc.

JumpingJellyfish Wed 12-Oct-11 22:48:38

Thank you Mousey84 for your reply- out of interest how young can they test for dyslexia? I'm sure I'd read somewhere (probably an MN thread rather than a medical journal!!) that a child had to be 7 at least before diagnosis was possible? Don't know much about dyspraxia (vague memory of physical coordination issues?)- any good links you'd recommend? Physically he's pretty good, very good anyhow at climbing trees and doing crazy hills on his bike... But not hot yet on the traditional boy sports like football (just not that interested yet I think..). Sometimes I read all this and worry/wonder that I've raised a freak child and it's all my fault. I'm sorry DS sad

Mousey84 Wed 12-Oct-11 23:07:59

You havent raised a freak child! I just think its sensible to get a professional opinion to rule out medical conditions that may hinder him.

I dont know about links etc, but she was in last few months of p3 when she got her assessment. Im not sure if theres an age limit on testing. Dyspraxia is co-ordination issues from what I understand - mindee couldnt throw/catch a ball well, ride a bike and she fidgeted a lot. However, apparently all experts were amazed at how neat her writing was despite it (it is beautiful) as normally children with it struggle. Sorry I cant be more help - Ill ask mindees mum next time I see her though.

For homework, would you be brave enough to ask teacher of she could make some exceptions with the homework? Like he will do it all verbally with you so you know he definitely understands it, but only write half of the sentences, and concentrate on the actual handwriting on that half?

Mashabell Thu 13-Oct-11 07:13:49

He's has grasped phonetic sounds, knows his alphabet well, can read words after phonetically breaking them down, but doesn't seem to retain recognition of common words.

I which case I would practice a few of those each day until he can read them all easily. We did that with my son who was similar to yours whe he was little (now 40 and a uni lecturer).
Letters and Sounds lists the 300 most used English words, but I have divided them into decodable and tricky ones, because most children need more practice with the latter. - I'll paste in the 94 tricky ones. U can see some are trickier than others.
Once he is fluent with all of them, u might find the Sightwords page on my website useful.

*any many all called said small
want wanted was what water
are have laughed
+ (for speakers of UK standard) after asked can’t fast last plants
be he he’s me she we we’re
ever every everyone never there there’s were where eyes key
great head ready bear

find I’ll I’m
live lived river friends

another coming don’t most mother oh once only other work
do into to two who
one come some something gone
school book door good look looked looking looks took
grow know snow window
could couldn’t thought through would you your
pulled put

giant people Mr Mrs

Masha Bell

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