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First parents evening :-(

(37 Posts)
naturemama Thu 14-Nov-13 06:42:45

Hi, this is my first post here - I just needed to come and vent and hopefully get se advice and reassurance from anyone else who may be feeling the same.

I'm a single mum, my son will be 5 in January. I've always thought e was fairly bright, he has been able to count well from a you gave, knows the alphabet and all the sounds and letters, since being at school he has learnt all his words coming home within a few days and can read to me basic books like The Red Hen (biff chip and kipper, amongst others) and he can tell the time, however I've always had a bit of a struggle to get him to write. At pre school they said don't worry about it, some kids just aren't that into writing so I've just encouraged him to make marks, using chalks outside, attempting to get him to colour (he's quite scribbly and often hurries to finish), we've always got wallpaper and paints outside for him to access whenever and lots more different media that e can experiment with.

So I get to parents evening (already feeling like a bit of a failure being the only person without a partner there, so perhaps already a tad over sensitive!) and they say he's doing OK, he comes up with some of the best sentences in class and it's clear that e has lovely experiences at home, which he talks about. Then they said he doesn't like boisterous play (as of this is the worst thing ever) so I say ok, he's never really been massive on rough and tumble, then they say he's quite mature for his age, which makes me feel dreadful as he's an only child and we live with my mother and I would so love for him to have a constant playmate in a brother or sister, however he does have lots of cousins who he mixes with regularly. Then they start on the writing, they make suggestions that I do the things I already do, then suggest getting a writing claw, they then say that it is probably because he doesn't have swimming lessons!? He does go swimming, he doesn't have lessons and we perhaps haven't been as much as I'd like, so I'm feeling quite bad about that. I said he has his name on the list to start lessons when he's 5 in Jamuary, but I was conscious of overloading him with activities at the start of school so had held off. They said, well they do have lessons for 4 year olds! (Which I looked at before and cannot afford, even as a working single mum!) they basically said he doesn't have the strength in his arms to control a pencil, but also said they hadn't noticed anything in PE. Then when I got home to buy the pencil grips it says for children with autism and special needs which I guess kind of three me a bit.

Has anyone else been here and helped their child through this and come out the other side? I understand it is a relatively small deal rigt now and I had kind of just put it down to him being a boy and jut not being rest yet. I thought he was doing so well in other areas that perhaps one area may naturally suffer to start with just while he gets used to it all but they made it sound like he's abnormal and slow.

I'm probably being over sensitive, you know what it's like when it seems like someone is criticising your parenting or child's abilities and I know it's their job to bring it to my attention, I guess I was just a bit surprised and they didn't seem to give me much positive. Also, they haven't even started on numbers yet which I was surprised at as friends with kids in other schools have been doing numbers and letters.

Sorry if this is a jumbled mess, I've barely slept all night and needed to get this out. I've been looking up arm exercises and more activities that I can do to help him which we will be starting today.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far! x

pollypocket31 Thu 14-Nov-13 20:21:21

I am a reception teacher and really feel for you, as you obviously care an enormous amount and have ended up worrying yourself when (as far as I can tell) everything sounds perfectly normal.

As has already been suggested, the skill of handwriting is nothing to do with academic capability it is all to do with gross motor and fine motor development and most 4 year olds need to spend their reception year developing this. Some of my most wobbly illegible writers in the Autumn term go on to be confident neat writers by the summer term.

You will be blown away by the progress you will see this year. I also have a bag of pencil grips which up to 10 people in my class use. Its just a tool to support pencil control...nothing more!!

Please dont worry you are doing a wonderful job smilexxx

p.s. I have a sneaky suspicion the teachers see his potential and that is why they seem to be pushing him to to get writing??? Just a suggestion.....x

lljkk Thu 14-Nov-13 15:03:01

most of that parents evening was glowing. And the rest had constructive potential. I'd be delighted with that. confused

With respect, naturemama (most single parents have my utmost respect), you need to lighten up. Sounds like your own insecurities are distorting how you take things.

PastSellByDate Thu 14-Nov-13 13:04:24

Oh forgot to mention naturemama - if your son is learning phonics with Jolly Phonics through school - their workbooks for the phonetic sounds have a lot of letter writing practice in there - which also may be of help.

Amazon has link here:


PastSellByDate Thu 14-Nov-13 13:00:02

Hi Naturemama

first off have a brew and a deep breath - you're doing the best you can and that's all anyone can ask, genuinely! Don't be so hard on yourself and don't take so much notice of what other people are doing/ thinking/ etc... You are definitely not the only single parent in the universe and you care enough to post her to ask for help - which looks like you care and you're trying your best to me.

Your DS sounds like he's doing great in so many areas. Every child has a few things that they are great at and a few things they're not so great at. The trick is to take the rough with the smooth - encourage talents but also work on weaknesses. However, you have to pace yourself Nature - this is a marathon and he's only 5. There will be other hurdles (multiplication tables/ fractions/ chapter books/ 'joined up writing', etc...) to come.

Writing is clearly going to be the struggle right now. But that's just it - right now writing is the problem and you need to pace yourself because in a few weeks or months it will be something else...

I'm really pleased that someone posted mrz's fantastic list of fine motor skill coordination ideas. I was about to do the same and think that's a great source of ideas/ help.

I would also recommend (possibly a little further down the road)...

geometric colouring books like this ( We got crayola twistable colouring pencils and both DDs enjoyed colouring these in and in the process developed a lot of fine motor skills.

DD2 had real difficulty with joined up writing and we used the Collins Easy learning Handwriting books for joined up writing (ages 7 - 9) but they do some for learning to write ages 5 - 7:

Our school wasn't big on practicing writing or giving copying homework - but we found that 10 minutes here or there for DD2 with the Easy Learning writing workbooks definitely helped and for her, she clearly needed some practice to get comfortable about writing joined up letters. DD2's handwriting is by no means perfect now, but writing practice has improved things and we're keeping things ticking over by encouraging her to keep a diary and having her send postcards or cards (thank you notes/ birthday cards) etc... as and when we can.

Again - mrz's suggestions are probably best starting point - but I thought I'd include these ideas as well in case they were of help.

Finally - I think you have to take a teacher saying your DS is struggling as a good thing (I'm at a school where nothing is said - which is really harmful for so many pupils long term). I don't quite get what swimming has to do with hand strength or fine motor skills - but perhaps the teacher was also nervous/ flustered. At the end of the day you've been forewarned that your DS needs to work on his handwriting - and I'm sure over the next few months you can sneak in some practice and use some of mrz's great ideas to help improve his coordination/ strength.

Hang in there & chin up!

Bluebell99 Thu 14-Nov-13 09:06:48

I think you are being over sensitive. There are a lot of positives there. He is doing fine. Parents evenings always IMHO give targets on what needs working on. It sounds like they are giving ideas on things you could try. I think because you were feeling self conscious already, you are focusing on the negatives. He is doing fine. Enjoy your boy.

naturemama Thu 14-Nov-13 08:22:08

Wow that's a fantastic list, thank you! He's currently doing cosmic kids yoga before school!

simpson Thu 14-Nov-13 08:20:04

I have had this with my DD (5)

What really helped was squeezing clothes pegs a few times a day.

My DD is hypermobile and seeing an OT who has given loads of exercises. She also said try the exercises first before pencil grips.

Other things we did was squeezing her flannel/sponge at bath time, flipping coins over (having them facing one way on a table and she had to flip them all the other way), putting her Cheerios on a plate and making her pick them up one at a time to put in her bowl for breakfast (mean mummy!), ripping up newspaper, wheel barrow races, twister (the game) is very good too!

Daykin Thu 14-Nov-13 08:18:25

This is a reply from mrz to a similar question on another thread.

I'm a reception teacher and SENCO and I don't think handwriting practise is appropriate for a child who after all isn't five!

Things to remember:

Upright working surfaces promote fine motor skills. Examples of these are: vertical chalkboards; easels for painting; flannel boards; lite bright; magnet boards (or fridge); windows and mirrors; white boards, etc. Children can also make sticker pictures; do rubber ink-stamping; use reuseable stickers to make pictures; complete puzzles with thick knobs; use magna-doodle and etch-a-sketch as well. The benefits for these include: having the child's wrist positioned to develop good thumb movements; they help develop good fine motor muscles; the child is using the arm and shoulder muscles.


Moulding and rolling play dough into balls - using the palms of the hands facing each other and with fingers curled slightly towards the palm.
Rolling play dough into tiny balls (peas) using only the finger tips.
Using pegs or toothpicks to make designs in play dough.
Cutting play dough with a plastic knife or with a pizza wheel by holding the implement in a diagonal volar grasp.
Tearing newspaper into strips and then crumpling them into balls. Use to stuff scarecrow or other art creation.
Scrunching up 1 sheet of newspaper in one hand. This is a super strength builder.
Using a plant sprayer to spray plants, (indoors, outdoors) to spray snow (mix food colouring with water so that the snow can be painted), or melt "monsters". (Draw monster pictures with markers and the colours will run when sprayed.)
Picking up objects using large tweezers such as those found in the "Bedbugs" game. This can be adapted by picking up Cheerios, small cubes, small marshmallows, pennies, etc., in counting games.
Shaking dice by cupping the hands together, forming an empty air space between the palms.
Using small-sized screwdrivers like those found in an erector set.
Lacing and sewing activities such as stringing beads, Cheerios, macaroni, etc.
Using eye droppers to "pick up" coloured water for colour mixing or to make artistic designs on paper.
Rolling small balls out of tissue paper, then gluing the balls onto construction paper to form pictures or designs.
Turning over cards, coins, checkers, or buttons, without bringing them to the edge of the table.
Making pictures using stickers or self-sticking paper reinforcements.
Playing games with the "puppet fingers" -the thumb, index, and middle fingers. At circle time have each child's puppet fingers tell about what happened over the weekend, or use them in songs and finger plays.

Place a variety of forms (eg. blocks, felt, paper, string, yarn, cereal, cotton) on outlines
Match shapes, colour, or pictures to a page and paste them within the outlines

Self-Care Skills
Fastening Snaps
Using a screwdriver
Locking and unlocking a door
Winding a clock
Opening and closing jars
Rolling out dough or other simple cooking activities
Washing plastic dishes
Sweeping the floor
Scissor Activities
When scissors are held correctly, and when they fit a child's hand well, cutting activities will exercise the very same muscles which are needed to manipulate a pencil in a mature tripod grasp. The correct scissor position is with the thumb and middle finger in the handles of the scissors, the index finger on the outside of the handle to stabilize, with fingers four and five curled into the palm.
Cutting junk mail, particularly the kind of paper used in magazine subscription cards.
Making fringe on the edge of a piece of construction paper.
Cutting play dough or clay with scissors.
Cutting straws or shredded paper.
Use a thick black line to guide cutting the following:
A fringe from a piece of paper
Cut off corners of a piece of paper
Cut along curved lines
Cut lines with a variety of angles
Cut figures with curves and angles

Sensory Activities

The following activities ought to be done frequently to increase postural muscle strength and endurance. These activities also strengthen the child's awareness of his/her hands.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking
Clapping games (loud/quiet, on knees together, etc.)
Catching (clapping) bubbles between hands
Pulling off pieces of thera-putty with individual fingers and thumb
Drawing in a tactile medium such as wet sand, salt, rice, or "goop". Make "goop" by adding water to cornstarch until you have a mixture similar in consistency to toothpaste. The "drag" of this mixture provides feedback to the muscle and joint receptors, thus facilitating visual motor control.
Picking out small objects like pegs, beads, coins, etc., from a tray of salt, sand, rice, or putty. Try it with eyes closed too. This helps develop sensory awareness in the hands.

Midline Crossing
Establishment of hand dominance is still developing at this point. The following activities will facilitate midline crossing:
Encourage reaching across the body for materials with each hand. It may be necessary to engage the other hand in an activity to prevent switching hands at midline.
Refrain specifically from discouraging a child from using the left hand for any activity. Allow for the natural development of hand dominance by presenting activities at midline, and allowing the child to choose freely.
Start making the child aware of the left and right sides of his body through spontaneous comments like, "kick the ball with your right leg." Play imitation posture games like "Simon Says" with across the body movements.
When painting at easel, encourage the child to paint a continuous line across the entire paper- also from diagonal to diagonal.

Activities To Develop Handwriting Skills
There are significant prerequisites for printing skills that begin in infancy and continue to emerge through the preschool years. The following activities support and promote fine motor and visual motor development:
Body Stability
The joints of the body need to be stable before the hands can be free to focus on specific skilled fine motor tasks.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking, and wall push-ups.
Toys: Orbiter, silly putty, and monkey bars on the playground.

Fine Motor Skills
When a certain amount of body stability has developed, the hands and fingers begin to work on movements of dexterity and isolation as well as different kinds of grasps. Children will develop fine motor skills best when they work on a VERTICAL or near vertical surface as much as possible. In particular, the wrist must be in extension. (Bent back in the direction of the hand)
Attach a large piece of drawing paper to the wall. Have the child use a large marker and try the following exercises to develop visual motor skills:Make an outline of a one at a time. Have the child trace over your line from left to right, or from top to bottom. Trace each figure at least 10 times . Then have the child draw the figure next to your model several times.
Play connect the dots. Again make sure the child's strokes connect dots fromleft to right, and from top to bottom.
Trace around stencils - the non-dominant hand should hold the stencil flat and stable against the paper, while the dominant hand pushes the pencil firmly against the edge of the stencil. The stencil must be held firmly.
Attach a large piece of felt to the wall, or use a felt board. The child can use felt shapes to make pictures. Magnetic boards can be used the same way.
Have the child work on a chalkboard, using chalk instead of a marker. Do the same kinds of tracing and modeling activities as suggested above.
Paint at an easel. Some of the modeling activities as suggested above can be done at the easel.
Magna Doodle- turn it upside down so that the erasing lever is on the . Experiment making vertical, horizontal, and parallel lines.

Ocular Motor Control
This refers to the ability of the eyes to work together to follow and hold an object in the line of vision as needed.
Use a flashlight against the ceiling. Have the child lie on his/her back or tummy and visually follow the moving light from left to right, to bottom, and diagonally.
Find hidden pictures in books. (There are special books for this.)
Maze activities.

Eye-hand Coordination
This involves accuracy in placement, direction, and spatial awareness.
Throw bean bags/kooshi balls into a hula hoop placed flat on the floor. Gradually increase the distance.
Play throw and catch with a ball . Start with a large ball and work toward a smaller ball. (Kooshi balls are easier to catch than a tennis ball.)
Practice hitting bowling pins with a ball. (You can purchase these games or make your own with pop bottles and a small ball.)
Play "Hit the Balloon" with a medium-sized balloon.

Daykin Thu 14-Nov-13 08:11:57

It sounds like a fairly positive parents evening overall. It's really common to struggle with pencil grip etc when you are 4. I struggle now and I'm in my 40's but it hasn't held back my education. All of my dc's have struggled with this to some extent and all have had various grips and special pencils. Writing on a sloping board really helped one of them. A poster called mrz once posted a huge list of things to improve writing, I'll try to find it.

naturemama Thu 14-Nov-13 07:55:18

I'm wondering why I've only just joined - your comments and input is invaluable, thank you all!

He's currently sat at the real fast bar making me cakes out of play dough while I do breakfast :-)

I have a blog I bts and bobs we do here too, although I haven't updated much since he started school.

bruffin Thu 14-Nov-13 07:54:19

Actually swimming is great for fine motor skills as well. DD burnt the back of her hands and needs a skin graft when she was 2. I was told that she needed to exercise her hand with playdough etc. I asked when i could take her back to her swimming lesson and they said that was an excellent form of exercise for her hand. You are moving your hands constantly in the water without realising it

naturemama Thu 14-Nov-13 07:47:32

I'm wondering why I've only just joined - your comments and input is invaluable, thank you all!

He's currently sat at the real fast bar making me cakes out of play dough while I do breakfast :-)

I have a blog I bts and bobs we do here too, although I haven't updated much since he started school.

PandaG Thu 14-Nov-13 07:40:26

yes, pencil grips ARE used for children with additional needs, but they are also used lots for children whose need is simply to improve their grip.

Sounds to me as though you are already doing all sorts of the right things with him, and his grip and handwriting will improve with time. smile

Honestly that parents evening sounds pretty positive to me, I think you are being a little sensitive, and the teachers should have been a bit more careful in how they put their opinions over.

Please enjoy your lovely sounding son, who can already read some books, has made friends, and is mature, has an excellent vocabulary, and is well supported out of the classroom x

ImagineJL Thu 14-Nov-13 07:40:15

I really wouldn't worry. He's only young, so much changes at this stage.

DS1 is an August born child, so I deferred his school start as I didn't feel he was ready in September. So at the point your son is at he hadn't even started school! He is now top of the class (year 4) in most areas, despite the dire warnings I had from all the teachers that by missing the first term he would NEVER catch up with his peers. So really, I don't think the first term of reception has a huge impact on the eventual outcome.

DS2 is in reception. He can't hold a pen properly at all, and has no interest in drawing and colouring. He is also far less able in terms of literacy than your son, but no concerns were raised at his parents evening recently.

I know exactly what you mean about being a single parent, as I'm one too. I live in a small village, and I can only think of one other single parent at the school. I always feel, on these occasions, that I'm very alone, with no one to stand on "my team". I also feel I have much more to prove, because I worry that people will automatically assume my boys will be disadvantaged and badly brought up! I know it sounds silly, but it's easy for a bit of paranoia to creep in when you see those united couples looking proudly at the child's work.

And don't get me started on swimming lessons! Since when did swimming for young kids stop being about fun, and start being about being yelled at by gobby instructors and being forced to do front crawl?! I take my boys swimming when I can, maybe once every few weeks, and they love it, just jumping around and messing about in the water. I know my kids. If I made them have lessons it would be a chore for them.

Turquoiseblue Thu 14-Nov-13 07:37:03

Hi there, all sounds withint re realms if normal. Try not to worry.
Firstly - fine motor skills are pencil grip, using fingers etc - so activities like posting coins (into piggy bank) play dough, wringing out cloths, making scones (rubbing butter into flour ) pinching - so rolling doing or making shapes with fingers, playing with Lego, playing games shadow games with hands, dong buttons/ zips etc all involve fine Motor skills that will help writing and pencil grip.
Gross motor are the larger movements like swimming, climbing crawling walking etc
It s possible your DS needs to strengthen the muscles around his core so he can hold his posture and stability and control the rest of his body so he can write.
Swimming helps as it strengthens the shoulder girdle.
It s not that he needs swimming lessons to write ! There are lots of other activities that will strengthen the shoulders and upper limbs too.
Wheel barrow races, animal games (where he pretends to be an animal crawling on all fours) Simon says (imitate postures on all 4s) handstands, tumbles, cartwheels, all tae Kwon do, tennis lots of other activities will also work on stability and strength.
It doesn't sound like your da has a massive problem,
It sounds like he needs a bit of practice at writing.
The teacher was suggesting activities that work on stuff needed or writing. He s is young yet and it will come and improve. My DS was terrible at writing last year- and had no interest, but has improved massively ( we didn't do much either tbh) time as natural development and offering lots of opportunities and schoolwork (nothing additional) helped it.
I wouldn't be overly worried. Take what the teacher said (they re not therapists but have some great knowledge and have you the suggestions to help his weaker area). Continue what you re doing and maybe focus on specific pen skills too- writing on blackboard tracing etc and give lots of encouragement smile
Go back to the teacher in 4-5 months and see if it s improved.
I don't think you re sensitive just a concerned parent doing their best wanting to give thei child the best. Hope it all helps.

strruglingoldteach Thu 14-Nov-13 07:35:58

I also saw lots of positives in your OP. He is mature, comes up with great sentences and has lots to talk about. Not liking rough and tumble play is neither positive nor negative- it's just a personality thing. I don't really know why they felt the need to point it out!

As for the writing, what you describe is very normal for reception. Many children will be at the same stage at this point. Keep doing what you're doing- encourage mark making, give him all sorts of pens/pencils/Chalks etc to experiment with. Play dough is good as mentioned above, and cutting/sticking- anything needing fine motor control.

Don't panic though. You don't want to put him under any pressure or let him see that you feel a bit anxious. He will get there in his own time, and the more fun and relaxed it is, the better.

insanityscratching Thu 14-Nov-13 07:33:02

You need to ask school (or your GP if school are unable to) to refer him to an occupational therapist who will advise on grips or other aids to help your ds. They will also provide you and school with an exercise programme to improve his core stability which I assume is what the teachers were recommendng swimming lessons for.Dd does three twenty minute sessions per week in school with a TA and the difference is amazing. At ds's age she used pencil grips and a writing slope now at ten she can easily write a side of A4 with no help and no slower or untidier than her peers.

AuditAngel Thu 14-Nov-13 07:31:57

A lot of what you are saying could be my DS. He is an August baby, we joke that he was born an old man, he doesn't always speak like a child, likes a cup of tea (we don't but Granny does!)

DS is in year 5, early in y4 he was tested as borderline dyslexic. He is still. Lw reluctant writer, but the acknowledgement of the problems he has (he can't "see" how to spell in his head so spells phonetically which takes longer, his written work scores lower than his target levels, his reading and comprehension are above the level for his age) and a fabulous teacher last year have really changed his attitude to writing.

Even in Year 2 his teacher was saying he's just a late writer, it will come, don't worry.

DS also sometimes uses a pencil grip, it makes the pencil fatter and often a little bit softer.

He is still very young.

NynaevesSister Thu 14-Nov-13 07:31:46

I was going to say same as another poster. I'd thought my son just didn't like drawing etc so felt awful when found out hyper mobility meant he couldn't put pressure on or grip the pencil. Also he had low muscle tone and this was particularly noticeable in arms and legs. He's had pencil grips too and he's not autistic.

The maturity thing is a positive not a negative! Trust me this is his natural personality. My son is an only child and very immature for his age. Develop a thick skin now! People love to make you feel that everything is because he is an only. Too mature, too immature! My son is a resistant eater - no it isn't because he is an only as every person I meet says (I have two older step children both now in their twenties). There's a mum in a support group I belong to with five kids and number four won't eat anything except marmite sandwiches. She's made to feel by people that it is because he has too many siblings!

As a mum everything we do is wrong so the best thing is to learn to filter out the judgy ones.

ICameOnTheJitney Thu 14-Nov-13 07:29:00

I'll just DD had those grips, she hasn't got any special needs or Autism...she was just a bit slower to write well...because she was FIVE! grin Don't lose sight of the fact that here in the UK we expect more of our children earlier than ANY other country in Europe...other places start them at seven!

My DD is 9 now and has the writing of an angel and she's in the top 10% for reading and spelling. He sounds marvelous your son....they almost always have a negative...let it go like water off a duck's back and focus on the great things they noticed.

SatinSandals Thu 14-Nov-13 07:20:43

I read it and thought it was a lovely parents evening with lots of positives! Try and see it in proportion and not dwell on the one negative.
My son was very like that, it is very common, especially with boys. I was also a lone parent, that again is very common.
I would get him doing things with his hands, using play dough and really squeezing it and pummelling it. Cooking as RandomMess said. Making big letters in sand etc.

SoupDragon Thu 14-Nov-13 07:19:29

Isn't "he's quite mature for his age" a positive?? Certainly when DS2 got the opposite it was a negative grin

naturemama Thu 14-Nov-13 07:12:36

(He's also had supply teachers quite a few days already)

naturemama Thu 14-Nov-13 07:11:23

Thank you all for your replies! I really appreciate it. Feeling more positive already.

And I'm honestly not as illiterate as my phone would like to make out I am!

catchingzeds Thu 14-Nov-13 07:09:30

Didn't really say that I think his writing sounds normal too and I wish I hadn't used the word issue. It's really not at this age, writing skills will vary massively in a year R class,

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