20 Oct 2012

Piecing together the clues of a problem

Parents of children with SpLDs need to become experts regarding the learning issues and requirements of their own offspring.
Initially it is quite a complex task, as you wade through all the new information and research available to you, but it soon becomes second nature.

For example, my youngest son was allergic to gluten and casein when he was younger, and establishing a diet that excluded all traces of both was tricky and time-consuming. Shopping took ages as we scoured the ingredient panels of every item. Elderly ladies openly tutted as we cluttered up aisles with our GF/CF cookbooks.

But now, nine years on, it's a piece of (Dove Farm) cake.
We know what's what, and although we still have to check every item (particularly supermarket own-brand 'Free From' ranges, which seem to sneak dairy into previously non-dairy products on a regular basis), it's a lot less hassle than it used to be.

My eldest son has Dyspraxia, Dyslexia and Meares-Irlen Syndrome.
He is 16, confident and outgoing.

He is studying for an A Level in Theatre Studies, and at Parents' Evening earlier this week he got the following feedback from his teacher,

"I am surprised that his practical work is weaker than expected."

I turned to my son to ask why he thought this comment had been made, but before he even opened his mouth to speak I already knew the answer.

The SpLD Parent Conundrum Solver had sparked into life yet again!

My son explained that the reason his practical work was weak was because they get handed scripts in the lessons and have to sight read them there and then.

The text in play scripts is small and dense, and my son finds it tricky to read out loud.

It's hard to channel a flambuoyant Oscar Wilde character when you're panicking about being teased about your reading abilities.

And he has been teased. Just once. But he came home dejected and upset, and it has clearly made a big impact on how he has responded in class subsequently.

Once that confidence and self-esteem starts to erode, we're on a slippery slope.

Luckily my son has a Form Tutor who seems to understand him, and appears genuinely concerned that he is properly supported.

So now his Form Tutor will discuss this issue with the Theatre Studies teacher, and ask for him to be given the texts in advance, and hopefully on coloured paper and in a larger font.

Problem solved.... hopefully.

But it is annoying that this issue was perceived negatively, and my son was more or less blamed for not trying hard enough.

I am a drama tutor; if I encountered an outgoing and confident child who suddenly became reticent and withdrawn in a particular area of one of our sessions, I would search out the pieces of the puzzle and put them together to work out why it was happening.

Often the cause is obvious, and can be resolved with a simple adjustment in the way we work, and without even talking to the child.

On other occasions a quiet word with the child, or their parent, or both, can provide the answers.

I want every member of my drama groups to feel confident, relaxed and supported, not only because I care about the welfare of each young person, but also because this is the best way to get excellent creative work from them, both as individuals and as a group.

I would expect any experienced drama tutor to feel the same way.








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