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How to talk to your school about your child’s learning difficulty

If you have concerns about your child’s learning, it's important to discuss these concerns with your child's school.

Supporting a child with a learning difficulty can be challenging. You may worry about what you should be doing or feel a sense of urgency that your child's teachers and school should be doing more to help.

It's important to focus on building a positive relationship with your child's teachers and school and show that you have confidence in them.

What to talk about

Before any meeting with your child's teacher or school, you should know what outcome you are hoping to get from the meeting. For example, you may want to know what changes in teaching will take place following the meeting or a list of things you can do at home to support your child.

How your child learns at school

Ask your child's teacher to take you through the assessment data they have collected. This may include:

  • examples of classwork
  • copies of test results or essays
  • classroom observations.

How the teacher will adjust their teaching to support your child's needs

Talk about developing an individual education plan (IEP) with your child's teacher and how this plan will be put in place. You and your child should have a say on the types of goals that are set and what will help them to achieve these goals.

How you will know that your child is improving

Talk about how you will get feedback about your child's progress. For example, ask your child's teacher:

  • to provide you with written feedback or suggestions for how your child can improve on tasks they complete (for example, assignments and tests)
  • how they mark tasks and assessments, or to provide you with a copy of the criteria or rubric they use for these
  • for an example of work that was completed to a high standard to help you to better understand the areas your child still needs to work on
  • for a summary of what your child needs to learn that term. This may include key ideas and vocabulary that you can practise at home.

What you can tell the school about how your child learns

You should feel comfortable talking with your child's school about:

  • your child's strengths and areas of interest
  • strategies that have worked with your child in the past
  • previous strategies that did not work or that were not a positive experience
  • results from other formal assessments your child may have done
  • important family or life events that may have or may be impacting your child's learning
  • medical information that may be affecting their learning.

How your child is feeling

You can ask about your child's general wellbeing at school and how they interact with teachers and other students. This is also a chance for you to talk about how your child is at home and how they feel about school. You should tell your child's teacher if they have difficulty remembering things at home or have trouble with their homework as this can also impact their wellbeing.

What you can do at home to support your child's learning progress

You can ask your child's teacher to recommend different types of activities you could work on at home to support their learning or other ways you can help. For example, you can set routines at home about screen time, completing homework or even a sleep schedule.

Making sure that your child is well rested and ready to learn is another way to support them.

How to get the most out of your meeting with your child's school

When meeting with your child's school and teacher, remember to:

Keep the discussion positive

Focus on what you can each do to help improve your child's learning, instead of talking about everything they find difficult. Use clear, specific examples and remember to spend time talking about your child's strengths and their areas of interest. This is important information that can help their learning.

Plan for the meeting

Plan what you want to talk about and decide in advance what you would like to get out of the meeting. Make sure to keep the conversation on topic and be clear with the school and your child's teacher about what your goals for the meeting are.

Focus on next steps

Any meeting with your school should end with a list of actions. This is what you or the teacher will do next to begin helping your child to improve. Consider asking:

  • What will your child be able to do next week/next month/next term that they couldn't already do?
  • What specifically will the teacher do to help achieve the goals in your child's IEP?
  • What specifically can the school do to support your child's teacher to achieve these goals? For example, is there any professional learning or training that they could complete to improve their knowledge of learning difficulties?
  • How will your child be supported to become more independent and take more responsibility of their learning? How can you help with this?
  • Some schools may have a member of staff who takes a record of these meetings called 'minutes'. At the end of the meeting, they may read over these notes summarising what was said and agreed on. They then print a copy and it's signed by those present at the meeting. You may be given a copy of these minutes to take home.

Always make appointments

Talk to the school about how you like to communicate or what is the most convenient way for you to contact them. For example, face-to-face meetings, telephone call, video conferencing, email or another web-based contact such as through Compass.

Give your child's teacher time to plan and teach

Good planning and teaching take time. Give your child's teacher time to review the information they have about your child, respond to your questions, plan and implement changes.

Consider asking them to give you a timeframe for when you might expect to start seeing improvement or when might be an appropriate time to meet again.

Find out about the networks your school uses to support these meetings

Your school may have community liaison officers whose job it is to help you when talking to your child's teacher and supporting your child at home. If you like, they can also speak to the school on your behalf.

Ask where you can find out more information about learning difficulties

The school may be able to recommend online resources, workshops, print resources and organisations that can support you and your child. For example, the AUSPELD Understanding Learning Difficulties: a guide for parents.

Ask teachers to explain words or anything else you're not familiar with

Make sure your child's teacher explains what terms like dyslexia or dyscalculia are and what they mean for your child's learning. You can also ask the teacher to take you through and explain the data they have collected about your child, and what different assessment results mean.

You can ask your child's teacher to explain language, terms and learning materials used in the classroom.