I feel that my child has regressing at school! What should I do?

As a Paediatric Physiotherapist, I am often asked to assist families with the process of having their child transition into childcare, preschool and school. The assistance I provide varies from speaking to the childcare center and schools about the level of support a child requires to completing forms for funding assistance for a teacher’s aide to writing up individual plans for each child in school and doing school visits. It is especially important for children with special needs to be placed into a school environment that is suitable to their needs and is able to provide the level of support the child needs. Every child should not only be cared for in terms of their basic needs (eating, toileting) at school but each child should also be supported to maximize their learning potential. At the very least, they should not be regressing in their development and physical function! So I was very disappointed to hear a family tell me that they feel their child is regressing at school and they do not know what to do.

I am sad to say that this family’s concerns are not the first of its kind that I have heard, and sadly, will not be the last either. So I thought to help empower families who may be in the same situation, I will put together list of how to best tackle a situation like this.

5 Steps to Address Concerns About Your Child in School

1. Write down a list of things that concerns you about your child’s development.

Be concrete about what the issues are and provide evidence to support what you see as issues. For example, my child has regressed with toilet training; she no longer signs to indicate she needs to go to the toilet. Document why you think this is the case, by comparing how she is when she is at home on school holidays and weekends, record incidence of nappy rash due to sitting in a wet nappy or occasions/ periods when she can be dry while out with the family. Write down a list of what you would ideally like to see happen for your child. For example, in the case of toilet training, you may need to actually record how often your child is successful in going to the toilet, how often she requests to go, how much fluids she drinks in a day and how often. So that you have a list that records when to offer her drinks, how many hours between toileting she should be asked to go to the toilet if she does not request.

2. Request a meeting with the school principal and class teacher.

Plan for a meeting face to face with the principal and teacher with the aim not to blame but to discuss your concerns and the impact it has on your child and your family. Pre-frame your discussions by stating the aim of your meeting is to help your child progress and develop further, clearly state that you appreciate the teacher’s job is not easy especially when they have 6-7 children with special needs in their class. Present your list of concerns and what you think works best for your child, and ask the principal and teacher what they think they can do to help your child in this area.

3. Provide a bite size action list of things you would like to work on together with the school.

At the end of the meeting, come to an agreement of 3 actions the school and you will take for the week to help your child in the area of concern. Make it a bite size doable list and not a wish list that is impossible to achieve for the teacher during the school day. For example, with toilet training, the list may be:
(a) Offer my child a drink every 2 hours, so that she will finish her 500mls bottle in the 6 hours at school. 
(b) Ask my child if she needs to go to the toilet every 3 hours at school.
(c) Record when and what she drinks, record when she signs to request for the toilet and if she is successful on the toilet or if she has an accident in her nappy. 

4. Ensure a weekly follow up meeting with the school to check how the week went with the new changes.
Request for a meeting with the principal and teacher in a week’s time to follow up on how they went with the action plan for the week with your child. Record how your child went at home as well, so you can provide feedback on what you see changing at home. This will allow you to have evidence to either congratulate the teacher for successfully implementing the actions that resulted in changes you see at home for your child, or to work on issues that the teacher found she had with implementing the actions you all agreed on. Refine the actions list if you need to with the teacher to ensure that the steps are taken to help your child progress in the area of concern.

5. Maintain consistency by keeping communications clear and timely feedback.

Once the action list is successfully implemented, the challenge will be to maintain the behaviours and to be consistent in supporting your child’s development. Make sure you maintain clear communications and provide timely feedback to the teacher about your child’s progress. This may mean regular meetings with the principal and teacher twice each term, either face to face or via email. At the start of each term, it is important to set your goals for your child together with the teacher in order to ensure that everyone works towards the same goal. At the end of the term, I would suggest writing a lovely email to express your gratitude for their work and assistance to your child’s learning, and state the goals your child managed to achieve with their support. Teachers often don’t get thanked enough for what they do each day. A written letter of thanks will go a long way.

Hopefully you will find the above 5 steps effective in addressing your concerns for your child at school. If you are concerned that your child is not being supported at school with their gross motor skills and mobility, and you are not sure how to help improve the situation. Ring us on (02) 9790 4233 today to make an appointment to see our Paediatric Physiotherapist so we can help you to make that Action List for your child and teacher.