Coordination, Communication, Concentration: things to think about
By Janet Purdey
As a special needs teacher in a mainstream school, there are common difficulties, which I come across regularly. In very young children, say, under seven, it is hard to tell whether these problems are simply part of the child’s normal development or whether there is an emerging learning problem, in which case the sooner he can get extra help, the better.
Parents can be very helpful in providing background information in these circumstances. Here are three aspects of your child’s development, which you could think about while you go about your normal activities.
Give your child plenty of activities which involve gross motor skills: jumping, catching, climbing etc, and fine motor skills: Play-Doh modeling; playing with small items such as beads; drawing with crayons; cutting and sticking; tying shoelaces; doing up buttons and zips.
It is common for boys to develop fine motor skills later than girls, and quite common for children to resist the more tricky parts of dressing themselves. All three of my children were hopeless at buckling their shoes, but none had a learning problem. They were just lazy!
Have conversations with your child all the time, about everything. If your child spends a lot of time with a non-native English speaker such as an au pair, make sure they also get plenty of conversation and stories from a good speaker of English. I have recently heard of a child who had a suspected speech problem, but it turned out that he had had a Spanish nanny from birth, and was just speaking English with a strong Spanish accent!
Try to expand your child’s vocabulary as you go – I will give suggestions in a separate article. Do develop the bedtime story habit. It has everything: it encourages language and reading, is a lovely bonding activity, and it can become part of a calming bedtime routine. There are lots of studies showing the beneficial effect of reading to children every day. You might even enjoy it!
Now that we have so many electronic devices, some teachers think that children are starting school with much shorter attention spans than before. Try to help your child to learn the habit of concentration with a toy such as a jigsaw puzzle, construction toy or marble run.
Without spoiling the pleasure of the activity, try to show them that you expect them to complete the activity before moving on to the next thing. Be realistic about what they can do (you can gradually extend the length of time), and reward persistence with a compliment or a small treat.
Play memory games occasionally, such as Kim’s game. Similarly at mealtimes, keep your child at the table throughout the meal, and let them get down only when they have finished.
Do not be overly concerned if your child seems weak in one of these areas. A good nursery will develop all three aspects of your child’s development (and much more), and should inform you if they do not seem to be within the average range. But do note for yourself if, despite your best efforts, they does not seem to progress as you would expect. Then, if there are any issues when they start school, you will be able to help their teachers to assess and help them in the best possible way.
About the Author
Janet Purdie BA (Hons), PGCE, cert SpLD is an experienced teacher of English and other languages,
mother of three and a specialist tutor for children with specific learning difficulties. She has taught
in several other countries as well as in UK state and private schools and has enjoyed almost every