By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor

Can we tell if a child is headed for failure, before school starts?

It's possible ... classroom observations can spot preschool children who are at risk for failing in school.

The techniques are outlined in a booklet by Dr. Marvin L. Simner, a psychologist in London, Ont. By using the classroom activities in "Predicting and Preventing Early School Failure", teachers can help 4- to 6-year-olds with incipient learning disabilities.

With Dr. Simner's Teacher‘s School Readiness Inventory (TSRI), teachers can detect signs of disabilities in reading, writing and problem-solving at kindergarten age. They rate children on five key items using everyday observations, such as:

Verbal fluency. Are they able to express themselves in a concrete and orderly way?

Letter identification skills. Can they identify upper case letters and letters in a random order?

In-class distractibility. If they are distracted, how are they able to remember material being taught?

Dr. Simner points out that lower case writing, letter reversals and lack of co-ordination (though they are traditional signs parents worry about) are not long-term indicators. However, persistent distractibility in the classroom does interfere with a child's ability to learn.

He says remediation needs to include fun-related activities focussed to sensitize the child to skills needed for grade 1. These language skill activities have to be broken down so the child learns that "words consist of sounds." For example, nursery rhymes like Old McDonald, with the refrain E-I-E-I-O, help reinforce components of language.
Marvin L. Simner is a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario and founder of the Canstart Program for the Prevention of Early School Failure. You can order booklets in the program from: Canadian Psychological Assn., 888-472-0657.



The challenge of school for the adoptee
School issues your child will face
Help your child deal with racism
When birds don't flock together
Should you tell the teacher?
You can give an adoption talk
Language development is key

Learning disabilities

What are learning disabilities?
Detect learning disabilities early
Cope with your child's LD
Brodzinsky on learning disabilities
Do adoptees need special ed classes?
Are LDs inherited?

Special needs

Accept your child's special needs
FAS: Friendly school environments
Helping students with FAS
ADHD and the school system
Manage your ADHD child in school
Strategy for the parent advocate
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper," ________________________________________
First published in Family Helper No. 45, "Adoption Goes To School", ISBN 0-9733470-4-X. Adapted in part from Post-adoption Helper No. 7, "Adoptive Parents' Guide to Your Child in Primary School", edited by Jennifer Smart.