For Parents

Getting to know your child

We all learn in different ways, have different interests and talents, and the school holidays can provide a good opportunity to help your child learn more about his or hers.

Not only do we have different learning styles and ways of learning, but we also have different kinds of “intelligences”. The more we know about how a child learns and what interests him or her, the more we can know and develop his /her strengths. This is especially important for children who experience difficulties in school or who have a disability of some kind.

Different “intelligences” relate to our ability to use words and numbers, but also music, movement, art, how well we relate to people or the natural world. The idea of multiple intelligences was developed largely by Howard Gardner and you can learn more about this on various websites – or by paying a visit to our Resource Centre.

What are some of the different ways of learning?


Other ways of approaching learning

  • STEP BY STEP, by thinking through
  • OPEN-MINDEDLY, prepared to try anything once
  • PRACTICALLY, down-to earth

Most of all, remember that children learn through play, be it on a beach, in the forest or at home – so spend time these holidays getting to know how your child learns best.

Below are some of the questions parents often ask us and the guidance we offer. Please understand that every child’s educational needs are different and answers vary from case to case

[expand title=”I am not sure that I have a proper understanding of what Inclusive Education in South Africa really means. Can you give me some guidance?

“]According to our constitution every child has the right to education. However some children are excluded from schools and some children struggle to learn successfully even though they have been admitted to schools. Inclusive Education recognises the diversity of children’s learning needs and strives to provide schooling, be it at special or mainstream schools, that supports each child to reach his/ her full potential[/expand]

[expand title=”My child is struggling in school. Should we be considering special schooling?

“]Talk to your child’s teacher to find out what they recommend. In an Inclusive Education System every effort should be made to provide support to a child at his/her current school before a move is suggested. Assistance from the Learning Support teacher, volunteer reading programme, or extra lessons can all be ways of helping your child. Focus on his/her strengths to boost confidence.[/expand]

[expand title=”My child has Down Syndrome and I would like him to be included in mainstream school. What are my rights and options?

“]Inclusion of children with Down Syndrome and other forms of intellectual disability has become common practice in some countries. Many children with DS can learn to read & write, and interaction with non-disabled peers can help them to learn good language & social skills. The SA Schools Act makes provision for the education of learners with special education needs at ordinary public schools where reasonably practicable. Speak to the principals of schools near to you and ask them if they would be willing to accept your child.[/expand]

[expand title=”My child is in a wheelchair and our local school does not have wheelchair access. What are our rights?

“]You can approach the School Governing Body (SGB) about making provision for your child. An Inclusive Education System, as promoted in Education White Paper 6 (2001), requires that ordinary schools make provision for children with disabilities wherever possible, and schools can seek support from their local district office. Portable ramps can assist your child’s access whilst permanent alterations are arranged.[/expand]

[expand title=”My child is dyslexic. What can I do to help?

“]Find out as much as you can about the condition via the internet and/or IESA Resource Centre. Talk to your child’s teacher to find out if she/he has experience of children with this type of learning difficulty. Children with dyslexia are often very bright and need opportunities to learn & express themselves in ways other than by reading & writing. Discuss with the teacher alternatives such as verbal assessment, extra time, etc.[/expand]

[expand title=”My child has been diagnosed with ASD (PDD) and is currently attending a local Educare centre. What are my options in terms of schooling for my child?

“]There are some schools that specialise in teaching children with this condition, although they have long waiting lists. Alternatively the nearest special school to where you live can be approached. Some mainstream schools have units for learners with special educational needs that provide a smaller classroom environment. Some learners with ASD can manage in a mainstream class with the support of an individual facilitator, but the cost of this generally falls to the parents. Note this is a spectrum disorder and children can be affected to different degrees therefore needs vary.[/expand]

[expand title=”My child is on a special school waiting list and is currently at home, what can we do?

“]You should apply to your local mainstream school to see if they can accommodate your child whilst waiting for special school admission. If he/she is of pre-school age then try to enrol him/her in a preschool or educare centre near to where you live. All young children benefit from a stimulating early learning environment, regardless of any disability.[/expand]

[expand title=”My child is on a special school waiting list and is currently attending a mainstream school, what should the school be doing to help him?

“]The school should be trying to meet your child’s learning needs as far as is possible. Ideally an individualised learning support plan would be drawn up, but this will depend a lot on how experienced the teacher is and what learning support resources are available. Try to establish and maintain good communication with your child’s teacher and ask what you can do to help.[/expand]

[expand title=”I am worried that my child is not coping in school. Should I have him assessed, and how do I go about doing that?

“]First of all consult your child’s teacher about your concern. She/he will possibly reassure you, or will confirm that your child is struggling in class. The teacher might suggest that your child be assessed by an occupational therapist. Some schools have a particular therapist that comes to the school. There will usually be a fee involved that can be claimed from your medical aid scheme if you have one. Alternatively, the teacher might ask the Education Department’s psychologist to do an assessment. This can sometimes mean a long wait. You are welcome to consult a private therapist or psychologist at your own expense.[/expand]

[expand title=”Where can I find information to help my child with special needs?

“]The internet is a great source of information on different types of special needs but sometimes there is so much information it can be confusing so please feel free to contact us at our resource centre from Monday – Friday 9am – 3pm on (021) 762 6664. Alternatively you can visit our Resource Centre where you will find a wide variety of information in our library.[/expand]

[expand title=”How can I build confidence in my child?

“]The start of a new school term can hold a mixture of emotions for many children: the excitement of seeing old friends, having new stationery and uniform, moving onto a new class and of coping with new techers, subjects and timetable changes.

This is especially so for children who struggle with learning and school work, and it can help enormously for parents and teachers to be sensitive to this and work together in creating a positive school experience.

For children who are repeating a grade, the new year can bring a slightly different set of feelings: sadness at a sense of having “failed”; of being left behind, their friends moving on without them. These children need lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement. Repeating should not be viewed as “failure” but as a chance to get a firmer grasp of difficult concepts. Try to:

  • allow them time to settle in
  • support them in making new friends whilst encouraging them to keep in touch with old ones
  • establish contact with the teacher (old or new) as soon as possible
  • be aware of possible teasing or bullying and address this if it comes up
  • support them as much as possible and take an interest in their work and how they learn best
  • encourage their strengths and interests – both in and out of the classroom

For many children, a repeated grade will be enough to “catch up”, whilst for others a specific learning difficulty could be at the root of the struggle and they might need more specific support and understanding as learning continues.

Some children are especially sensitive to sensory overload which means that their brain struggles to integrate the impact of multiple sensory inputs. Things like the noise generated in a busy and full classroom, or discomfort of stiff school clothes can be very distracting and unsettling. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a common problem for children who have developmental disabilities, but can also occur with children who have no other learning challenges but struggle to sit still and focus.

Parents can play a very important role in sharing information about their son or daughter’s learning experiences and /or any possible barrier to learning or special need. Teachers are extremely busy at the beginning of the school year and teacher meetings in the first term are often of a general nature so it can be difficult to know how and when to speak to your child’s teacher.

Try to find out from the secretary when the teacher is available or send a note with your child to ask when you could come into school. Try to gather together any reports and other information that might be helpful so that when you do meet you have everything at your fingertips.[/expand]

[expand title=”How must I understand my child’s school report

“]Children who struggle with their learning often end the term or year with a school report that focuses on the negative aspects of their performance. The codes 1 – 4 are used to indicate to what extent the child has achieved the required level of the grade they are currently placed into. The WCED Report Card format does not give space to reflect progress at a lower grade level – unless the teacher refers to this in the short remarks section.

Whilst it is important to have an honest assessment of how a child is performing in relation to his/her age group, we often urge teachers to try to reflect positive aspects of learning in order to avoid a child being regularly faced with a sense of failure. The child who regularly receives a report card of code 1’s can easily feel discouraged, as can his or her parents who get the impression that nothing is being achieved.

When reading your child’s report, try not to convey anger or disappointment about low grades. Rather make a note to speak to the teacher as soon as an opportunity arises. Take time to chat with your child about how the term or year has been for them – what they have enjoyed and what has been especially difficult. Explain that everyone is good at some things and not at others and that the challenge is to discover what are his or her particular strengths and interests.[/expand]

[expand title=”What must I do if my child is being bullied at school?

“]Bullying can take different forms – it could amount to physical abuse, name calling, having your money or lunch taken from you, being teased, etc. Both boys and girls can be bullied and be bullies. Research shows that there has been a significant increase in bullying among girls between the ages of 11- 14.

Very often teachers or parents are unaware that bullying is taking place. Bullying most often occurs in the playground or outside of the school premises on the way to or from school. Children need to be taught to speak up when they are being bullied and not try and deal with it on their own. Adults need to learn to listen to children when they say they are being bullied and take their feelings seriously.

Each School Governing Body is responsible for implementing a code of conduct in the school. This should contain a bullying policy. Find out if your school has a policy on bullying and what it entails. Learners should be aware that the school does not tolerate bullying and know the procedures to follow if a child is being bullied.

Are some children more vulnerable to being bullied?

Any child can be bullied, but some may be more vulnerable than others. Some reasons children are bullied include:

  • Older children often bully younger children.
  • Children who are above or below average weight and build, or wear glasses or a hearing aid
  • The most popular and least popular children are often targeted.
  • Children from a specific race or religion
  • Children in early or late sexual development
  • Children from difficult domestic and economic backgrounds
  • Children with disabilities

* Extracts from the Childline SA Prevention and Education Manual

How do you know if your child is being bullied?

Being bullied at school is very stressful for the victims of bullying and tell tale signs often begin to emerge in their behaviour that may indicate they are being bullied.

  • Schoolwork begins to suffer. Child shows a lack of concentration.
  • Child’s self esteem and confidence takes a dip.
  • Child becomes more needy or becomes fearful of going to school.
  • Child becomes more reclusive, withdraws from social activities.
  • Child develops physical stress symptoms such as stomach pains and headaches.

Understanding who bullies

Bullying behaviour often emerges from children who themselves are the victims of bullying at home or who are feeling particularly vulnerable. Children with poor social skills and low self esteem often protect themselves by becoming the bully.

Parents don’t like to admit that their child might be a bully. Parents need to examine their own behaviour to see whether or not their child might be learning bullying behaviour at home. Monitoring what they watch on TV is important in ensuring they receive the right messages about behaviour. Children can also behave in one way at home and a completely different way at school. Remember parents: Condemn the behaviour and not your child. Shaming or humiliating a child will not help them stop bullying! Praise good social behaviour when it does occur.

Children who bully need to understand their own feelings and why bullying younger or weaker children makes them feel better about themselves. Children who bully need help as much as those who are the victims of bullying.

What to do if your child is being bullied

  1. Your child must tell the bully to stop, and tell them how bad it feels and that he/she has no right to make your child feel this way
  2. Encourage your child to walk away without fighting back. Violence will not stop the bullying! Your child should be the stronger person and walk away.
  3. Tell your child to tell someone they trust, and not to remain silent on the matter.
  4. Your child must band together with others and avoid being alone with a bully. Talking to other children will probably turn up others who have been bullied. Bullies are usually not as brave in front of a group.
  5. Encourage your child’s sense of belief in themselves, and discourage them from blaming themselves for being a target for bullying.

If your child is being bullied or you would like to discuss bullying at your school, contact us on (021) 762 6664 for support.[/expand]

[expand title=”What’s the difference between sibling rivalry and bullying?

“]siblings (20K)Sibling bullying is often seen by adults as ‘just the way kids are’. Parents of more than one child are often aware of what is referred to as sibling rivalry. Sometimes this can actually be bullying.

Through many of discussions with learners at our project schools, I found that a number of learners, who were seen as the bullies in the class, were modelling behaviour that they were experiencing at home. Many children admitted to bullying their younger siblings and were being bullied by their older siblings.

Research indicates that children who are identified as bullies at school are often modelling behaviour that they have seen or encountered at home and that includes those who are bullied by siblings.

As a parent how do you tell the difference between normal sibling squabbles and a situation where one child is bullying his sibling or siblings?

  • The bully is larger, smarter or has some sort of hold over his or her siblings. That ‘hold’ may be being your ‘favourite’.
  • One child is consistently on the receiving end of the abuse – or conversely, one child is NEVER on the receiving end.
  • One child makes threats of violence toward another.
  • One child hits, pushes, shoves, kicks or otherwise physically abuses the others to get his way.
  • One child consistently taunts, belittles or makes fun of the others.

The four markers of bullying

  1. Bullying is a conscious act. It is a deliberate act of aggression and is always done against a perceived weak target.
  2. The bully always has more power in some way (size, maturity, age, more acceptable race or ethnic group)
  3. The bully always intends to harm their target.
  4. The bully leaves their target with threats of future aggression and terror.

What to do

Counter this behaviour by applying the Talk, Walk and Squawk rule in your home or classroom

Talk The child being bullied should be taught to use words of empowerment such as “stop” and “I’m not afraid of you”.
Walk The bullied child should then walk away from the scene.
Squawk Tell a parent or a trusted adult about the incident. It’s important to make sure they know this is not “tattling” but a way to work on a solution to their problem. Bullying is not something that should be kept secret.


Further reading

Beat Bullying – A practical guide for schools
Published by Catholic Institute of Education (CIE)

This book provides excellent guidelines for South African schools to tackle bully behaviour in their schools. Teachers, parents and learners are guided In a practical and accessible way to identify the various types of bullying behaviour, get a better understanding of why, when and where bullying happens at school and how it affects all the role players, including observers. Well chosen case studies, excellent comic strips, worksheets and numerous suggestions for activities make this book a must be for schools. It should be part of classroom libraries and be actively promoted as a must be read for educators.

Find out more about the IESA Resource Library[/expand]

[expand title=”How can I grow my child’s self esteem?

“]Having a learning or other disability, can mean that a child is reminded on a daily basis how their bodies or brains don’t work like everyone elses, and they may be vulnerable to low self-esteem and a can’t-do attitude. Here are some ways you can give your child’s self-esteem a boost:

  • Say more positive things each day than negative things.
  • Find something your child loves to do You’re often going to have to spend some time encouraging him or her to do things that are hard and frustrating, but everyone needs to spend time doing things that are fun and empowering. If your child has a special interest or hobby, encourage that. Look for extra-mural activities in or outside of school that your child can manage and do well at. Remember that non-academic activities are the ones that help develop important social and life-skills.
  • Give your child responsibilities Every child can help in some way in the home and have a sense of value and being appreciated. Find small but important jobs from which your child can get a sense of contributing to the family without risking failure or blame. Having a “job” of any kind is a self-esteem booster.
  • Be reassuring and focus on successes at school Looking through school work and giving your child an opportunity to talk about what they have been doing and to ask questions about things they might have struggled with is important, but make sure that the emphasis is on what they have managed to do – however small and even it is less than you would have hoped. Success is encouraging!
  • Share with your child’s teacher any achievements out of school (as well as in!) Give your child’s teachers an opportunity to know about and celebrate something your child has done well at home or out of school. This will give another boost to his or her self-esteem.
  • Spend time with your child We are all so busy these days, but a little bit of time together can go along way to making your child feel important and valued!

– Adapted from “Ways to Boost your Child’s self-esteem” by Terri Mauro[/expand]