R moved into a new class with a new teacher again this year. Despite reassurances from the school that the new teacher was good, I was worried. R made absolutely no progress at school last year. Her new targets, which were set shortly before the summer holidays, suggested that, in the view of the teacher at least, she was actually going in reverse. A new teacher might mean a fresh start for children but too often for R, what this has meant is starting at the beginning all over again. Four years at school and her targets were still pre-reading skills.
Still, the signs looked good. R was clearing enjoying the new class. It was clear too that new teacher was trying, even if her home school diary suggested that R’s work was “inconsistent”. Then two weeks ago, R was asked to look at pictures of her classmates on request for homework. She refused point blank. I tried, G tried, I tried again. She completely refused. G dug out some old flash cards (with words) that we hadn’t used much for years. He held up two cards and asked her to look at a word. She got every one right. We sent them into school. Her teacher tried and she got them all right for her too.
We had a meeting last week. It was the usual crowded affair: head teacher, deputy head, educational psychologist, teacher and SALT. And we made a breakthrough. We described again the motor planning issues that R has but this time we also described Susan Norwell’s approach: if the task is cognitively demanding then there should be very little motor demand made on R. What emerged from this meeting is that the tasks that R had been set at school in the past have usually required substantial motor planning (even matching is demanding for R). When we work with her at home, we never make this demand and she has always achieved more at home than at school.
Her new teacher has taken on the new challenge. Two days later, when I picked R up from school, she told me that they were doing arithmetic together. Her teacher kept making mistakes with her sums and R, she said, hooted with laughter every time she did. Then today, in R’s home school diary, she wrote that R had spelled Wednesday for her, with only 2 mistakes. I couldn’t be prouder.