You’ve been watching your child in the weekly tennis clinics offered at the school and you are not very comfortable with what you are seeing. In contrast to those kids who look like they play pretty well, your 8 year old stands out.
In short, he isn’t very good.
As his parent, you quietly wonder if he isn’t a bit “tennis disabled,” so you talk to the people in charge of the clinic who make a bunch of recommendations such as:
- When he is serving, allow him to serve half way to the net instead of from the baseline.
- Widen the parameters of the court, so that when he hits to the other side he can hit in the doubles area.
- Lowering the net so he can get the ball over more consistently.
What was most striking to you was the idea that all of the suggestions were accommodations or adjustments that would allow your child to feel like he was more a part of things.
There was no talk about ways to improve his skills.
Accommodations vs. Guided Practice Strategies
I get this type of thing a lot when I read reports on kids. Often, the reports are very top-heavy on proposed adjustments, but light on how to directly work on the deficient areas.
Some of the common accommodations/adjustments include:
- Give the child extra time (not that he wants it).
- Seat child near front of the room.
- Repeat directions
- Place desk in area with fewer distractions
- Use graphic organizers.
- Use “peer buddies” to assist with comprehension.
While these may be helpful, they do not involve skill improvement involving direct remedial instruction. Direct instruction means explicitly teaching the child a skill. Then the child practices this skill until it becomes mastered. Sometimes this takes a long time.
Whether a child is “dyslexic,” “learning disabled,” “ADHD,” or “tennis disabled,” there are identifiable skills that are either mastered by the child or they are not. These skills need to be assessed and identified.
Once identified, the deficient skills need to be targeted and remediated.
Accommodations (adjustments) are great, but don’t forget the other side of things (i.e., direct instruction).
Direct instruction with lots of guided practice is essential to move your child along the skills continuum.
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Yes Dr. Selznick I concur. Try to find out the root cause of the problem. I have taught so called dyslexic kids and the root cause of the problems my students had was wrong instructions in Kindergarten and early primary school.
Thanks, Luq. I appreciate the comment.
I agree that skills must be taught–the world isn’t going to accommodate our kids’ lack of skills forever. And yes, direct instruction works; it just takes more time to work in some cases. When I worked as a poetry teacher in an elementary school in the 1970’s, there were some students who were two-to-three years behind grade level in reading. They received small group direct-instruction in phonics from their reading specialist, and this helped them immensely. I was asked to help a group of students who had not yet succeeded in learning their times tables. I led them in rhythmic clapping drills (clapping and chanting the multiplication facts.) They loved it and they learned!
Great comment. I love it that we are invariably on the same page.
Hope you are well.
I love this analogy. My thinking on 504 Plans has evolved over the years. The kids that I see with executive skill challenges should be seen as kids who can improve their skills–but since they’re unlikely to devise strategies on their own, they need to be helped to do this. Direct instruction plus lots of opportunities to practice is the way to do this. If this were built into general education classrooms, many of these kids would not require either accommodations or special education.
Thanks, Peg. Much appreciated. I totally concur with your point about the general education class. Glad we’re on the same page.
Hope you are well.
Great article! Just what I needed to hear this week! Thank you, Dr. Selznick!
Thanks, Carolyn. Much appreciated.
I see too many recommendations for adjustment. What the students need is to be able to read and write just like every other student.
Thank you Antonia. Much agreed and much appreciated.
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Thanks!!!! Much appreciated. I will check out the site.
How do you get direct instruction for your child at school?
I wish I had an easy answer for you, but it’s complicated by a number of factors. Email me through firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk further.