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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