At a glance
Teachers use many different strategies to support all kids in their classrooms, including kids who are struggling.
Your child doesn’t need a school evaluation or a formal plan to get help.
Still, this support may not be enough for every child.
Your child is having trouble in school and needs a little help. You may have heard about and evaluations, but you’re looking for something simpler that can help right away. Can your child get support without going through a formal process? The answer is yes, and it starts with your child’s teacher.
Good teachers know that all kids have strengths and challenges. Some struggle with writing. Others have trouble focusing. There are also kids who struggle once in a while, or just with a specific task or type of schoolwork.
When kids struggle in class, teachers try different strategies to see which ones help. For example, if a child comes to class all worked up and is having trouble sitting still, the teacher might let the child take a short break. If another child can’t understand a spoken direction, the teacher might write it on the board.
Some strategies work for the whole classroom, while others work for only one child. The everyday strategies teachers use don’t require an evaluation, a diagnosis, or a formal plan. Teachers decide when and how to use them.
Examples of strategies teachers use
Here are some strategies you may see teachers use in the classroom to support kids:
- Quick breaks after kids finish tasks
- Seating where kids learn best, like at the front of the class
- Tools to reduce fidgeting, like squeeze balls
- Frequent eye contact from the teacher to help with focus
- Cues to help kids stay on task, like hand signals
- Homework notebooks that teachers and families sign off on daily
- Writing key points from the day’s lessons on the board
- Computers for taking notes during class
- Audio versions of books and text
- Daily check-ins with the teacher after class to talk about the lesson
For many more examples, explore common strategies teachers use with struggling students.
How to talk to your teacher about getting help
There’s no set process for how teachers decide which classroom strategies might work for your child.
To get help, start a conversation with your child’s teacher. Be specific about your child’s struggles. For example, don’t just say your child has trouble taking notes. Tell the teacher your child writes very slowly by hand and can’t keep up with the class lecture.
Ask if there are strategies that might help. Be sure to tell the teacher about anything that’s worked in the past.
At the same time, try to be open to new ideas. It’s possible the teacher has already tried some strategies to help your child. If so, ask how they’ve been working.
As you talk, the teacher may suggest having other school staff weigh in. Sometimes, people like guidance counselors or reading specialists can be helpful.
Some schools may have a team of teachers or an in-school program to help kids who are struggling. (This is often called an intervention team.)
When kids need more than strategies
The strategies teachers use every day can be a big boost for your child. However, there’s a limit to the kinds of help teachers can offer without a formal plan in place. Your child might need more. But how do you know?
A few weeks after talking with the teacher, check in to see how things are going. If your child is still struggling, ask the teacher what your options are. The teacher might suggest a school evaluation for a formal plan, like an .
Even if classroom strategies are working, it’s still important to ask if the teacher will keep using them. Kids who need help long term are often better off with a formal plan. That’s because the plan will list the support your child gets and track your child’s progress.
Your child can get help in school without going through a formal process.
Start by asking the teacher for support, and be specific about your child’s challenges.
If your child needs ongoing help, it’s important to think about a school evaluation.
About the author
About the author
Gretchen Vierstra, MA is the managing editor at Understood and co-host of the “In It” podcast. She’s a former educator with experience teaching and designing programs in schools, organizations, and online learning spaces.