5 self-advocacy sentence starters for grade-schoolers with dyscalculia

By Amanda Morin

It’s important for grade-schoolers with dyscalculia to start learning self-advocacy skills. But it can be hard for them to know what to say and when to say it. Here are some sentence starters you can teach kids so they can practice speaking up for what they need.

1. “Can you show me again?”

The situation: The teacher shows students how to draw circles to represent the sets of numbers in an addition problem. But during independent work time, your child doesn’t remember how to do it.

Your child can go up to the teacher and say: “Can I talk to you about how I’m supposed to draw these groups? I need to see it again.”

Your child can later say to you: “I can do my math, but I don’t always get it the first time around. Is there a way to get some extra help?”

2. “It’s part of my individual learning plan.”

The situation: A substitute teacher doesn’t know your child uses a number line to help remember how to write the numbers. The substitute tells your child to put it away during math class.

Your child can go up to the substitute and say: “Using the number line is in my learning plan. I have a math learning disability and the number line helps.”

Your child can talk to the classroom teacher later and say: “The substitute didn’t know that I use the number line, and I felt bad speaking up. Is there a way to make sure substitute teachers already know?”

3. “Can you highlight the clue words?”

The situation: Your child’s homework was word problems. Your child’s answers were all wrong because your child couldn’t recognize the clue words (such as “less than” meaning subtraction or “more than” meaning addition).

Your child can say to the teacher: “Can you help me highlight the clue words on my homework? And can we go over what they mean? I can do the homework if I know which words go with which operation.”

4. “Can you help me know when I’m running out of time?”

Situation: Your child’s math learning disability makes it tough to figure out amounts of things — including time. Reading the clock is a struggle and your child often runs out of time before work is done.

Your child can talk to the teacher after class and say: “I have trouble keeping track of how much time I have left to finish my work. Can you let me know a few minutes before the time is up?”

5. “Can I use graph paper?”

Situation: Your child fails a math test because following and lining up the numbers in the problems are difficult.

Your child can talk to the teacher after class and say: “I know how to do the problems, but I can’t always get them in the right columns. Can I use graph paper to keep them all in the right columns?”

Your child can say to you or the IEP team: “I need help keeping numbers in the right column. Could we ask teachers to let me use graph paper?”

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Mark J. Griffin, PhD was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.