Tis’ the season of the chat. Oh yes, you know what we’re talking about. Three words that surely ignite back and forth text conversations with other parents and guardians in your child’s class: Parent. Teacher. Conferences. A time where reports are given and academic performance is discussed. Even though relevant information pertaining to your child is being delivered, it’s common for parents to minimize the importance of the chat.  

In this piece, our goal is to help you turn feedback into action. After all, your child and their teacher spend a great deal of time together — so, their feedback should be trusted! Take a look at some common things you can ask at a parent teacher conference (PTC), as well as feedback you might be told in PTCs, and actions you can take after. 

Parent Teacher Conference Questions

Does my child play well with others? Are they a super genius...hopefully? Are these the right questions to ask in a PTC? We get it — asking questions in a conference might not seem like the easiest task. However, your child’s teacher knows them well! They’re more than capable of making recommendations. With their relationship in mind, here are some questions you could ask:

  1. Where is my child most successful? What are his/her strengths and interests? 
  2. How can we support some of your (the teacher’s) goals for my child at home? Can we do anything outside of school to support an area of development that needs a little boost?
  3. Do you recommend any particular child or children for play dates with my child? (Or, if your child has passed the play date age, you might ask: Which child or children is my child most successful with in school and why?)

While you’ll be asking questions during a PTC, you’ll also get feedback about your child’s time in class. Whether it’s positive or negative, all feedback is meant to help your child learn and grow into an amazing person! Below are some things you might hear from your child's teacher.

1. Your child needs to work on their speech, language, and/or overall communication skills.

While this is something you’re more likely to hear in a toddler, preschool, or even kindergarten PTC, there’s a chance it can be heard at any grade level. So, what do you do with this feedback?

  1. Support speech and language skill development in a naturalistic way through reading books, fostering natural conversation at home during meals and activities, and getting some info on what’s happening in the classroom.
  2. Sign your child up for an extracurricular activity to support language development opportunities. Classes that utilize writing, reading, or speaking and/or interactive social play are all great options.
  3. If it seems your child needs extra assistance with developing speech and language skills you might consider a screening or evaluation with a speech and language pathologist.

2. Your child needs more opportunities to work on their social skills. 

But wait, what are “social skills”? It’s natural to have that question. For our purposes, let’s break down the two types of social skills.  

  • First — the ones that are more rule oriented. These revolve around manners. For example, asking to join a group of children who are playing by approaching them nicely and saying hello.
  • Second — these are social skills that have more to do with social cognition. They fall under the column of sharing (not just things — sharing a play space, an idea, or a plan) and understanding other people’s intent.

Your child can work on both of these social skills outside of school through:                   

1. Thoughtfully planned play dates. These go a long way. We could write a whole piece on playdates, but some important takeaways are:

  • Plan with your child in advance. You’ll be able to account for what your child will want to play and what they imagine the other child might want to do.Plus, this is a good opportunity to put away things that may be hard to share.
  • Pick a good playdate venue. Playgrounds can be hit or miss sometimes — oh, you know, because kids tend to be running in every direction imaginable. Instead, try a neutral area like the duck pond or someone’s backyard.  

2. Signing up for an activity outside of school with some children from your child’s class. Activities that work on social skills and allow for the development of social cognition can be hugely beneficial for your little one’s development. Some options are:

  • After school play clubs that allow kids to explore and imagine in a less structured (but still supported) way at local gyms and play centers.
  • Improv or stand-up comedy classes.
  • STEM classes that require partnership/collaboration like building a LEGO machine or robot with a partner.

3. Your child needs more practice with handwriting and overall fine motor skills. 

This is common to hear at PTCs, and it shouldn’t be an area of concern. Especially for your preschool aged children, some good tips to follow are:

  1. At home, depending on your child’s age, hide treasures in putty, clay, or play dough to strengthen hand muscles. This can help develop fine motor skills. For older kids, get something fun and motivating, maybe a tool kit or a really enticing bracelet making set to use those small hand muscles and work on coordination.
  2. Sign up for a crafting class like painting or pottery, or perhaps a cooking class! Magic classes are also increasingly popular, and science classes that use eye droppers and tweezers can be a great way to build those muscles. 

4. Your child needs help with their gross motor skills. They can improve their coordination and awareness of where their body is in relation to things and others. 

It happens to every child — this is childhood in a nutshell, right? As we grow up, challenges to coordination occur naturally. If you receive this feedback from a teacher, don’t fret. Here are some steps you can take for your younger children.

  1. When traveling to and from school, have your kids walk the stairs with you — this does wonders for their coordination. 
  2. Have them carry their own backpack. Getting used to feeling unnatural weight on your body helps build spatial awareness.
  3. Do some stomping and animal walks to give some proprioceptive feedback to the joints and muscles. “Let's use this long hallway to walk like stomping elephants.” If they are older give them other opportunities for heavy lifting and deep pressure at home.
  4. Sign up for some classes that activate their sensory systems and offer resistance work such as yoga or swimming.
  5. Consider consulting with an OT and/or PT to see if therapeutic support might be helpful/warranted. 

Parent teacher conferences should be a time where you turn feedback into action! Remember, your child and their teacher spend a lot of time together, so they’re well equipped to give recommendations. If there’s one closing thought to highlight, it’s that joining extracurricular activities outside of school offers more opportunities for your child to be around positive peer role models who will help them learn and grow! Check out all of the exciting activities offered on Sawyer to get inspiration.

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