Information for Parents (COVID-19)

During the current school closures, we would like to offer the following information for parents of children and young people who have additional learning needs or a learning difficulty.

This is an extremely unsettling period for you and your children, and whilst it will be important to offer learning opportunities for children or young people, their well-being is paramount.

Schools across Birmingham and the whole country are working hard to ensure children who are not in school have the resources they need to continue their learning at home until they can return to classes. Your child’s or young person’s school should be the first point of contact for information.  The activities below are designed to compliment and enrich the work already being provided by your child’s school.

Click on the sections below for activities, ideas and strategies.

Top Tips for Parents when working at home with your child or young person with a learning need
  • Make it fun!
  • Little and often is best.
  • Be positive – give your child lots of praise.
  • If its not going well stop and change the activity.
  • If your child has difficulties with writing consider using other ways to record what they know, comic strips, pictures, diagrams, audio record a story or video them acting.
  • In maths activities, getting your child to communicate what they are doing helps them learn, you don’t need to know all the answers!
  • Make maths real – make models, cook, time activities in the garden e.g. how many jumps can you do in a minute?
  • Keep activities short with a clear beginning, middle and end.
  • Keep a routine – make a timetable. Be realistic.
  • Don’t expect them to work all day! Be guided by your child.
  • It’s ok to revisit things that you have done before, it helps children to remember what they have learnt.
  • Be guided by your child’s interests
  • Remember, every day activities are opportunities for learning e.g. gardening and playing.
Suggestions for parents/carers to help your children with maths

There are 3 different leaflets to download below, depending on which maths skills your child is working on. You can choose whether to download a PDF or word version of each leaflet.

These activities are suggested to support your child or young person  if they are working towards early maths skills such as:

  • Recognising numbers and quantities to ten
  • Saying which number is one more or one less than a given number to 10
  • Using objects to support adding and subtracting up to ten

For more ideas…

Maths leaflet 1 (PDF) Maths leaflet 1 (word)
  • Pair socks when washing, pair gloves, shoes etc. and count in twos.  When making sandwiches counting in 2s for each sandwich made.
  • Talk about ‘half, whole, full, empty’ in everyday contexts e.g. Make some sandwiches and cut off the crusts to make a clear square shape from your slices of bread. Help your child to slice up the sandwiches and talk about the shapes.  Cut the sandwich in half to make two rectangles.  Cut it diagonally into half and you get two triangles!
  • Choose some food items out of the cupboard. Try to put the objects in order of weight, by feel alone, but don’t expect your child to read scales.
  • Play shops, making up prices and using coins, modelling comments e.g. that costs more than that.
  • Play simple board games where your child moves a game piece from one position to the next.

These activities are suggested to support your child or young person if they are working towards developing the skills to:-

  • Recognise and write numbers up to 100
  • To add/subtract ten from a given number using their knowledge of place value
  • Use number facts to 20 to solve related facts up to 100
  • Add and subtract any 2 two digit numbers and explaining their method verbally, in pictures or using apparatus
  • Recall multiplication facts for the 2, 5 and 10 multiplication tables and use them to solve simple problems and related division facts

For more ideas…

Maths leaflet 2 (PDF) Maths leaflet 2 (WORD)
  • Play number spotting games at home, look for numbers on packages, clocks, coins, who has the biggest/smallest, most/least, which are odd/even, what is the difference
  • Playing simple board games which involve counting on, back and number recognition.
  • Play games such as Top Trumps.  Play card games e.g. Uno
  • Add the total of cutlery at the table. If they had double the number of people how many spoons etc. would they need?
  • Use playing cards put them in order from largest to smallest by counting the shapes (hearts, spades) or using the numbers on the cards.
  • Write the answers on pieces of paper and place them on the floor. Get a friend/family member to call out the questions and jump onto the correct answer! (ask an adult to check that this is safe – try to avoid slippery floors).
  • Talk about the numbers you encounter  “5 x 8 = 40 that’s mummy’s age” ,  “3 x 5 = 15 that’s our house number” . . .  this makes more memory hooks. Focus on relevant times tables for your child.
  • One ladybird has 6 spots, how many spots would two ladybirds have? Ten ladybirds?

These activities are suggested to support your child or young person if they are working towards developing the skills to:

  • Read, write, order and compare numbers up to 10 000 000 including negative numbers
  • Use estimation to check answers to calculations
  • Perform mental calculations, including with mixed operations
  • Use their knowledge of the order of operations to carry out calculations
  • Solve multi-step problems, deciding which operations and methods to use and explain why
  • Multiply and divide numbers up to 4 digits by a two-digit whole number 
  • Identify common factors, common multiples and prime numbers

For more ideas…

Maths leaflet 3 (PDF) Maths leaflet 3 (word)
  • Explore larger numbers.  Look at space, the planets e.g. distance from earth.
  • Negotiate increases in pocket money as percentages. For example, a 5% increase would be how much money per week? Encourage your child to save a percentage of their pocket money or birthday money and work out how much this would be. For example, how much money would you have if you saved 40% each week?
  • Calculate together how much a mobile phone costs per month. How much is spent on messages and how much on phone calls?
  • Find a seven-day forecast then record the actual temperature for each day and compare. What were the similarities and differences?  Use the information on the weather website to explore differences in weather from your area to others.
  • Support your child to estimate (guess) how many there are as well as count e.g. how many seeds in the pack and how many stars in the sky.
  • Discuss how you would double a recipe. Encourage your child to record the new measurements for the recipe.  Estimate the cost to buy all the ingredients to make the recipe.
  • Raise awareness of perimeter and area – if you have a slabbed area in your garden, how many slabs fit around the edge?  How many cover the whole area? if you are starting a tiling job in your bathroom or you wish to make someone a patchwork quilt you could ask similar questions.
Suggestions for parents/carers to help your children with reading and writing

There are 3 different leaflets to download below, depending on which skills your child is working on. You can choose whether to download a PDF or word version of each leaflet.

These activities are suggested to support your child or young person  if they are working towards early reading skills such as:

  • Beginning to match letters to sounds and blending sounds for reading
  • Reading up to 30 key words 
  • Writing some letters and words with 3 sounds

For more ideas…

English leaflet 1 (PDF) English leaflet 1 (word)
  • Share books with your children and point at words as you talk about pictures
  • Use bedtime stories to model and show them the connection between words on the page and what we say – point at each word as you read to show the connection
  • Use of ICT and apps to listen to stories and to label pictures and objects using words
  • Singing and reading nursery rhymes to develop language and vocabulary skills
  • Put pictures (with words if possible) on doors and when you put things away say, ‘The socks go in here’.
  • Take pictures of objects / toys, print them and attach to tidy boxes. When tidying up encourage your child to identify a picture on the box and organise their toys. Talk to your child about this i.e. saying ‘Look this box has a picture of a car on, cars go in here, put your cars in here.

These activities are suggested to support your child or young person  if they are working towards developing the skills to:

  • Sound out most unfamiliar words accurately, without undue hesitation
  • Read many words accurately allowing them to focus on understanding what they are reading
  • Spell many common words
  • Write simple stories about their experiences.

For more ideas…

English leaflet 2 (PDF) English leaflet 2 (word)
  • Don’t give up on the bedtime story, even if your child is a good reader. The more stories and books your child hears, the more they will want to read.
  • Keep a diary with pictures either labelled with key words or a sentence written to explain what happened that day.
  • Make cards or write notes to family and friends creating a real purpose for writing.
  • Write a word with some part of the word missing, ask your child to complete the word.
  • Hide flashcards around the house, creating a trail or treasure hunt.
  • Role-play together, acting out a familiar story or playing vets/doctors/shops.
  • Explore words – talk about new words when your child comes across one.
  • Play noughts and crosses: Mark your space with a word instead of   X or O.

These activities are suggested to support your child or young person  if they are working towards developing skills to:

  • Read all of the Y5-6 common exception words fluently
  • Read aloud with confidence, expression and fluency.
  • Apply their phonic skills to read a range of unfamiliar words.
  • Use strategies to spell most common words with accuracy.
  • Use varied vocabulary, phrases and adverbs to add interest to writing.
  • Complete writing which makes sense, where ideas are linked and organised in paragraphs.

For more ideas…

English leaflet 3 (PDF) English leaflet 3 (WORD)
  • Listen to audio books. If you have the book, try to follow along, reading the words as you listen.
  • Write key words on post-it notes or pieces of paper and play ‘swat the sight word’. Read out a word  – how quickly can they find it? If there are 2 players see who can be first to swat the correct word.
  • Check they understand all of the words they read. If they don’t know what a word means, ask them to look it up in a dictionary or online. They could create a picture glossary to help them to understand technical vocabulary
  • Play board games to develop vocabulary skills like 20 questions, articulate, Taboo or scattergories.
  • They could write a news article about current events. Pretend they are a news reporter or a journalist. They could interview members of their family and create an article or newspaper.

Talk to you child about the words they are learning to spell, ensure that they know what they mean, see if they can:

  • Write the word (by sounding it out)
  • Write a sentence with that word in it (find out the meaning if needed)
  • Draw a picture for the word/sentence
Strategies to support learning activities

Getting to know new texts

Why does it work?

When approaching a new reading text, your child can lack fluency and have difficulty with the context. This means that they may not be able to predict unknown words or use a variety of cues. This can be down to reliance on phonics when reading, difficulties with speech and language or lack of exposure to vocabulary. Aim to spend some time before any reading activity cueing your child into the text context. This could include reading and discussing the title, thought-storming associations and possible meanings, analysing pictures and sub-headings and making predictions as to what the text will contain. It is useful to look at the illustrations from beginning to end to see the ‘whole story’ and provide contexts. All of these will ensure that your child has some clues about the text before reading it and they will then be more able to use a variety of cues and strategies when reading.

Getting to know new texts in action …

Julie enjoys stories but relies on decoding unfamiliar words as her only strategy. This is affecting her fluency and comprehension, particularly with a new text. Once Julie is more familiar with the content, she is able to answer questions and use contextual cues to support her reading. Julie was taught to look at the title and front cover, then look through the illustrations in order from beginning to end before attempting to read the book. She then spent a few minutes with an adult discussing predictions and tricky vocabulary. Julie has found that this increases her ability to understand what she reads and that she is reading more fluently.

The following website offers tips and advice for reading with children of a variety of ages:

Link

Sequencing Images

Why do they work?

The ability to sequence events in text is important in developing your child’s understanding of what they are reading. Sequencing refers to the identification of the parts of a story, such as the beginning, middle and end. It also means being able to retell the events of a story in the correct order. This supports understanding and the ability to place the details of events within some larger context such as the beginning, middle and end of a story. Ordering of events in a story along with connecting words such as, ‘then, later’ and ‘afterwards’ supports children to be able to think of a text in pieces rather than one large chunk. Sequencing is a skill that can be incorporated into any subject area.

Sequencing Images in action …

Katie was having difficulties retelling a story. She tended to start with the end, possibly because it was the part of the story that she had read or heard most recently. Practising sequencing the key events within a story helped her to understand what she had read.  She was helped to recognise the important parts of the story and so was able to retell the story. This also helped Katie when writing stories as she had been given opportunities to investigate examine the make-up of a story.

Sequencing exercises can be found on-line such as those at:

Link

Vocabulary/Word Banks organised by linked concepts

Why do they work?

Vocabulary banks are a helpful way to scaffold you child’s learning. Many children and young people need over-exposure to individual words, as well as the context for their use. Word banks, organised by concept development, can be helpful for children who need support in understanding links and connections within a subject. In order for a child to effectively learn vocabulary they also need to learn the relationship between the spoken and the written word as well as the concepts they represent.

Did you know you can make your own word banks online? Just search for blank or editable word banks.

Vocabulary banks in action…

Hassan found Science confusing. There were lots of words used where he only had an approximate understanding of their use and this made it difficult to link concepts together. He was given the opportunity to make vocabulary banks for the Science topic vocabulary that he encountered difficulties with. This strategy allowed him to learn new vocabulary and concepts by using a format to create flashcards. These flashcards enabled Hassan to research the meaning of the word, make links through visual cues and find other words linked to the concept.

Visual Prompts and Checklists

Why do they work?

Remembering things that have been said to you is not a reliable way for some of us to recall important elements of a task. Words disappear! Visual prompts support with this. Picture prompts are better so as not to make the task too difficult with the addition of words. Pictures and symbols communicate more quickly and easily than written words.

Visual prompts in action…

Jack was always missing spaces between words in his written work. His teacher printed a large visual prompt to support him. After a couple of sessions, he began to use spaces without having to be reminded by his teacher. He still used his visual prompt for some time after this to help him remember to use spaces between words.

There are lots of free downloadable visual prompts including support for leaving spaces between words like these:

Link

Personalised Dictionaries

Why do they work?

Your child is encouraged to take control of their own learning through the development of their own dictionary. This could help them with learning new vocabulary, to help them learn the spelling of a word or both. Your child can choose which words to add. These may be ones that they recognise that they find difficult.

Personalised Dictionaries in action …

Jake found remembering topic vocabulary challenging. He was encouraged to keep a record of new words that he had learnt. Jake wrote the words in his dictionary under each of topic headings and drew pictures where they might help him to remember what the words meant.  It took time for Jake to build up his dictionary and sometimes needed reminders to use his dictionary. It soon became something that he could use independently.

Marking for success

Why does it work?

Some children can become very demotivated when marking spellings or having them corrected in their writing. Marking for success is a positive method of correcting spellings. Tick every letter that is correct in a word and leave the incorrect letters blank.

Your child will respond well when they see the ticks and they realise that the whole word is not wrong.  Often, they can also self-correct the spelling themselves.

Marking for success in action …

Keshia is having difficulties spelling high frequency words and often spells them incorrectly in her independent writing. In spelling tests, Keshia mostly spells them correctly but the teacher feels this is not transferred into her independent writing. Instead of highlighting every incorrect spelling in a piece of writing, the class teacher chose to target three words that Keshia spelt correctly in previous tests. She highlights the chosen words and then ticks the correct letters, marking for success. Keshia then returns to the piece and independently attempts to correct the spelling. If she is unable to do this, the teacher supports her, or she uses a dictionary.

Cloze Procedures

What are cloze procedures?

Cloze procedures are reading comprehension activities where blank spaces in a text are filled in. A passage of text has missing words that need to be filled in from a list of words. Your child must think about what word fits in a blank space, so the passage makes sense. Your child will learn about a topic whilst being helped with their reading.

My name is Neptune I am ______ in colour
I’m the ______ planet from the sun
I have too many storms in my atmosphere
And I’m the furthest planet from the _____

furthest   sun   blue

Cloze Procedures in action…

Jen and Clare were several lessons into their science topic on space and had already been supported with pictures to help them learn new vocabulary about space.  They were given a cloze procedure which missed out some of the names of the planets and used their pictures to discuss possibilities and fill the gaps.

Search for free cloze procedures resources such as those found at:

Link

Wider Lines/ Squares

Why do they work?

Some children might find it extremely difficult to keep within the lines on narrow lined paper or small squared paper. Where possible, give your child the option of wide lined paper or larger squares. This can have a very positive impact on handwriting and presentation of work and on your child’s self-esteem.

Did you know that wide lined paper can be printed directly from the internet, just search for ‘wide line paper’

Despite forming letters correctly, Ali’s handwriting is large and therefore her presentation can look quite messy. The teacher has tried plain paper, but without the organisation of lines, one of her work merges into another. Using wider lines and larger squares, means that Ali is supported to have more space for her writing. This means that her work appears neater and Ali and the teacher can read back what she has written. She now enjoys sharing her work with others.

Checking text readability

 Why does it work?

Readability needs to be considered when giving your child a book to read.  Readability means how easily a reader can understand their book. For example, if your child makes more than 5 errors when they are reading a piece of roughly 100 words, their understanding of what they have read is likely to be not enough. Reading accuracy is how accurately your child can read the passages in their book.  Your child may be reading the words in their book accurately but may need support in understanding what they have read. We need to think of this when helping children choose books.

Find out more about this support for finding ‘just right’ books:

Link

Checking text readability in action …

During independent reading time, Zain always seemed quite distracted and appeared to change his book frequently. He would not talk about his book or complete his book reviews. During one session, the class teacher sat with Zain to read with him and found that he was choosing books that were too hard. The teacher chose a different book and asked Zain to read short passages. They found one that he enjoyed, where he made less than 5 errors on the first page [roughly 100 words] and he was able to read confidently. Zain read the whole book independently and was keen to share his thoughts on it with the teacher. Zain was taught to check each book he chose to see whether he made more than five errors on the first page.

Supporting your autistic child/young person at home.

These activities are suggested to support your child or young person with autism to engage with learning experiences: 

Many autistic children and young people are self-directed. These activities are suggested to help you do things together while you are at home.

For more ideas…

autism support leaflet (PDF) Autism suport Leaflet (word)
  • If your child is pre-verbal and it is difficult to engage them in activities, join in with activities they enjoy, even if you don’t understand why they enjoy them! Copy their actions and vocalisations and join them in “their world”. Even if your child is verbal, it is important to spend time doing the things they enjoy with them, as you are showing that you are valuing their preferences.
  • Do life skills tasks together (e.g. putting washing out), otherwise they may feel that they are doing lots of jobs! Also, you are modelling how to do the activity.
  • It is important for a child or young person to know why they are taking part in an activity. Explain in words; write a short explanation script; or explain it using a flow chart.
  • If using a visual or written timetable, make sure it contains break times and times when your child can do things they really enjoy.

Fun sensory-based activities to try at home.

Many autistic children enjoy sensory play. These activities are suggested to support your child or young person if they enjoy sensory-based activities: 

For more ideas…

Sensory play Leaflet (PDF) Sensory play Leaflet (word)
  • Make letters, words and numbers in shaving foam, sand or with playdough. You can find recipes to make playdough online. Jazz it up by adding scent or glitter!
  • Spider web walk – use masking tape to make a spider web on the floor. Put letters on joins to make words, or make into maths calculations.
  • Pay ‘guess the smell’ games.
  • Hide objects in a feely box or bag. Guess the objects.
  • Sensory treasure hunt. Hide pots around the house or garden with different things to feel inside for your child to find.
  • Use Nerf guns to shoot at post its on the wall with letters or answers to questions.

Distraction activities to break things up while at home.

These activities are suggested to support your autistic child or young person if they need activities to provide a distraction or to give them a learning break. 

Including being physical, creative, fun, inspired, comforting and constructive. 

For more ideas…

Distractions leaflet (PDF) Distractions leaflet (WORD)

Physical activities: throwing socks against a wall, playing with a stress ball, having a pillow fight,  play hide and seek and walking up and down the stairs.

Creative activities: drawing, sewing, writing a song, making a playlist of favourite songs, origami and making instruments at home.

Being inspired: Looking into the sky and watch the clouds (from a window or garden), watching a candle burn, practice mindfulness and doing yoga.

Comforting activities: cuddling a soft toy, allowing yourself to cry, wearing your pyjamas, wrap yourself in a warm blanket and talk to a friend.

Constructive activities: Completing school work, untangling string or necklaces, cleaning, baking, gardening and building with Lego.

Visual timetables

These help communicate the structure and sequence of the day by physically showing it. It provides routine and predictability which helps to decrease anxiety and behaviours associated with stress. They explain when things are going to happen and when things are going to change or finish.

For examples …

Visual timetables (PDF) Visual timetables (word)
  • A visual timetable is made up of a series of objects, photos/pictures, symbols or written words. Use whichever is appropriate for your child’s level of understanding.
  • Once each activity has been completed, it is then taken off the timetable and placed in a finish box or folder/envelope. This helps to show that the activity has been completed and what is next.

In the beginning you will need to guide your child through the process by showing the picture/symbol/word on the timetable at the beginning of each activity. Visual timetables can be used to prepare for unexpected changes in routine which are often challenging for children with autism.

Supporting your autistic child when they are emotionally overwhelmed.

|   How might your child show you that they are emotionally overwhelmed?

  • Shouting

  • Screaming

  • Aggression

  • Self-harm

  • Flopping to the floor

  • Being argumentative

  • Hiding

  • Refusal

  • Defiance

  • Shutting down

  • Running off

  • Avoidance

  • Crying

|   What may cause your child to be emotionally overwhelmed?

  • Misunderstanding what has been said to them.

  • Differences in the way they take in information

  • Confusion

  • Frustration

  • Stress

  • Learnt response (they have not yet learnt a more appropriate way to deal with their emotions and the response has become a routine response)

  • Lack of understanding of their own emotional state

  • Misinterpreting events and/or motives of others

  • Feeling that they do not have the skills to complete a task

  • Differences in the way they process sensory information

  • Anxiety (likely to have higher levels of anxiety)

|   How can I help my child when they are emotionally overwhelmed?

  • Stay calm and think clearly

  • Lower your tone of voice

  • Speak slowly

  • Reduce your use of language

  • Reassure. Do not give direct instructions at this point

  • Acknowledge how they are feeling

  • Lower demands

  • Give time. If you rush they will quickly become overwhelmed again.

  • Try to work out the trigger

|   What can I do to prevent my child becoming emotionally overwhelmed?

  • Teach them about their emotions. Their feelings can frighten them and they need to know these feelings are not unusual

  • Remove or lessen triggers

  • Teach them a strategy to manage the trigger. This may take some time so keep practising.

  • Prepare them and take away the unpredictability of a situation

  • Stick to routines

  • Reassure – we all have times when we find things difficult to manage

  • Build resilience – remind them of difficult times when they have coped

  • Be consistent

  • Make a plan of how you will support your child when they are struggling.

  • Adapt as you go along

Tips to build resilience in your autistic child/young person.

Our children and young people can build resilience to manage difficult times. It may take time, so we need to take it one step at a time. Here are some tips:

Resilience leaflet (PDF) Resilience leaflet (word)
  • Encourage your child to talk or communicate with you about their concerns. This may be difficult so allow time and build it up gradually.
  • Explain to your child that difficult situations do not have to be permanent.
  • Teach problem solving. Ask them to think of more than one solution to a tricky situation. They can then choose the most appropriate response.
  • Support friendship building. Use Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations to help them understand the feelings and motives of others.
  • Give appropriate challenge with support.
Supporting your child with physical difficulties

The Physical Difficulties
Support Service

The Physical Difficulties Support Service (PDSS) are here to help you during this difficult time. Our families and children are really important to us and we are here to provide you with support through our telephone helpline service.

If you would like to access this service, please email PDSSParentEnquiries@birmingham.gov.uk

Please email with the following information:

  • Your name and your child’s name.
  • The telephone number you would like to be contacted on.
  • The name of your child’s school.
  • Times and dates you are available for a telephone conversation.

We will then arrange for a member of the PDSS team to respond to your request.

Areas of concern you may wish to discuss could include:

  • Recording work
  • Using ICT
  • Physical play and activities
Physical difficulties support

These following ICT programs are suggested to support your child or young person to enable them to engage with learning experiences:

Using Voice to Text in Notes

BBC dance mat gives children a fun way to learn touch typing

Clicker is software to support reading and writing for all abilities

Five quick steps to make sure you and your child are getting the most from your iPad

Siri voice notes
Touch typing activities
Clicker software
iPad accessibility
Free online resources

Please note we are not responsible for the content of external sites.
Please check the contents is suitable for your child first.

The sites suggested are not a prescribed list and are given for support at this time.

The following websites are currently free and available to support home learning: