Cutting Through The Educational Jargon: A Cheat Sheet What Do Teachers Mean When They Use These Words?

The scene: You go to your parent-teacher conference and of course, you expect to hear glowing comments about your child. Instead, the teacher uses educational jargon that you have heard other parents talk about from time to time, but you have never focused on it because the discussion was not about your child. At this point, your mind is racing and you are getting totally anxious and flustered. Does my child have a learning disability?

So, before you have this conference experience, it may be wise to understand current educational language, especially if your teacher uses a word that may set your panic button. Remember these words should be used lightly, carefully and correctly. It is important to trust whoever uses one or more of these words; perhaps a psychologist, pediatrician or a master teacher. Also, take time for the professional to explain the word, the issue and give you strategies at home you can practice with your child for improvement.

Most importantly, if these words are used, do not fall apart. Many of these "so called educational concerns" are genetic traits that are found in your family anyway. You just may not have realized it or wanted to believe you may have this trait as well. (By the way, adults have the same traits too; they do not magically go away.)

Below is your cheat sheet of confusing educational words and some easy strategies to practice at home with your child. In educational jargon, these are oversimplified "learning difference definitions."

Auditory Sequencing: One may have confusion with number sequences, a long list or even a set of directions. You may hear 89 instead of 98. You may reverse a telephone number.

Auditory Memory: One may have difficulty remembering important points, what was told and may even spell poorly. (Poor spelling may also be a learning difference)

Auditory Discrimination: One may have trouble understanding things, telling differences between similar sounds of words. A child may be listening but are they hearing or understanding.

Strategy: Be sure to give good written directions. If you give your child oral directions start slowly, giving one thing to do at a time. When you give multi step directions, your child may totally give up or melt down. This area can cause great difficulty.

Visual Sequencing: One may have problems with reading, reversing letters or numbers and/or reading words incorrectly. A child may lose his place easily, and have trouble with answering on a scantron or on another sheet of paper. Hard math problems may also be difficult.

Visual Memory: Remembering what one read especially in reading comprehension or in recalling information in all subjects is another area. Word problems may be harder than just computation.

Visual Motor Integration: One really has trouble copying from book to paper, may be disorganized, has poor written work and needs work in spacing out words or sentences.

Visual Discrimination: One may have trouble seeing the difference between two similar objects or what is different between the boy with the hat and the boy with no hat.

Strategy: Be sure you read directions aloud together or have your child read them to you. Underline the main points or the directions. Color code things as you go and make sure directions are clearly understood. Often ask your child what was the main point of the story. What are three details from the chapter? In math, mistakes may be made in copying the problem or putting in the wrong sign in a computational problem. The computer is helpful once the child gets older, but when the children are younger, each child needs practice and more practice.

Expressive Language: One may have trouble expressing his thoughts and making himself understood.

Strategy: Let the child take his time in answering and finding the right words. Have your child practice describing a food or an activity. Do not expect perfection. Also the child will do better with written work especially in project based areas. Go slowly to instill confidence.

Receptive Language: Basically the child appears to be not listening and does not finish his work. The child has trouble absorbing the information given.

Strategy: Have your child repeat directions to you or questions on his/her homework for understanding. Look over your child's homework especially in elementary school.

This is a good starting point for understanding what these words really mean. For more information, talk to your classroom teacher, psychologist or pediatrician. Ask the experts for help. These areas are often overlapping and over labeled. Do not be afraid to ask for the explanations and strategies to help your children. Pushing your panic button is not the right strategy. Let's start this fall with more understanding.