Supporting my Host Child at School

by | Sep 25, 2019 | Australia, Volunteering

Occupational therapist Marie, who is supporting a family in Sydney as a care professional tells us about her experiences working with her host child at school and at home to improve his literacy.

I arrived in Australia in April of this year, into a wonderful host family with two foster children. Six weeks after my arrival, I started volunteering in my host child’s classroom. I accompanied him to his lessons for two hours on two mornings a week. The aim was to identify how we could help improve and simplify his school life.

His family and I knew that he had difficulties with reading, writing and found it hard to concentrate. However, we were not aware of the extent and what effect this had on his school life, until I started volunteering at school. He has not yet been diagnosed with dyslexia, but his parents are in the process of having him assessed. It’s clear that he struggles and is not at the level of his peers. 

My host child attends 4th grade of a local public school, I found that he was overwhelmed with the writing tasks and couldn’t participate. The teacher always had alternatives available for him. But it was clearly noticeable that he feels under pressure because he was not able to write what he wanted to, and he was also acutely aware of the comparison with his classmates. He had no idea of the individual words and his muscles quickly tired because he exerts too much pressure on the pen when he writes, he was unable to formulate sentences. He is quickly distracted by both auditory and visual stimuli, and because he is aware of the issues he tries to avoid these situations.

It upset me to see how the situation affected him, he wanted to do better and when he couldn’t read or write as his classmates did, he came home frustrated, letting out his frustration on his family.

I knew I wanted to help him achieve more. After several discussions with his mother, the social worker and the teacher, we have reached the conclusion that he needs technical support for teaching (for his written work), utilising a speech recognition app or a professional program. We tried out a speech recognition app from Apple at home, which worked very well. Since it was important that we also change the school situation as quickly as possible, my host child’s mother and I scoured the Internet to find suitable programs.

The school is equipped with the newest and best technology, so he was provided with an iPad, which was intended for his use only for his written work. This has worked wonders.

I now accompany him to school once a week to support him in the use of the iPad and the speech recognition app. It’s incredible to see the progress he is making! He can now write text in his language incredibly fast and see results. And I can see how proud he is of himself and what satisfaction he gets from the results. He also receives extra support for his reading.

I will continue to support my host child for the following months until I return to Germany in March next year.