Have you ever noticed someone you know lacking confidence with their reading, writing or maths? Sometimes a little encouragement is all somebody needs to ask for help.

A 26TEN Chat is a guide to help Tasmanians start a conversation with adults who may need help getting words and numbers into focus.

There are five steps to having a 26TEN Chat. This guide will help you feel confident to raise the subject with those Tasmanians who may need support.

Step 1…..Notice

Notice the signs of someone’s difficulty with reading, writing or maths.

It is normal to fear the discomfort or shame of not being able to do something that most find easy. Many people find creative ways to avoid exposing their lack of skills, so it can be difficult to notice there is an issue. Excuses, such as “I haven’t brought my glasses, I can’t read that.” Using humour to deflect. Remarks, for example, when buying a beer, throwing change on the bar and saying, “Take it out of that.” Or “I’m no good at that you’ll have to do it for me” or “I can’t read that.”

Honest, upfront statements like, “I can’t read. You’ll have to read that to me” or “I don’t know what I’m signing.” A lack of confidence in everyday life.

And lastly avoidance, such as relying on family members or others close to them to explain and complete everyday reading and writing tasks or basic calculation. Or avoiding opportunities to read aloud or explain something that is written down.

Step 2…..Raise

The best way to be certain you have noticed low skills in reading, writing and maths is to ask the person about it.

It can be hard to raise the subject, especially if you sense the person is likely to feel defensive or even ashamed. Many people who want to improve are not aware of the service available. Your interest may be the nudge they need to finally address this challenge.

For an example, “I’ve noticed that form gave you a bit of trouble the other day. I find them hard sometimes. Particularly the online ones. Do you often have trouble with them?” Mention what you’ve noticed in a non-judgemental tone. Frame it in your own experience, or ask how long it’s been difficult. Consider the timing of the conversation. If they are stressed, unwell, busy running after small children or working with their hands, it is likely not the time. Finding a quiet moment when you can sit down and chat is ideal. If you are relaxed and comfortable, they will be more relaxed and comfortable.

Remember, there is no rush. Raising the issue is just the start of a conversation.

Step 3…..Listen

Allow time to listen to the response without interrupting. If you know the person well, is there something you know they would like to achieve in order to improve their situation?

Perhaps they would like to get a qualification or licence, or help their kids with their homework. They may want to apply for a job or promotion, or use a computer or digital device more easily.

Listening can give you an opportunity to hear what they would like to learn and why.

Step 4…..Refer

Refer to the 1300 number or 26TEN website. Now is your opportunity to mention the support available to all Tasmanians.

If the response is yes, you could offer to attend the first appointment with them. Offer to ring on their behalf, or ask if they would like you to sit with them while they make the call. You can offer to catch up afterwards to see how it went.

If the response is ‘no’ that is completely fine. You haven’t failed by raising the subject. They may not be ready, and this is OK.

Step 5…..Encourage

Have patience. It may take a while for someone to take the courageous step of asking for help. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure are the biggest barriers someone can face when embarking on a learning journey. Your ongoing encouragement will go a long way towards change.

Gentle reminders, supportive words and actions will make a difference. If they do seek support, they will still appreciate you checking in to see how they are going with it. If appropriate, you could let them know you would be happy to support them should they change their mind, and remain open to discussing it again.

Know that your effort is worthwhile, and the conversation won’t be forgotten. With encouragement, they are likely to continue to meet their goal. This is not the end of the conversation.

It is possible for all Tasmanians to improve reading, writing and maths as an adult. Your encouragement maybe all that someone needs.

For more information visit 26TEN Chat dot TAS dot Gov dot A U or call the hotline during business hours on 1300 00 2610. Good Luck with your 26TEN Chat!