No matter how hard you try to help your child, he/she may continue to struggle in school academically. Children struggle academically for numerous reasons, but with early intervention and support, children can overcome these difficulties.
An undiagnosed learning disability
Children with learning disabilities are intelligent with strong cognitive skills but struggle in specific areas. Children who struggle in specific areas may compensate for the frustration or embarassment by being disruptive. If parents, teachers, and other professionals discover a child’s learning disability early and provide the right kind of help, it can give the child a chance to develop skills needed to lead a successful and productive life. A recent National Institutes of Health study showed that 67 percent of young students who were at risk for reading difficulties became average or above average readers after receiving help in the early grades. Common learning disabilities are:
- Dyslexia – a language-based disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words. It may also be referred to as reading disability or reading disorder.
- Dyscalculia – a mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts.
- Dysgraphia – a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space.
- Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders – sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision.
- Nonverbal Learning Disabilities – a neurological disorder which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and holistic processing functions.
Children with problems in the areas hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsiveness will struggle in school academically and socially without the proper intervention.
Some children may struggle with understanding social cues necessary to make and keep friends. Social skills don't come naturally to all kids. Impulsive and hyperactive children often act in ways that stymie their strong desire for friendship. They often have trouble taking turns and controlling their anger when they don't get their way. More inattentive kids may act flighty or hover at the margins of playgroups, unsure of how to assert themselves. When a child's mind becomes pre-occupied with what happened at recess or at lunch, her grades may start to suffer.
If a child is a victim of bullying, he may not always speak out and tell you what is going on due to the shame and blame that victims tend to place on themselves. Bullying can threaten a student's physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn.
Whether you notice it or not, children are greatly affected by the things going on at home and all around them. They are incredibly perceptive, and just because you don’t talk to them about any struggles that are happening does not mean that they are not aware that something is wrong. If there is a lot of stress, fighting, or other unhappy things happening in the home, or if there has been a death or even the birth of a new baby, children are impacted. You often are not aware they anything is wrong, but their feelings are reflected in their grades and school performance. If a once perfect student and happy child is suddenly acting out and failing classes, it may be time to take a look at your home situation and how it is affecting them.
Sometimes the brightest children are the ones who suddenly struggle the most. You know that they know the material; they just seem to give up and take absolutely no interest. Many children struggle because they are not being challenged enough; they are completely bored and tired of doing mundane things that they already know how to do.
What is your typical approach to academic struggles?
While we do not specifically provide assessments for learning disabilites, we can help by providing a thorough assessment of all other areas of functioning in order to determine possible causes of academic struggles. If we suspect a learning disability, we will refer you for a cognitive battery of formal educational testing.
With a thorough assessment, we seek to understand the experiences your child had beginning intrauterine and throughout childhood that may contribute to current levels of functioning. The assessment includes:
- Review of current symptoms, concerns, duration and intensity
- A thorough review of child development and past medical history
- Review of family systems
- Additional important family background information including history of mental health issues
Then the best course of treatment is decided together with the caregivers. Treatment may include a combination of the following:
- Play therapy to assist child in expressing what is troubling them when they do not have the verbal language to express thoughts and feelings.
- Family therapy including play to explore existing family dynamics
- Traditional "talk therapy" to create a therapeutic environment of safety and unconditional acceptance
- Psycho-education on learning disabilities in order to normalize concerns and teach coping skills
We can also help you learn how to be an advocate for your child in the educational system because with a background in school social work, we understand a child and parent's rights to accessing services in the school.
Click here for further reading