Every week, I meet parents at our information meetings who feel discouraged with the schools. Families raw from spending hours and hours doing homework every night feel alone and frustrated that the schools aren’t doing more.
As a former mainstream and special education teacher, I would like to shed a little light on the subject.
Doesn’t Qualify – No Problem??
Students with learning or attention challenges are often quite bright. In spite of their poor performance, their intelligence, coping strategies, and intense mental effort may cause them to score just high enough in a psycho-educational evaluation that they don’t qualify as officially having a learning disability, making them exempt from resource or special education help.
Parents are told that there is no problem and their child needs to try harder or put in more time. For parents crushed by their child’s tears, frustration, and hours and hours of time spent on homework, this answer is just not acceptable. It makes them feel misunderstood and ignored.
Just because a child doesn’t qualify, doesn’t mean there’s not a problem. In fact, research backs up the fact that approximately 20- 25 percent of students in school have some degree of struggle and do not qualify for special help.
Special Ed Isn’t Helping!
I would venture to say that this is not true. But it feels true to parents who have to hear their defeated child say, day after day, “I’m so dumb.”
Parents can see the bright child beneath the struggles and want the problem fixed. Many students, in spite of special education services, continue to struggle year after year. As a result, it often seems like the school is doing nothing.
The reality is, that most of our students’ teachers care deeply and are devastated to see the ongoing struggle that so many of their students face. Teachers are required to teach subject areas and curriculum. There are a tremendous number of very specific skills and standards that teachers are required to help their students meet. Even in special education, the job revolves around helping students acquire the required knowledge.
This is what schools do. It’s their job. And thank goodness it is, as no one else is doing it.
BUT… academic success requires a strong foundation of underlying learning/processing skills (skills such as memory, attention, auditory and visual processing, processing speed, language, and perceptual motor integration and control). When any of these skills are weak or inefficient, it can cause students of any age to struggle with learning – to have to work harder and longer, often with lesser results.
If we want to correct a learning challenge, we have to determine what underlying skills are not supporting the learner well enough and develop those skills. Then the academic remediation will make sense and stick. Students with at least average intelligence can and should become comfortable independent learners.
This is what we do at Stowell Learning Center. We develop the critical underlying learning skills and remediate the basic academics – reading, writing, spelling, and math.
We do not take on the school’s job of teaching higher academics. We don’t have the time or training to do it. Schools do not take on our job of developing underlying skills. They don’t generally have the time, knowledge, or funding to do it.
What schools do is try to support struggling learners as they navigate academic subjects. They don’t eliminate the problem. Most don’t even realize that the problem can be eliminated. That’s frustrating, as kids spend a tremendous number of hours in school.
But Parents, look at teachers as your allies. Help them understand and empathize with your child. A supportive teacher can bolster a child’s self esteem and confidence and help him manage his academics better than he would without the support.
Then look for outside help to get those underlying skills identified and improved. A combination of school support and outside development of skills is going to be your child’s best bet.
Do you have a child, teen, or adult in your life who is struggling with dyslexia, reading, learning, or attention? Are you ready for a change? Here’s your next step:
JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.
For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com
“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author: At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Teas, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers
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