School is the “workplace” for children and adolescents. Successful school performance is essential for psychological growth and development. School problems of children are often chronic and require regular management.
There are many reasons why children struggle in school or under perform at school, including a lack of motivation to do well, problems at home or with peers, poor study skills, emotional and behaviour problems, learning disabilities (such as dyslexia), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mental retardation or below average intelligence, anxiety and depression.
The child or adolescent might have a learning disability, a language disability, or a motor disability.
- READING PROBLEMS: A student must first learn to put letters and sounds together, blending the word. Later, words are recognised as a whole. After third grade, students must be fluent readers so they can focus on content.
- WRITING PROBLEMS: A student has a fine motor problem and writes slowly with difficulty. By third grade, the focus shifts to spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalisation. Later, the focus is on composition and the richness of thoughts and words as well as an organised flow of thoughts.
A student with this disability might have difficulty quickly processing what is heard. Parents have to speak slower and get eye contact. Multiple instructions cannot be given. The child often misunderstands what is said. Some have difficulty when they speak.>/p>
A student with motor problems might have difficulty with fine motor planning (colouring, cutting, writing, buttoning, zipping, tying) and/or with gross motor planning (running, jumping). This total clinical picture of motor problems is called Sensory Integration Dysfunction.
Some common indicators of an adolescent at risk for school failure include:
- Attention Problems
- Poor Grades
- Behaviour Problems
How do families learn to cope?
The effects of learning disabilities can ripple outward from the disabled child to family, friends, and peers at school. Self-help books written by educators and mental health professionals can also be helpful.
Parents and teachers can help by structuring tasks and environments for the child in ways that allow the child to succeed. They can find ways to help children build on their strengths and work around their disabilities. This may mean deliberately making eye contact before speaking to a child with an attention disorder. For a teenager with a language problem, it may mean providing pictures and diagrams for performing a task. For students with handwriting or spelling problems, a solution may be to provide a word processor and software that checks spelling.
The treatment of child with learning disabilities spans the child’s entire academic career.