Your browser does not support JavaScript!

Special Needs Students

Special Needs Students

By Dr. June Stride View more articles

Heads Up
If your son or your daughter's progress (or lack of) in school has been an on-going concern to you, no doubt you are apprehensive about the new school year. Trust me, you are not alone.

Parenting kids who are not the high-achieving, highly motivated student-type, especially a pre-teen/teen is a difficult job. It is easy to alternately blame the school, blame the teacher, blame our selves and in utter distress, blame our child. Ultimately, after we have assigned blame everywhere we know to assign it and nothing positive happens, we recognize that the blame game doesn't work. Slowly and with great frustration, we try to stop pointing fingers for it has not helped solve the problem.

FYI: American Teacher Magazine (2004) reported that a hidden crisis exists in regard to minority students. Statistics from the Urban Institute and Harvard University's Civil Rights Project, show that only 50% of black students, 51% of Native American students and 53% of Hispanic students graduated high school in 2001.

Which brings us to the problem, the challenging question of what can we do to help our child do better in school's to pass, to feel some measure of success? The connection between school failure, dropping out and poor success in life is too powerful to overlook. So, we have to maximize every possibility and look for every opportunity.

Some parents claim that the best philosophy is to let the pre-teen/teen sink or swim and bear the consequences of his/her behavior. Certainly, we want our pre-teens/teens to begin to assume more responsibility for their actions or inactions, essential to maturing. However, before washing our hands of accountability, here are a few tough questions to ask:

  • 1. Do I recognize my child's frustration and concern about continual failure and inability to succeed academically and perhaps, socially? Do I recognize that he/she probably does not know how to turn things around and that an "I don't care" attitude can be self-defensive? (Have I asked him/her what he/she sees as the problem?)

  • 2. Have I established a strong line of communication with my child so that he/she shares concerns and anxieties in a truthful manner (Do I listen for the real message instead of jumping in with my own wisdom and advice that may or may not be appropriate?)

  • 3. Do I really know the academic and intellectual ability of my child? Is the source reliable? How does his/her ability or disability impact on everyday learning experiences? Am I realistic in goal setting? (If I don't know the answers to these questions, who is it that can help me get them -- the guidance counselor, school psychologist, trusted teachers?)

  • 4. Have I expressed my interest and concern for my child's academic and social behavior to his/her teachers? In what ways have I attempted to support the teacher/school/my child? (Do I met with the teacher, follow through on his/her suggestions?)

As the school year progresses, you may notice some early warning signs that a problem is developing. They may help you decide whether your child may be at risk of failure. Be alert. Be supportive. Be ready to intervene.

Twelve Warning Signs of a Student At-Risk for Academic Failure
1. Generalized depressed attitude.
2. Lack of interest and/or involvement in school courses or activities.
3. Poor or failing test grades and/or class work grades.
4. No papers brought home; books or homework are not shared with you.
5. Refusal to share information about classes and grades; annoyance when asked.
6. School reports of behavior problems involving your child.
7. Difficulty focusing on written or reading assignments.
8. Does not seem to study or know how to study for exams.
9. "Bored"-- claims subject matter is too difficult and will never master it, or claims he/she already knows it.
10. Limited view of personal plans.
11. School reports of frequent tardiness, cutting or absences from classes.
12. Little attempt to do homework/study regularly; does not carry books/notebooks to and from school.

Sure, your child may demonstrate several of the above behaviors and not be at-risk for academic failure. But you know your child better than most. If the signs are recurring and pervasive, I suspect there is a problem that you need to address ASAP!