Needing some advice with how to help a child who is struggling in school

Richeal - posted on 02/16/2011 ( 9 moms have responded )

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I have a nearly 8 yr old son who has been struggling with school from day 1 and this morning after telling him what to write then asking him to tell me what he had to write , when i checkrd he had written something completly different, i have a strong feeling that there may be some form of dyslexia going on here, he still writes some letters and numbers backwards, we have had teacher aide help but noone seems to be very concerned, I just feel something is not connecting here very strongly, i am waiting to have some tests run on him but in the meantime I feel very lost as to what else I can do to help, if anyone has some ideas I'd appreciate them...Thanks

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Elizabeth - posted on 02/17/2011

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Wow, this is the same problem my son is having, but he's only 5. What I found that helps him is daily studying and daily encouraging him. The really sad thing is, he gets frustrated sometimes and when his younger sister can catch on to something before he can, it really hits him hard, but I don't stop encouraging him and I praise him when he does get something right.

He's getting much better, but he still has some good days and some bad days; overall, his good days out weigh his bad days. I thought maybe my son had a learning disability as well, but right now every one keeps saying that he is still young and because he is able to catch on to some things really fast, it might not be an actual learning disability, it might just be that he learns some things at a slower pace. One teacher told me that he had a little puzzle in his brain and he just had to figure out how to put it together. This makes sense because once he gets something, he's got it.

Here are some helpful tips that helped my son:

1.) Remain calm, don't get frustrated with him and when you feel yourself getting frustrated or you see him getting frustrated, take a step back and take a break. Frustration only confuses him, or causes him to put up a wall.

2.) Study daily; even when he doesn't have homework and even when he does have homework. Consistency is key; I found that with my son, if I let it go for a week, it will be like he never even seen the material before. I say go to a store and purchase educational workbooks and educational games. This helps, trust me and it doesn't have to be anything fancy or special as long as they help him with the concepts he is working on in school. Also, be creative. Find out his style of learning and go with it, even if it seems tedious or confusing to you (it might not be to him). For example, my son can only add if he has blocks or fingers, no matter how many times I tried to teach him to do it in his head, he just doesn't get it so I just had to let it go and go with what's easy for him. Even when he is working on his reading words, word families very rarely mean anything to him (unless they are simple and obvious) so he sounds out every letter in the word, regardless to how many times he's seen the word; fine by me as long as he gets it.

My point is, find out what works for him and chances are as long as he does it right and understands the concept, the teacher won't mind it at all.

3.) Remind him to take his time and think about what it is he has to do. For example, when he's reading directions, have him go back and re-read them. Read them once to himself and then again out loud (so he can hear what he's saying). Go step by step; I always tell my son, it doesn't matter if it takes him longer, what matters is that he understands what he is doing.

4.) I have learned that some people learn by association. This works with my son; I have gotten in the habit of finding things to associate with what he's learning at the time. For example, with his letters, to remember which way they face we associate this concept with the pledge. When we pledge, we pledge with our right hands, so if a letter faces the right, we say that it says the pledge. i.e. "b says the pledge and d does not (the letter b is facing the right, so it says the pledge and the letter d is facing the left, so it does not)". Also, when working with numbers, we group them by families, i.e. the "teen" family, 20's family, 30's family and so forth. The way this works is we say that all numbers in the teen family have a one in the front and they usually say their names. i.e. the number 14, one is in the front and he says his name, FOURteen. Corny, but trust me, it has helped a lot. This even works with my oldest son, who also sometimes writes his letters and numbers backwards. We are still working on this, but his teacher says that she has seen a huge improvement. Even when learning what his numbers look like, we associate them with something, for example to him the number eight looks like a snowman so this is how he remembers that number. I always let him pick what he wants to associate the concept with. I tell him to look at it and tell me what he sees and what it reminds him of. With your son, try allowing him to read the directions out loud and tell you what he got out of it; even if he has to go sentence by sentence.

5.) Another thing is encouragement, this is so important. My child thrives when he's encouraged and he really thrives when we praise his efforts.

6.) Also, he has to have confidence. Try building his confidence, I constantly remind my son that if he knows the answer, don't be afraid to say it and if he's wrong, not a problem we'll just correct him. His teachers are always surprised that he is not afraid to try; he has no problem with going up to the board and trying, even if he ends up being wrong. This works with all of my children and I have four. Only my youngest son is struggling in school, so as you can imagine it is extremely hard for me to see. All of my children have caught on to school work with no problem and they all started either at 3 or 4 (I'm very big on education) so this is something new to me, but I'm determined to see my son succeed (all of my children succeed for that matter) and so far believe it or not with a lot of hard work, on every report card he makes only A's and B's. (he's only five, but he attends a private school).

It's frustrating I know and sometimes even sad. I can't tell you how many nights I have cried because I see his efforts and I know how hard we are trying to work with him. We are continuing to work with him and he is getting better (like I said we still have bad days), it just takes a LOT of work. We are also considering getting him a tutor and surprisingly, he is cool with that and he is actually looking forward to working with a tutor....and yes, he's only five, but trust me, at a certain age children know when they are having problems and when other people think they are having problems as well. I say if you are going to get him tested, do so outside of the school, find someone you trust and you know specializes in testing children with disabilities (this is just for your own comfort and peace of mind). I am planning on getting my son tested if he doesn't grow out of it, but I want to give his little mind time to mature and adjust and I want to make sure that I have done all that I can to assist him (just in case it is just a matter of him learning in a different way or at a slower pace----all that really means is that he will have to study harder than most children and that's okay). It might very well be that your son still is trying to adjust to school, in some states children don't start school until 6 years old, so when you think about it like that, 8 is not that far from 6. I imagine the work he is doing now is harder and requires much more effort than in kindergarten. Maybe the teachers are not that concerned because they see potential and they can see that he just has to work harder than others. On a last note, sometimes as parents we set a standard for our children and when they don't meet those standards, we think something is wrong. We also have a bad habit of comparing our children to other children and when they don't compare (the way we think they should), we think there is a problem. Remember that he is his own person and so what if he is not where you expect him to be and where another child is that is his age, give him time to adjust and remember to work with HIM......be patient.

JuLeah - posted on 02/17/2011

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Very normal for kids some kids this age to still be wirting a few letters and numbers backwards ... practice and play games that focus on this issue - it can be a hard thing to really get, I mean if you learn that a cup is called a cup, it is still a cup even if it is upside down. But, an M upside down is no longer an M, but a W.
Wait for the tests to come back, they will give you the direction you need to go, but meanwhile focus on all he does well, focus on what he is good at and build on those skills ... when you learn where he is a bit behind, then you can start to address that. His teacher ought to understand and even have ideas of his/her own? And, make sure your perceptions are accurate ... what are other boys born around the same month doing? What is the goal or standard set by the school? What do his report cards say? If his teachers are not worried, maybe realx and keep and eye on it, but don't make too big a deal. Is your son happy? Does he think he is struggling? Does he like school? Can he read? Can he spell? Can he do math?
I guess what I am saying is this, one the one hand, you might be right; seeing what others are not and correct to push the issue. On the other hand ... I knew a little girl who was performing at age level, but not where her folks though she ought to be .... the concluded something was very wrong, had all kinds of tests done and spent so much time talking about this the kid came to believe it herself. Then there really was a probelm, she quite making any kind of effort, called hersefl stupid, and was done.
So, educate yourself and make sure you know what is expected for an 8yr old boy and what the range of normal looks like .... if your mother's instinct still says there is a problem, follow up

Catherine - posted on 02/17/2011

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I'm glad you were able to get some support from your doctor. Working in the schools, I have found things move quite slowly, but sometimes being the "squeaky wheel" helps get things going too.

I hope you can find a copy of the book, I think it will really help. One thing the book will focus on, and something that I think will help everyone through this, is that being dyslexic in no way means that your son isn't extremely intelligent (in fact, most people with dyslexia are more intelligent than average), it just means that your son may struggle with more traditional "school" activities. That being said, some very successful people were dyslexic (Walt Disney, Albert Einstein), and it really helped them more than anything else. A lot of people with dyslexia tend to excel at things that involve 3D spatial relations, like art and architecture, so if that's something your son likes, maybe there's a way to get him involved in an art class or something else he loves if he isn't already. I've always found my students do better at everything when they feel successful at something rather than feeling like a failure, and with all his school struggles, I'm sure your son is starting to feel a little down. I hope things get rolling for you so you can start getting some help.

Catherine - posted on 02/16/2011

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I'm sorry to hear that your son is having trouble. I'm a teacher, and I have seen things like this on occasion. Have you contacted the Special Education department at your son's school? If you do, they can begin arranging the necessary testing to write an IEP (Individual Education Plan) to get him the help he needs. This document is legally binding, and it will apply to state testing/SATs/etc., so it's important to have in place if your son does have a learning disability.

As for what you can do now, I would say to just keep reading and writing with him as much as you can. Also, there's a great book available called "The Gift of Dyslexia." Your son may not be dyslexic, but if he is, the book will give you some interesting insight into how the dyslexic mind works and how to help.

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Richeal - posted on 02/17/2011

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Guys, Thank-You all so much for your advice, it's really helpful to know that other people are going through the same struggles and frustrations. His teacher has told me that she is aware that something is going on and has spoken to a support teacher 4 times already and we are only in week 4 for this year, so its good to know that she is on the ball, as was said earlier a 'squeaky wheel' does get things moving,a teacher once told me that years ago..lol..I just want to be very straight here, I dont have any huge perceptions of where my son should be, I have known his struggles and have accepted that he just learns differently to most, and it's not just the backward writing, there are speech problems , sound problems and maths spelling..the list goes on, its just a lot to write here so I made it as brief as possible. My little man does suffer with anxiety centered around school and he is aware thanks to the children in his class that he is far behind, which is why I did not take him when I saw our GP, I would never do anything to make him feel 'dumb' or 'stupid'. On the other hand he excels at sports, and I do everything to encourage that! He may or may not have Dyslexia, but one thing we are all now sure of is he has a learning problem and we need to find out what we are dealing with so that we can help him, once again Thank-You all, :)

Janet - posted on 02/17/2011

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I'd go to his dr. with your concerns, no one better to schedule testing and it can get the ball rolling... the school can be contacted through them usually too.

Richeal - posted on 02/16/2011

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I'm pretty sure that the school will take its sweet time, i know that I signed a lot of papers last year for some tests to be done but so far still waiting, but I am going to speak with his teacher again and see if we can get anywhere there, Thanks so much you both replying , has definetly helped ease my mind :)

Theresa - posted on 02/16/2011

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You need to request that testing be done through your school too. you can request that even before he gets a diagnosis from a specialist.

Richeal - posted on 02/16/2011

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Thanks for that , I will try and find that book...just got back from our GP who thinks I am right and we are looking at Dyslexia...so off to the specialist we go...You know I really like that title " The Gift" if we have our fears confirmed i will start to look at it that way...very positive...Thank- You

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