Struggle, Part Two

*This is a continuation from "Struggle, Part One." Please read the original entry for additional information*

The last three reasons for school problems (which will also be topics of future columns) are learning disabilities, drug use and other mental problems.  I will give you some markers to look for and some brief suggestions for each of these here. 

Learning disabilities can be very subtle, and consequently easy to miss.  Your child may have a learning style not favored in educational systems today, which are largely designed to teach visual and auditory learners.  Some children are verbal or kinesthetic learners and need to have adjustments made in school that will allow them to excel.  Other children can have genius abilities in some subjects, and little abilities in others.  Consequently they can seem bright and perform poorly.  Usually all of these problems can be pinpointed through a learning assessment that includes psycho-educational testing, and then the necessary steps to address them can be taken.

Drug use affects every area of a user’s life.  Sometimes it will show up first in schoolwork, especially if parents want to deny what is happening.  If you see any of the signs of drug use or if there is a sudden increase in angry or oppositional behavior for no apparent reason, it is time to have a professional assess your child.

The most common, though certainly not the only, mental illnesses that affect school age children are anxiety, ADHD and depression.  Some anxiety about school is normal, but if your child seems to be overly anxious and it is interfering in any major area of his life, then, it is good to seek professional help.  Treated early with good cognitive-behavioral therapy, anxiety can be overcome- ignored it can become a lifelong burden.  The same is true of depression.  Everybody has times of feeling down, but if these go on for any length of time or seem to be recurring frequently or without cause, it is best to talk with a therapist.  If either the anxiety or the depression continues despite therapy then it is time to consult a child psychiatrist to see if medication is appropriate.  With ADHD, if the condition is preventing learning either for your son, or for the children seated near him in school, or if the condition is preventing you son from forming appropriate social relationships with other children his own age, then an assessment for medication is indicated 

And, if the problem is just laziness, “acting out,” stubbornness or rebelliousness or just a kid trying to get his own way, a good counselor can help you to develop strategies along with appropriate rewards and consequences to correct the aberrant behavior.