Responding to School Difficulties

Listening to a recent NPR segment reminded me of the frequent difficulties in helping our active children receive the supports they need in the school. Lets be honest, when we are not good at things we tend to want to avoid them. The frustrating aspect for a child though is that they do not get that option, while we as adults can become frustrated with our jobs and search for other opportunities, a child has little recourse. We all too frequently tell children that this is just their job and have to put up with it, sending the signal that there is not relief ahead and they will have to find their own way. It is at this point that often the behaviors begin to escalate. Feeling trapped and with no way out of the challenging situation, the repeated failures in their ability to succeed in this environment often begins to impact them emotionally. Their self-esteem begins to wear thin, and often they will present as more angry, aggitated, and sad. The increased aggitation can then begin to flow over to their social relationships as they begin to have a lower frustration tolerance impacting their ability to cope with social stressors. A domino effect is created along with a feeling of hopelessness all too often resulting in the determination that “he just doesn’t try.”

Noticing the signs early on and getting help is a great first step, but finding the right team to help you navagate the academic environment is just as important. With the potential for SST’s, IEP’s, psychological testing, and a variety of other possibilities increases the confusion as well as the potential supports. It becomes increasingly important to work closely with the school and have an advocate who is able to communicate the mental health needs in order to implement interventions as well as additional support services. Further, as parents, you have a variety rights and acting early can prevent your child from being moved to an alternate school or worst case removed from the district entirely. 

While there are certainly horror stories out there, and all too often some school personal are short on resources and training needed, we know from personal experience many tremendous successes stories. The difference maker in each is when families, supports, and advocates are able to work closely with schools to identify and implement the supports to turn things around before they escalate. It is not without a struggle, and weeks and months of effort, but with effective communication between all supports, and a clear understanding and treatment plan established, positive changes is possible. 


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