When Your Child Is Having Trouble in School

If you notice any of the following, your child may be having trouble at school that needs immediate attention:

  1. A child who usually cooperates with adults begins to be disobedient at school. This is often the first indication of learning problems in preschool and kindergarten.

  2. A child who usually gets along well with other children gets into fights at school, hurts other children, or takes their things.

  3. Your child has trouble staying still or seated during class.

  4. Your child's grades are dropping or have never been good.

  5. A child who does well in most subjects is failing or struggling to keep up in one subject.

  6. A child who seems to learn his lessons at home, but does poorly on the tests at school.

  7. Your child complains of headaches, stomachaches or other physical problems at school or shortly after coming home from school.

  8. Your child frequently refuses to go to school or becomes very distressed about going to school.

  9. Your child seems to have trouble remembering things or learning new things.

  10. Your child has become quieter than usual, seems discouraged, or doesn't seem to try at schoolwork any more.

If one or more of these are true for your child, call the teacher and set up a conference. At the conference, ask the teacher what he or she has noticed at school and what has been done to help your child. Ask the teacher to work with you on a plan to learn what is causing your child's difficulty. The plan may include the following:

1. Making some changes in the classroom. Some children can focus better, and see and hear better, if they sit near the teacher. There may be one or more classmates causing problems for your child that need to be seated further away.

2. Find out how your child learns best. For example, some children learn better by hearing, and other learn better by seeing. The teacher may find that she needs to make sure to say aloud some information that she usually writes for the class; or she may need to write down or demonstrate some additional things for your child that she usually says aloud. When your child is learning something new, it will help for it to be presented in a way that he or she learns best.

3. If your child's problems have been going on longer than this school year, or if the teacher has already tried some changes in the classroom, ask that your child be tested for learning difficulties. This can take some time, so it is best to request an evaluation as soon as it is clear that making changes in the classroom is not going to solve the problem.

Requesting an Evaluation

To request an evaluation through the school system, call the principal of the school and ask that your child be tested for learning difficulties. The principal should tell you exactly what needs to be done and will probably set up a meeting. After your conversation with the principal, write a letter to the principal stating your understanding of what was discussed. Mail the letter to the school, and also bring a copy of the letter with you when you meet with the school team. This will help make sure that any miscommunications are cleared up right away.

In order for the school to test your child, you will need to sign many forms. These are to protect your rights and your child's rights. You will have to sign that you agree to have your child tested and you will have to sign that you agree with each step of the process. This prevents the school from testing you child without your knowledge or placing your child in a special class without your agreement. If you do not agree with something that the school suggests, say so and do not sign that you agree. If you do not understand something you are asked to sign, say you do not understand and refuse to sign until someone can explain it to your satisfaction. Do not be afraid to ask questions. The school staff wants to make sure you understand and agree to each step.

An evaluation is more than just one test. You will need to sign for each test given and sign that you understand the results. A decision about what kind of help your child needs will have to wait until the tests are completed and the results are given. The tests may show that your child has a type of "learning disability" that can be helped by changing the way some things are done in the classroom or by using some special materials within the same classroom. The tests may suggest that your child might learn better in a different type of classroom for a particular subject. If tests show that a child has problems with many different types of learning, a special education class may be needed for most subjects or sometimes it may be best to have an aide to help the child participate in regular classes. Based on the test results, you and the school staff will decide the best way to encourage you child's success.

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