ADD/ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder

You’ve always considered your son to be an active child; even as a toddler he was always on the go. He gets bored quickly if there isn’t structure or if he doesn’t like the activity (like homework!) and he prefers to do several things at once. He often interrupts people when they speak, but you’re confident that he can outgrow the behavior. However, his inability to sit still during dinnertime is increasingly annoying and of even more concern is the trouble he’s been getting into in school for calling out answers and leaving his seat without permission. You’re wondering – could he have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)?

Most children are first considered for formal assessment when their school performance is suffering. However, ADD/ADHD can occur in children of every intellectual level (from intellectually challenged all the way to intellectually gifted). The brighter the child, the longer it may take for teachers and parents to become concerned, since the child’s academic performance may not be as quickly or as severely affected by his disorder. Nonetheless, a child who has to work extra hard in order to counteract the effects of ADD/ADHD is usually feeling stressed, exhausted and irritable. These behavioral symptoms should be taken seriously – not just the child’s grades. In fact, no matter what the child’s grades are like, behavioral disturbances at home should also be taken seriously. Sometimes these are a result of parenting style, but sometimes they are caused by conditions inside the child. A proper assessment may lead to a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD or some other developmental condition or simply stress that the child has not been able to express to his parents. Parents should also seek assessment when their child seems to have trouble following instructions, remembering to do what he is told, taking turns, waiting patiently, organizing his schedule and belongings or sitting for age appropriate lengths of time. Don’t assume that a child doesn’t have ADD/ADHD just because he can spend hours sitting quietly in front of the T.V. or computer screen. The disorder only interferes with “boring” activities, not activities that stimulate the child. That is because ADD/ADHD is a brain condition that is essentially understimulated. In fact, medicinal treatment consists of stimulant drugs. Although normal people can tolerate boredom fairly well, those with ADD/ADHD have zero tolerance for boredom because their brains are stimulant hungry – boredom is actually painful for them. This is also why kids with ADD/ADHD tend to get into trouble when left in unstructured situations. They will create activity by getting into mischief. Highly structured programs help prevent this problem.

What is Attention Deficit Disorder?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, are behavioral conditions characterized by an inability to maintain focus for a long time and/ or an inability to keep still. These difficulties in managing attention and activity are more than what is expected developmentally from kids of the same age. The symptoms tend to also persist across all situations, thus a child with ADD or ADHD tends to be inattentive or disruptive, not just at school but at home as well.

ADHD affects somewhere between 5 and 10% of schoolchildren, depending on measurements utilized. Symptoms of ADD or ADHD are never the same with any two people. People with attention deficit disorder may not be able to sit still, plan ahead, finish things, or pay attention to what’s going on around them. Symptoms for ADD may include: having difficulty remaining in one place, difficulty waiting one’s turn in groups, blurting out answers before the question is complete, poor organizational skills, losing things, shifting from one uncompleted task to another, talking excessively, not listening to what is being said, being easily distracted, entering situations without thinking, having difficulty following instructions, fidgeting with hands and feet, squirming while seated, interrupting people often and forgetting things that are necessary for a task or activity.

Kids with ADD/ADHD may also have additional symptoms such as problems with anger, poor social skills, poor fine or gross motor skills, anxiety, sleep disturbances and mood issues. Sometimes ADD/ADHD occurs alongside other disorders such as Tic Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, depression and social phobia. Attention Deficit Disorder has an early onset, and usually manifests itself before a child turns 7 years old.

Symptoms for attention deficit disorder are broken down into three groups: Type 1: Inattentive. This group of ADD sufferer have symptoms of attention deficit – i.e. being easily distracted, daydreaming, losing focus. Type 2:  Hyperactive/Impulsive. This group of people with ADHD show symptoms of overactivity (fidgeting, running or pacing where inappropriate, always “on the go”) and impulsivity (acting without thought, interrupting others, calling out). Type 3 is Mixed Inattentive and Hyperactive/Impulsive, where the person has a mixture of symptoms across both categories – that is, a mix of ADD and ADHD symptoms. Diagnosis is generally not made until the person concerned has eight or more of the above symptoms, and the symptoms have remained the same for at least six months.

Below is a summary of the common symptoms of ADD:

  • Short attention span, mind tends to wander
  • Frequent  forgetfulness
  • High rate of unfinished projects
  • Gets painfully bored when task isn’t interesting or when there is a lack of structure
  • Makes careless errors in schoolwork
  • Is easily distracted
  • Doesn’t follow through on chores or instructions, appears not to listen
  • Disorganized; loses and misplaces things frequently
  • Difficulty in concentrating on tasks, a high rate of unfinished projects
  • Excessive activeness or excessively high energy levels

Common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Constantly being on-the-go
  • Frequent fidgeting and running about
  • Impulsive behavior like blurting out answers in class
  • Trouble waiting in-line or other slow-moving situations
  • Talks excessively and interrupts others

There are no laboratory tests that can measure ADHD; as a behavioral condition, psychologists and medical practitioners rely mainly on observation, interview and teacher reports to get a clear picture of the patient’s state. Diagnosis can be made by a paediatric specialist (a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ADD/ADHD or by a psychologist whose speciality is assessment and diagnosis). Sometimes the family doctor can make a diagnosis as well. Teachers cannot diagnose ADD/ADHD although they may suspect its presence and they are also a vital source of information for those who provide the assessment. Teachers can often refer parents to those who can diagnose. Finally, friends and relatives CANNOT diagnose ADD/ADHD – specialized tests and measurements are required in order to make a diagnosis in addition to behavioural data collected from parents, teachers and others.

What Causes ADHD?
The exact origins of ADHD are still under debate, and many controversies surround the different theories being pushed forward by various research groups and experts. The most accepted explanation so far is that ADHD is a neurological condition related to both the lack of specific chemicals in the brain, and brain structural issues that inhibit attention and self-control. This biological basis is most favored, as ADHD appears to be a genetic condition that begins as early as infancy. However, many researchers also believe that diet, lifestyle and environmental conditions have a lot to do with the symptoms of ADHD. They argue that ADHD is a fairly recent phenomenon, and the condition was rarely reported 50 years ago. ADHD is also rare in poor and developing countries, suggesting that there is something in the way we approach life today that promotes symptoms of inattention and inactivity. In particular, some scientists blame the high sugar content of the modern diet, as well as the rampant used of preservatives and artificial ingredients for ADHD. Excessive use of  technology, such as the television, computer and gaming consoles have also been considered as culprits. Additionally, poisonous chemicals in the air, water and food products are also believed to cause neurological impairment.

How is ADHD Treated?
Once a diagnosis is obtained, parents have a variety of treatment options that they can consider. Both behavioral and biological interventions are usually recommended.

Psychostimulants such as Ritalin have been found to be effective in increasing an ADHD child’s attention span and improving performance at school. Some parents prefer to try alternative treatments such as homeopathy, herbal medicine and nutritional supplements. Some parents will try the natural approach for some months and, if results are not satisfactory, then try psychotropic medication.

Cognitive-Behavioral techniques are used to help manage inattention and impulse control. Children and adult ADHD sufferers can be taught specific techniques to help reduce symptoms and enhance functioning.

When making a decision as to which form of treatment to employ, consultation with the following people is recommended: a behavioural optometrist for a developmental vision evaluation, an allergist regarding possible allergic reactions, a child psychologist who can devise a behaviour modification program, a medical doctor who can assess the need for and prescribe medication and an occupational speech therapist with expertise regarding sensory processing problems. Other professionals to consider are special education tutors who can provide specialized supplementary education when necessary and naturopaths who are experienced in the alternative treatment of this syndrome. Although the treatment team seems large, it is also comprehensive, helping to create the most thorough and effective intervention for those children who have ADD/ADHD.

Bringing Out the Best in the ADD/ADHD Child
Raising a child with ADD/ADHD requires superb parenting skills. Being “Average-Joe-Parent” just won’t do with this population. For a set of easy-to-acquire top parenting skills, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. While your doctor and other members of the professional team are addressing your child’s symptoms, you as a parent can keep the following points in mind:

  • The ADD/ADHD child is not purposely disobedient or unruly. He is dealing with inner compulsions and forces; he would like it if he could be easier going, more flexible, happier and relaxed, but he just can’t get there.  He needs your love, support, patience and understanding.
  • Keep expressions of anger to an absolute minimum with this population. They lack the ego-strength (self-confidence) to handle anger and often react with depression, withdrawal, aggressiveness, acting out and other forms of intense emotional turmoil and dysfunction. Learn how to discipline without using anger at all.
  • Your child might benefit from reading self-help books on ADD/ADHD – there are now many available, written for children and teenagers.
  • Consider experimenting with Bach Flower Therapy as a treatment for ADD/ADHD. Bach Therapy has no side-effects of any kind, yet can often effectively reduce many of the symptoms of ADD/ADHD such as impulsivity, immaturity, hostility, depression, anxiety, restlessness, lack of concentration/attention and more. (You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.) Your naturopath may also recommend other alternative and dietary interventions.
  • Consider enrolling your child in social skills or anger management programs providing sheltered group activities or individual activities that will build personal confidence and self-esteem such as karate lessons, drum lessons, art lessons, cooking classes etc. These needn’t be formal classes – if you can provide extracurricular activities yourself at home (like teaching your child to cook or sew) – that’s great! ADD/ADHD children often grow up to be adults with exceptional creativity and unique gifts. As long as their self-esteem remains intact and they develop ways of working around their deficits, they are capable of being highly successful professionally and personally.

How to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) refers to “people smarts.” A person with high emotional intelligence understands both himself and others. Not only does the person understand people, but he also knows how to make them feel comfortable – he knows how to bring out the best in others. As a result, the person with high E.Q. experiences more success in relationships and at work. Kids with high E.Q. have better relationships at home and at school, with kids and with adults. Moreover, high E.Q.in children and teens is associated with better academic performance, better physical health, better emotional health and better behavior. In adults, high E.Q. is associated with better performance in every area of life.

What can you do to help foster your child’s emotional intelligence? In this article we will discuss ways one can boost their child’s emotional intelligence.

Adapt an Authoritative, Not an Autocratic Parenting Style
Parenting style has a huge influence on children’s emotional intelligence. When parents can guide their children while still being sensitive to their feelings, children have higher E.Q. Authorative parents are warm, but consistent in setting appropriate limits and boundaries. They will use discipline, but not at the expense of respectful communication and care. Their children will learn how to be sensitive to others and they will also learn how to “talk to themselves” compassionately, modelling after their parents. This gentle self-talk becomes a major aspect of their emotional intelligence, a tool they can use to reduce their stress in a healthy way.

Autocratic parents, on the other hand, don’t care that much about the child’s feelings. Instead, they focus on the rules of the household, what is allowed and what is prohibited, what the child may and may not do. Sensitivity to the child’s inner world is missing. In this case, children fail to experience parental empathy and as a result, fail to learn how to soothe their own upset emotions. They may attempt to relieve their discomfort by becoming aggressive, acting out their feelings. Eventually they may turn to comforts outside of themselves such as addictions (to food, alcohol, drugs, etc.). Acting out and addictive behavior reflects lower E.Q.

The more feeling words used by parents and educators, the more sensitive a child becomes to his inner reality. Most of us tend to use few emotion words in our dealings with children, and when we do, we often use the same few tired ones over and over.  It is important that we move beyond “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.”  Shades of feeling are most helpful and can be used when describing our own feelings or the child’s feelings. Words like irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, worried, terrified, alarmed, disappointed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, unsure, curious, interested, hopeful, concerned, shocked, elated, excited, enthusiastic, let down, abandoned, deserted, mellow, calm, peaceful, relaxed, bored, withdrawn, furious, enraged, frightened, panicked, and proud can be used DAILY to help provide an emotional education in the home or classroom. These are the regular feelings that children have in facing life, stimulated by everyday experiences, dreams, movies and even novels. Identifying a youngster’s emotional reaction and feeding it back to him, helps him to become aware of his inner processing. This information then forms the core of his emotional intelligence, providing an accurate barometer of his response to his world. From this place of inner certainty, a child is well-equipped to navigate life, knowing what he feels, what he is searching for and when he has attained it. His familiarity with the world of feelings allows him to connect accurately and sensitively with others. This prevents him from hurting other people’s feelings with words and further, permits him to achieve great kindness and sensitivity in his interpersonal transactions.

Here are some practical steps you can take to bring feelings into focus:

  1. Respond to your child. From the time your child is a crying infant to the time she is a young adult, be sure to be responsive. This means that you take her communications seriously. If she cries, try to come (instead of making her cry it out.). If she asks for something, try to answer her promptly. If she talks, you listen and respond appropriately. All of this responsiveness builds emotional intelligence because you are giving your youngster valuable relationship feedback. In the opposite scenario, in which a parent either fails to respond or responds only after a long waiting period, the child learns that people tune each other out. This causes the child to shut down. She assumes that her feelings aren’t that important based on lack of parental responsiveness and from this concludes that people’s feelings aren’t that important – the very OPPOSITE of the conclusions made by emotionally intelligent people. Quick responsiveness gives the message that people’s feelings matter. This is a prerequisite concept for emotional intelligence.
  2. Use a FEELING vocabulary. Pepper your daily conversation with “feeling” words. You can name your own feelings. Let your child know that you feel excited or dismayed or discouraged or resentful or whatever. This gives your child the vital information that everyone – including parents – has feelings and an inner life. Some people do this naturally, of course, but many do not. For instance, when a child is making too much noise, a parent may just say something like, “Can you please quiet down?” However, the Emotional Coach would say something like, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all this noise going on. Can you please quiet down?” Similarly, a regular parent might give positive feedback to a child in this way, “I like the way you waited patiently in line with me at the bank today.” An Emotional Coach, on the other hand, might say something like, “I felt very relaxed with you in the bank today because you were waiting so patiently.” In other words, the Emotional Coach looks for opportunities to describe his or her inner experience. It is this description that helps the child begin to build an emotional vocabularly that will open the doors to Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Name your child’s feelings. Children feel feelings all day long but not all parents comment on them. In fact, many parents are more practical, focusing on solutions to problems. For instance, if a child is upset because there are no more of his favorite cookies left in the jar, the typical parent might say, “I’ll pick up some more for you when I go shopping this week.” While that solves the problem, it doesn’t build emotional intelligence. An Emotional Coach might say, “Oh, that’s so disappointing! You really love those cookies! I’ll pick some up for you when I go shopping this week.” The extra few words acknowledging the child’s inner world (“Oh that’s so disappointing”) make all the difference when it comes to building Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, parents often try to get kids to STOP their feelings or at least SHRINK their feelings by saying things like, “Just calm down – it’s not such a big deal” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The Emotional Coach, on the other hand, accepts all the child’s feelings, giving the child the name for what is going on inside. “I can see how upset you are,” or “You’re really scared about this,” or “It so important to you,” and so on. By accepting all feelings as they are, the Emotional Coach teaches kids not to be afraid of or overwhelmed by feelings. This is a very important part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  4. Teach your child how to express emotions appropriately. While all feelings are acceptable, all BEHAVIORS are not. It is not O.K. to hit and scream just because you feel angry. It is not O.K. to cry for an hour at the top of your lungs just because you are disappointed. Parents must teach children – by their example and by their interventions – the appropriate behavioral expression of emotions. For instance, parents can teach children to express their anger in a respectful way by saying things like, “When you are mad at your brother for touching your puzzle, just tell him ‘I don’t want you to touch my puzzle. I’m working hard on it and it bothers me when you move the piece around.’ Don’t slap his hand!” Parents will have to use the normal techniques of positive attention, encouragement and discipline to get the lessons across. It is, of course, essential, that parents are respectful themselves in the way they express their upset, fear and disappointment. See “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on how to teach the proper way to express negative emotions.
  5. Let them experience failure and disappointment. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children from disappointment. But know that rescuing children from pain, to the point that they never get to experience life, will backfire in the long run. Children need to know how to bounce back from adversity — resilience muscles need training too! And children won’t know how it is to rebound from disappointment if they aren’t allowed to experience it to begin with. When your child gets a poor mark on a project, don’t rush to the teacher to get the mark raised; instead, use emotional coaching with your child (that is, NAME her feelings). “This mark is so disappointing! You tried really hard and the teacher didn’t appreciate it. That is frustrating!” By naming feelings, you actually help shrink them down to size. Feeling words act as “containers” for feelings. It’s O.K. for the child to be upset, or even to cry. After awhile, she’ll calm down. And this is the important part – learning that calm follows a storm. Everything in life doesn’t need to be perfect. There is such a thing as recovery. “There will be more projects, more chances to get a good grade.” You want to show the child that you yourself aren’t afraid of negative experiences or emotions. This model that life is “survivable” can really help a child cope when the going gets rough.
  6. Expand their social network. Few parents think of other people as possible teaching instruments in promoting emotional intelligence. But kids can learn more from interesting personalities and other people’s life experiences than they can from a classroom lecture. Having to adapt well to different types of people — quiet, assertive, annoying, fun-loving — can teach a child how to regulate their behavior based on the demands of an interaction. The challenges other people go through can also provide insight on how to manage one’s own trials in life. Learning vicariously through the success and failure of other people is a good way to raise a child’s E.Q. So if you can, go ahead and enroll your child in various clubs or organizations. When they’re a bit older, encourage them to volunteer in community service. Send them on mission trips. Let them talk with grandpa or grandma. Every person has a lesson to impart to a child.

Fear of Public Speaking

Does your child have a fear of public speaking? Well, he’s in good company! The fear of public speaking is right at the top of people’s greatest fears and phobias. The thought of embarrassing one’s self in front of people critiquing every move is very anxiety-provoking for almost everyone.

If your child has a fear of public speaking, it’s good to address it early on. Even though it’s normal, it’s also in his or her way. There are so many occasions in life that demand public speaking: giving school reports and later on, business reports, participating in classes, making speeches in social settings like graduations, weddings, the celebrations of one’s children, funerals and so on. There’s a lot to be gained from being able to speak comfortably in front of a group. Aside from skills in being a good communicator, successful public speaking also builds self-confidence, logic, and excellent communication skills. As an extra-curricular activity, or as a support for everyday school and work life, public speaking has a lot to offer.

The following are some tips in helping a child master a fear of public speaking:

Teach Self-Help Skills to Manage Anxiety
If possible, teach your child EFT (emotional freedom technique) or have a professional practitioner teach it. This speedy acupressure  technique can be done the night before, and again right before, a presentation to completely remove the butterflies, settle the nerves and help your child do his or her best. It can be learned in one or two sessions and there are lots of on-line video and text support for further training and information.

In addition, you can offer your child Rescue Remedy – a water-based harmless remedy available at health food stores and on-line, that can often immediately calm anxiety.  A few drops in water, or sprayed in the mouth or splashed on the wrists right before speaking (and the night before), can help tremendously. Rescue Remedy is also available in chewing gum and candy form in many places.

Also, you can teach your child how to slow his or her breath down in order to turn off the rush of adrenaline. Visualization techniques can help too: have the child imagine everyone clapping and cheering after his or her speech. Have him or her draw pictures of smiling faces in an audience and post them around the house. This can desensitize the brain and help grow the expectation of a successful outcome. If your child still feels uncomfortably anxious after trying these interventions, consider consulting a mental health professional for further help. This is especially important to follow-up with if your child is already a teen since teenagers have more occasion to engage in public speaking.

Start Small
Is your child willing to practice a speech with you? If so, help out. Otherwise, enlist the help of a sibling or even a speech instructor.  Whoever does it – the principles are the same.  Start small by delivering simple, short pieces (how about a two minute speech on how much you like jam?) It’s also good to cut down to a small audience (just one person) while mastering one’s fears.

Help Your Child Rehearse What He or She is Going to Say
One of the scarier things about public speaking is the fear of forgetting the words or stuttering in the middle of a speech. These fears can be addressed by constant practice. Help your child rehearse his or her speech or book report in front of a mirror several times before the big day. Teach him how to make cue cards for the bits they tend to forget. Introduce simple memory aids like cue cards.. The more a child rehearses, the more he or she will be confident in speaking in front of a group.

No Pressure
It’s helpful to reduce performance pressure. Don’t build up such a frenzy that the child will be terrified of letting the whole family down. In fact, it isn’t even necessary to emphasize how excellent the performance was even if it was – but rather emphasize how much fun it was for you to see the child on stage. By taking the pressure off, you allow the child to grow more gently and naturally into his or her speaking skills.

Helping Your Child Succeed at School

Ideally, learning should be a partnership between the home and the school. This is especially so when a child has special learning needs and requires more support. Teachers do the best they can to maximize a class’ learning, but they need to be made aware of special circumstances that can make studies more challenging for a particular child. Similarly, teachers’ efforts are best supported and even enhanced by at-home parental interventions.

The following are some tips on how parents of a child with learning disabilities can work better with their child’s teachers:

Develop a Relationship
Your child’s teachers care about your child. Teachers want their students to become the best that they can be, and want them to benefit as much as possible from the classroom environment. So introduce yourself to your child’s teacher, and start to build your team. Attend PTA meetings, sign notes home, call in with questions or concerns. In order to establish rapport, make sure to give the teacher positive feedback as well as appreciation: “Johnny just loves your class! You obviously have a way with kids!” Small gifts at holiday times are also good ways of showing appreciation.

Communicate Your Child’s Special Needs
If your child has already been diagnosed with a learning disorder or other special needs, it’s important that you inform your child’s teachers as soon as possible. While parents understandably don’t want their kid to be discriminated because of his or her disability, they do want the best education possible. This may involve using special teaching or grading strategies, making various accomodations and so forth. You can help the teacher understand your child’s reactions, behavior and learning style by providing all the information you have. This will enable the teacher to bring out the best in your youngster. Even if your child does not have a formal assessment, you may know something that the teacher does not  about what motivates your child. Sharing your insights with the teacher can empower the teacher to achieve more with your child.

Be Prepared to Educate Your Child’s Teacher about Your Child’s Condition
Don’t assume that the classroom teacher knows all there is to know about various learning challenges. Children may have learning disabilities, ADHD, behavioral issues, trauma, anxiety or mood issues that interfere with their ability to learn. While almost all teachers have some background in special needs and special education, not all are experienced or have expertise handling specific conditions. It’s up to you as a parent then to provide classroom teachers with resources on what your child is going through, and specific tips on how, as teachers, they can help your child.

Communicate Your Child’s Strong Points
Remember to communicate your child’s strengths as well. Your child is not defined by his or her learning problems and challenges. If both you and his or her teacher are consistent in reinforcing positive areas of growth, then you can further strengthen these areas, and create a more resilient child.

Be Willing to be Part of the Assessment Process
When teachers notice changes in a child’s performance or behavior, they may want speak with you. Perhaps they want to make recommendations, urge you to get assessment or treatment for your child, or ask for your help. Since all of their concerns have to do with your child’s education, it’s most helpful if you listen carefully to what the teacher is saying. This is no time to be overprotective of your child or defensive about him or her. Instead, it’s the time to collaborate with the teacher and work together to bring out the best in your youngster. When the teacher sees that you take his or her concerns seriously, he or she will be even more inspired to work hard on behalf of your child.

Special Education

The traditional classroom setting is not always a good fit for a child with special needs. If your child has learning disabilities (i.e. reading and writing difficulties), he or she may have trouble keeping up with peers in a regular classroom setting. Similarly, if your child has a behavioral disorder, such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), then your child may need certain interventions that a regular classroom teacher is not trained in. And if your child is gifted in a particular way, then he or she may find the general curriculum insufficiently stimulating.

To help your child get the most in his or her learning situation, you may want to consider placing him or her in a special education classroom.

What is a Special Education Classroom?
As the term implies, a special education classroom refers to a learning environment that differs from the standard education offered in traditional public and private schools.

A special education classroom offers alternative teaching and classroom management styles, from instructors trained in special education. Materials are also adapted to the special needs of the learners; for instance children who are visually impaired may be given textbooks in brail or large font. The curriculum may also be atypical; a special education class for children with mental retardation and autism can teach self-management and social skills instead of math or science.

What’s Great about Special Education Classrooms?
In a special education classroom, students are encouraged to learn at their own pace, and thus the class need not follow the school curriculum prescribed by the government. Learning is very individualized; usually instructors tailor fit their lesson plan to the profile of the class, making each special education class unique.

Typically, teacher-learner ratio is very small, at times even 1:1. Parents, caregivers and learning specialists may also accompany students while taking their classes, unlike in the traditional classroom environment where classroom parental supervision is discouraged after the first day of class.

Should Your Child be Enrolled in a Special Education Class?
If you have a child with special needs, a special education classroom may be appropriate. However, it’s important to keep in mind both the advantages and disadvantages of special placement.

One of the main disadvantages of special education classrooms is that they tend to take kids away from what is perceived as a “normal” learning experience. Children miss opportunities to socialize and learn with the other “normal” (not identified as “special!”) kids their age. They may also feel like they are being ostracized for their disability or special needs, that their exclusion from mainstream classroom is a sign that they are inferior in some way.

Some educators argue that special education classrooms do not adequately prepare a child for the real world, as most social and working environments will require mainstreaming. Special education classrooms are largely dependent too on the skill of the instructor or administrator; with the term “special needs” having such a huge scope, that it’s quite possible for a special education class to fail to respond adequately to each child.

Below are some things you may consider as a parent:

Can My Child’s Learning Needs be Responded to Adequately in a Traditional Classroom?
Note that special needs differ in nature and degree, and your child may not require a special education classroom after all. A child with mild ADHD, for example, can successfully mainstream if his or her condition is adequately managed by therapy and medication. A child with hearing problems may be assisted by technology or a caregiver who provides sign language interpretation. If reasonable accommodations can be made, it might be best to limit the changes to a child’s life because of a disability or condition.

Will My Child Do Better in a Special Education Classroom?
On the flipside, all parents want their children to be the best that they can be. We all have to concede that general education is precisely that — general. Even if your child can perform adequately in a traditional classroom, if the individualized teaching methods and specialized equipment can assist them to achieve and break expectations, then by all means enroll your child in a special education classroom.

Can You Augment Special Education Classrooms with Other Supportive Activities?
What you sacrifice when you enroll your child in a special education class, you can recover by increasing their participation in other programs designed to increase their socialization and self-sufficiency. Programs geared towards developing talents, summer camps and the like can all augment what is lost in special education. In fact, there is nothing to say that special education classrooms can’t be taken alongside traditional classroom learning — perhaps your child can get the best of both worlds.

Can You Afford Special Education Classrooms?
Luckily, with the government’s growing recognition of the rights and needs of persons with disabilities, special education is offered for free in many states. There are also many non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups who offer special education for a low cost. But most private special education classrooms still require hefty tuition, understandably because one-on-one care is costly. Personal finances are a realistic consideration.

Selecting a Tutor

If your child is struggling in school, or has a learning disability, hiring a tutor is an option worth considering. Tutors can provide the one-on-one attention lacking in many traditional schools, and can zero in on the unique difficulties your child is experiencing. Tutors can also provide much needed support in order for your child to catch up with their peers, and participate more in class. Tutors can also replace YOU when your child rebels against working on schoolwork with you; in this way, tutors help preserve a healthy parent-child relationship.

If you want to maximize your child’s relationship with his or her tutor, consider the following tips:

Consider Your Tutor’s Credentials
Different children have different needs from their tutors. Some kids do well in class, but have tutors because parents lack time to supervise their assignments. Others need extra assistance in particular subjects like math or science. There are those with learning disabilities like dyslexia or dyscalculia who need specialized tools and teaching methodology. Some kids with behavioral issues are enrolled in tutoring services not for academic gain, but to increase their socialization with other kids.

Pick a tutor whose credentials match your child’s needs. Not all tutors are the same; some are high school or college students who need an extra gig, others are subject matter experts, and there are those with background and training in special education. A high school student, no matter how well-meaning and intelligent he or she is, may not be able to respond adequately to the needs of an ADHD child. Similarly, why hire an expert (who likely has a more expensive rate per hour) when a student tutor can provide the same help at a lesser cost for a child who just needs a little support?

Consider Your Tutor’s Rapport with the Child
A good tutor-student relationship is not just hinged on the skills of the tutor. There are also other intangibles like the tutor’s patience, consistency and courtesy. And then there’s rapport and chemistry. Some personalities just click and others just don’t!

Don’t assume that just because a tutor worked well with someone else’s child means they will work well with yours. Always ask your child if he or she is comfortable with the person you hired; after all, children learn better if they’re working with someone they like and trust. A tutor with a good rapport with your child can motivate your child better, and even raise his or her self-confidence and efficacy.

Establish a Partnership with Your Child’s Tutor
Having a tutor doesn’t mean that a parent can surrender all tasks in monitoring their child’s academic performance. Seek periodic reports and ask what you can do to help. Many tutorial lessons can be reinforced by the right parenting style, especially for children struggling with low self-esteem or poor impulse control. Provide your tutor input as well on how to best deal with your child. Let them know what works and what doesn’t work in motivating your child to do better. Let them know what the best day or time to conduct tutoring is (which is usually the time when your child’s mind is freshest).

Pick a Tutor Who is Growth-Oriented
The best tutors are those who work at helping students learn how to stand on their own, instead of making them forever dependent on tutoring. Look for a tutor who can actually teach your child learning skills and academic skills. Your child may benefit from learning how to write an essay or a research paper or a speech; or he may benefit from learning how to decipher the meaning in a paragraph or how to approach mathematical problems. Once your child knows how to learn, he’ll need less outside support. If your child has a learning disorder or other special need, try to find a tutor who has specialized training and/or experience.

Child Has Difficulty in School

A child may have difficulty in school for many reasons. Some kids aren’t motivated to learn because they are distracted by stress at home. Some kids have trouble concentrating because they have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and others have difficulty quieting down to learn because they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some children have intellectual challenges (developmental delays or mental retardation) and still others have specific Learning Disabilites. In this article, we will examine Learning Disabilities and their impact on school children and teens.

What is a Learning Disability?
A Learning Disability (LD) refers to the umbrella of biological, mental and behavioral conditions that result in difficulty with tasks related to absorbing, processing and applying information and skills. In other words, information may be hard to organize, hard to remember, hard to understand and/or hard to express. For instance, a child with a learning disability that affects arithmetic may have any of these problems:

  • Can’t make sense of what the teacher is explaining
  • Can’t recall what the teacher said
  • Knows what the teacher said but can’t explain it to others
  • Knows what was said, but can’t apply it to new arithmetic questions
  • Learning troubles associated with LDs are not due to a student’s lack of effort or his or her intellectual capacity. Areas that may be affected by a learning disability include reading, writing, performing mathematical processes, listening and speaking.

There are many different types of learning disabilities. Below are some common ones:

  • Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a genetic condition characterized by difficulty in reading. Contrary to popular opinion, dyslexia is not an illness that causes people to read backwards. But people with dyslexia do have difficulty with spelling, reading words aloud, and phonological processing or the manipulation of sounds. Some dyslexics have a condition called “strephosymbolia” which is the tendency to read similar symbols incorrectly, as they are spatially reversed in the brain. Thus, “b” may be read as “d” or “w” may be read as “m.” Whole words can be misread or remembered inaccurately due to this condition.
  • DysgraphiaAlso called agraphia, dysgraphia is an LD related to difficulty with writing. Specifically, people with LD have trouble with the fine motor skills and muscle coordination involved in writing. Issues with the language and perceptual centers of the brain may also contribute to the difficulty in putting words to paper.
  • Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia covers learning disorders related to problems with numerical operations and tasks requiring math reasoning. Issues faced by a person with dyscalculia include inability to understand the concept of numbers and quantities, basic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as logic problems related to numbers.
  • Dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a motor learning disability. While its manifestation is in execution of movement, dyspraxia has less to do with muscle problems, and more to do with the brain’s ability to process and execute commands relating to physical action. Dyspraxia is believed to occur among 10% of the general population.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While primarily a behavioral condition, ADHD is sometimes considered to be a learning disability because it impairs a person’s ability to concentrate on a task and finish what one has started. Because of this, kids often have trouble catching up to lessons in school. Hyperactivity also affects learning, as few kids with ADHD are able to keep still in the traditional classroom environment.
  • Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). As the name implies, CAPD refers to difficulty in learning through hearing. A child with CAPD would have difficulty attending to instructions, listening to lectures, and distinguishing sounds from each other. Since it can interfere with classroom learning, it may also be considered a learning disability.

Help your Child Deal with Academic Failure

A child spends about twenty developmental years in school. He spends more time on academics than any other activity during his growing up years. What happens when his talents and abilities lie outside the academic realm? What is it like to deal with regular academic failure and frustration? Whether a child has chronic and severe learning issues or whether he or she has simply gotten a low score on one particular project, academic failure can be traumatic, especially when it comes after much hard work and struggle. Not being able to make the grade on a regular basis tends to lower a child’s self-esteem; tutors, remedial classes and make-up tests can be demoralizing.

How can parents help their child deal with academic failure and frustration? Consider the following tips:

Intervene Early
It’s important that parents communicate their concern and support as early as the first signs of academic failure. While trusting our children to bounce back on their own is a good thing, parents can’t afford to intervene only when the final report card is released. Ongoing interest in the child’s school performance not only prevents sudden surprises at end of term, but also allows parents to offer emotional support, encouragement and practical intervention. Sometimes a little individual attention from a teacher or tutor can set the child on course. Sometimes boosting the child’s confidence in non-academic areas can buffer the frustration of negative academic feedback. The earlier parents can step in to address the situation, the less “repair” they’ll need to do later on.

Deal with Your Child’s Feelings
Parents understandably get upset when presented with a failing mark. But it’s important to remember that children have strong feelings about failure too — even if they come across as uncaring about their grade. Sit down with your child and ask them how they feel about the situation. Let them vent. And be willing to look past a defiant exterior; insolence can be a mask to hide a child’s feelings of vulnerability inside. Don’t be alarmed if your child “doesn’t care” about his low grades – that’s most likely a neat defence he is building to ward off feelings of shame and failure. Don’t overwhelm your youngster with your own feelings about his grades; instead, ask in a matter-0f-fact tone about how he feels and then reflect his words back to him. “I know what you mean..it IS frustrating when the teacher doesn’t give part-marks…and really annoying when you actually spent time studying and then get a mark like this.” After you “emotionally coach” the child in this way, spare him the lectures. If you have a handy tip to offer, first ASK him if he’d like to hear it and if he doesn’t want to, just leave it for now. He may ask you about it later. You can also offer help and intervention: “Would you like some help in studying next time?” or “Would you like me to ask the teacher to give you a little time after school to go over things?” or “Would you like a tutor?” and so on.

Help Ascertain the Reasons for the Failure
Instead of focusing on the disappointing outcome, focus instead on identifying the factors that contributed to the failure. Usually it’s not one reason, but a combination of many things like learning and/or attention issues, lack of motivation, lack of conducive study spaces or dislike for the subject matter. When academic problems are chronic, a professional psycho-educational assessment is the best venue for determining the cause. Most school boards can arrange this for their students and private psychologists also specialize in providing this service.

Get Your Child to Take Responsibility
Is your child at fault for the failure? Perhaps he skips class or chooses to watch TV instead of reviewing for an exam. If this is the case, it is important that parents get the child to acknowledge that he also has a contribution to the failure. This step is not to encourage self-blame, but to instill responsibility for one’s choices and behavior. And to make responsibility easier to accept, parents can also acknowledge their own shortcomings to their children and how they’ve addressed them over the years. Modeling how to take ownership for the consequences of one’s actions is one of the best gifts parents can give to a child.

Set Learning Goals Together
Parents can help children deal with academic failure by being future-oriented and proactive. Set learning outcomes together with your child, for example decide on acceptable and realistic targets for the next grading period or the next school year. Create a workable map on how to achieve those learning outcomes. Make plans too involving behavioral changes that need to happen in order to facilitate a better academic performance.

Child Worries About School Performance

School is a high-pressure environment. The student must compete with himself as well as with his peers. He wants to please himself, his parents and his teachers. It’s intense! Because most kids spend the majority of their day at school (and have to deal with homework once home), it’s only natural for them to feel stressed throughout the academic year.

How can parents help children who worry about school performance? Consider the following tips:

Equip Your Child with the Right Study Habits
School performance can be enhanced by having the right work ethic and knowing the tricks to better learning. If possible, hire a tutor to teach your child how to learn. That tutor (or, you, yourself, if you have the patience, skills, time and energy!) can teach your child mnemonics, or aids to better memorization, promote conscientious note-taking, provide some test-taking tips. If tutoring is not and option, check with your child’s teacher to see if he or she can provide a tutorial on study skills. In some schools, the guidance department also offers this service. You can also help by creating conducive study spaces at home, and make sure your child is always well-rested during class (by getting a good night’s sleep). When kids know how to approach learning like a science, they can feel less anxious about their school performance.

Encourage Your Children to Communicate Early if They’re Having Problems
Encourage your children to come to you or to their teacher ASAP if they are having difficulty in understanding or keeping up with lessons. It’s better to deal with a problem early, rather than feel the pressure when the problems have piled up. Similarly, it is always best if teachers know which of their students is experiencing worry about school performance. Knowing that a child has anxieties can make a teacher more sensitive about the things he or she will say, and proactive at providing encouragement. Let your child’s teacher know if your child is experiencing performance anxiety or learning anxiety of any kind.

Adjust Your Expectations Based on Your Child’s Natural Gifts
All parents want their children to be the best in their class — and there’s nothing wrong with encouraging kids to seek achievement. But the reality is, some children are more gifted than others when it comes to academics. There are also those with inborn skills that make them better adept than peers at certain subjects like math or language. If your child’s strength lies in other areas, such as sports or arts, then still encourage him to be the best that he can be in school, but also help him fulfill their potential in other areas. Try to have realistic academic expectations so your child doesn’t feel unduly pressured; it’s painful enough for children to receive low grades – they don’t want to know that they’re breaking your heart on top of it all.

Try Natural Remedies for School Stress
Bach Flower Remedies can help ease a child’s way through school stress. Larch helps with fear of failing. Cerato helps with feeling judged. White Chestnut helps with obsessive thinking (the kind that keeps you up at night). Rescue Remedy can help with test anxiety. Mimulus helps with shyness that might create social problems at school. You can find more information about the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

In addition, the use of EFT (emotional freedom technique) can reduce text anxiety, social stress and academic stress. You can find more information about EFT online and in books.

Seek Professional Help
When a child is suffering from academic stress and support and natural interventions are not enough to relieve the pressure, do consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. Panic attacks, stomach aches, headaches, depressed mood and chronic stress can all be alleviated with the right help. Ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral. Your child will not only feel better, but will likely perform better as well!