Learning Disabilities and Self-Esteem

Because they have more difficulty in school compared to other kids, children with learning disabilities (LDs) sometimes start to question their own intelligence and competence. Their self-esteem can suffer, despite the fact that they usually have normal or even very high intelligence as measured on standard instruments.  In fact, a learning disability is defined as a SPECIFIC deficit in one or two areas of functioning (i.e. math and reading) despite overall normal (or even higher)  intelligence. However, children typically experience a great deal of failure and frustration before they end up being officially diagnosed with a learning disability. It is often during this period of not knowing what the problem is that kids are particularly vulnerable to developing low self-esteem.

However, even after diagnosis there are many threats to the child’s self-concept: there’s the anger, self-pity and a sense of helplessness that comes from having to work harder than peers, or from needing to be isolated in special learning situations (remedial teachers, classrooms or schools), or having to endure after-school tutors and lessons. Despite all the interventions and efforts, many children with learning disabilities will never do as well as their peers in their weak areas. Moreover, some kids with severe learning disabilities will not be able to keep up with or join in certain activities because of their deficits and this exclusion, too, can contribute to low self-esteem.

In addition, not all people are sensitive or affirming when they relate to children with disabilities. Some kids can be downright cruel, teasing children with special needs or even bullying them. Parents and teachers may also unconsciously communicate low expectations, and may unintentionally send the message that they don’t see the child as capable.

A Predictor of Success
However, since healthy self-esteem is a key ingredient for attaining  success in life, it is important that parents do what they can to help their learning disabled child acquire a positive self-concept.

Studies have consistently shown that if kids with LDs consider themselves as capable and confident, they do better in all areas of life. Moreover, they are less likely to fall into mental health issues associated with LDs, such as depression or anxiety.

Define the Term “Learning Disability”
A learning disability is a condition, not a trait. In this way, it is similar to diabetes or asthma. Helping your child know that he or she is normal but has a condition, can go a long way to keeping that youngster’s self-esteem intact. There are books for children that explain learning disabilities; seeing the condition described in a book can also help kids realize that this is something outside of themselves that they must deal with, but it does not define all of who they are. Children often misunderstand the term “learning disabilities,” thinking that it means that they can’t learn! This erroneous idea can affect their performance across the board. Instead of just having difficulty in one or two areas, a child with this misconception can do poorly in every area simply because he believes he is intellectually handicapped. It is very important for parents to spell out the specific disability and to highlight the child’s learning strengths. For instance, a parent might say, “your brain has trouble recognizing and remembering letters (this is called ‘dyslexia’)and so you have to work harder to be a fast reader. But in every other way, your brain works perfectly and you are actually very smart. So this means that you should find it easy to do your arithmetic, art, gym, music, science and most of your other subjects. You can can also be awesome on the computer and in sports. And because you’re so smart, you will be able to figure out how to help your brain remember the letters and you will become a good reader – it will just take a bit of work. But we’re going to provide you with extra help so it will be even easier.”

In addition, parents should focus on their child’s areas of natural strength and competency. If the child is a talented musician, artist, cook, computer whiz or whatever, parents can highlight the child’s gift and smarts in these areas. Parents can try to expose their child to as many different activities as possible in order to help the child find areas of competency. For instance, if you don’t invite the child into the kitchen to prepare dessert for the family, neither you nor the child will ever know that cooking is his natural talent! In addition to skills, LD kids also have commendable traits such as determination, compassion or courtesy. Giving positive feedback to character and behavior is another way to boost the child’s self-esteem.

Let Them Contribute
Assume that the child is competent unless the child proves otherwise. Therefore, treat your learning disabled child as a full fledged member of the family with all “voting” privileges and responsibilities. Parents can help their child feel normal by holding them to normal expectations and standards. Offer compensation only when the child’s LD is actually affecting task performance. For instance, kids with learning disabilities can fold laundry as well as anyone else, so don’t let them off the task. However, a particular child with LD may have more trouble running errands due to the difficulty of handling money. This doesn’t mean that the child shouldn’t be allowed to go to the corner store. It might mean, however, that you help him with this task by explaining what to expect in the way of change, showing him what the financial transaction is going to look like or otherwise “tutoring” him through the task.

Use Emotional Coaching
By naming a child’s feelings, parents can help boost the child’s self-esteem and overall emotional intelligence. Naming a feeling lets the child know that he is O.K., his feelings are normal and acceptable and he has emotional support. Thus, when the child is struggling with a difficult task, a parent can acknowledge “It’s hard! It’s frustrating to try that again and again and still not get the answer!” It is hard to believe how powerful a simple acknowledgment of the child’s feelings can be. Moreover, a large body of research shows that just naming feelings helps the child do better academically, behaviorally, socially and emotionally.

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.

Worried about Child’s Development

Children develop at different rates. If your child begins to walk later than your friend’s child, this may reflect a simple difference between the two children. There is, after all, a normal range for learning to walk, with some children begin earlier and some beginning later. Lateness does not necessarily indicate some sort of problem. The same principle holds true for cutting teeth, learning to talk, becoming toilet trained, learning to read, learning to ride a bike, being ready to go to sleepover camp and learning to drive a car! There is a normal range for every aspect of human growth and development. The question is, of course, how do you know when your child is outside of that normal range? How do you know when to be concerned?

If you are worried about some aspect of your child’s development, consider the following tips:

Don’t Ask Your Friends; Ask Your Doctor!
Turn to an expert in child development to find out the normal age range for any aspect of your child’s development. This may be your family doctor, your pediatrician or a child psychologist. Taking your baby and child for regular “well-baby” checkups is a good way to stay on top of your child’s developmental tasks – just be sure to tell the doctor what your child is and isn’t yet doing. Although the internet offers a great deal of information as well, try to search government, medical and university sites for this kind of information; you are looking for accurate facts and figures. If you discover that your child’s skill level is significantly behind suggested averages, follow-up with a medical assessment.

Some Conditions Require a Long Time to Assess
A child may have a number of questionable symptoms. For instance, he may have trouble dressing himself independently at an age when his peers are already competent in this task. In addition, his speech may lag behind both in vocabulary and articulation. Finally, he may be immature for his age, displaying wild, aggressive and impulsive behavior more characteristic of a much younger child. These symptoms may be related – or they may not be. The doctor may need to watch the child’s development over the next year or two to see how things develop. This is particularly true for young children because young children have a larger range for normal development. In fact, some conditions cannot be accurately assessed until the child is around 6 years of age. Hyperactivity is one such condition. Many children outgrow hyperactive tendencies by the time they are six, but those who don’t may have ADHD (attention deficity hyperactivity disorder) or some other condition. Although the doctor may suspect the condition several years earlier, a formal diagnosis might have to wait. There are two benefits to taking your child for assessment at the earliest time: one is so that the doctor can follow the course of development in order to make an accurate diagnosis over time and the other is so that you can receive help in arranging for intervention “as if” the child has already received a diagnosis. For instance, both the parents and the psychologist may suspect that a child has Asperger’s Disorder. It will take a long time for an accurate assessment. However, the parents can begin early intervention “as if” the child does have the condition. This helps the child’s development so that by the time he is old enough for a proper assessment, the disorder (if he has it) has significantly improved! Earliest intervention gives the best results for every aspect of child development. Moreover, many interventions (although certainly not all) are experienced as fun by the child. This helps the youngster achieve the greatest growth with the least stress.

Early Intervention Makes the Greatest Gains
Many interventions that help children’s development are regular childhood activities. For example, puzzles can help eye-hand coordination and perceptual skills. Singing, dancing and listening to music can help auditory development and many types of brain development. Computer games can improve tracking skills, eye-hand coordination, fine and gross muscle development, problem-solving skills and other skills. Sports, gymnastics, dance classes and swimming lessons can improve gross motor development. Art classes can improve fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, laterality, attention to details, concentration and other abilities. And we could go on and on. The point is that you can give your child “enrichment” even in the absence of a formal assessment. If you see that your child is lagging behind in some aspect of growth and development, try to choose fun activities that build up that skill area. If you have a “teacher’s store” in your area, or if you look online for special education products and catalogs, you will find many resources you never even knew existed to help children’s development in numerous ways. Your child’s classroom teacher may have some ideas for you as well – express your concerns (and/or listen to the teacher’s concerns) and ask what sort of activities might be useful in order to help develop weak skills.

Talks Excessively

We love our kids and usually enjoy listening to their stories, thoughts and feelings. But when our kids talk too much – they ask too many questions, share far too many stories, explain things in way too much detail or just seem to want to engage parents in conversation 24/7 – then  we can get frustrated even annoyed. People only have so much attention span and patience (even parents). Constant chatter at home, in the car or while we are talking to others can grate on our nerves so much that we sometimes just want to yell “stop talking already!”

If you have given birth to a chatterbox, here are some tips for you:

Decide Who has the Problem
Interestingly, your child’s “excessive talking” may not be his or her problem – it might be YOURS! Parents can find their child’s talking annoying because they are stressed, distracted, depressed or just plain exhausted. When a parent has a lot on his or her mind, the chatter of a child can be hard to bear. Considering that it is perfectly normal for small children to enjoy talking (especially those in the pre-school set), parents may have to change themselves rather than the child. Perhaps a parent needs to lighten his or her schedule to make room for a few more minutes of daily listening time, or maybe a parent needs a more effective way of relieving personal stress so that more mental space is available for listening to children. Sometimes a parent’s difficulty in listening stems from his or her introverted personality; social interchange drains introverts while it stimulates extroverts. If that is the case, the parent may have to work around the introverted tendency, stretching a bit to accomodate the child’s normal need to talk. On the other hand, if you feel you have normal tolerance for children’s conversation but one of your kids just talks way past that point of tolerance, then you may need strategies to help the child cut back.

Explain the problem. Your child doesn’t realize that he or she is placing a burden on listeners. The child is just doing what comes naturally – enthusiastically sharing thoughts, ideas, stories, information and so on. You need to explain that people have fairly short attention spans and can only listen in “bites.” Most excessive talkers are actually terrible listeners, so it will be easy to demonstrate to your chattery child just how hard listening can be: ask the child to listen to you describe something in great detail (i.e. pick a topic that is unlikely to be particularly interesting to your child and talk for 3 to 4 non-stop minutes, explaining every tiny detail that you can). Your child will get a real experience of how frustrating it can be to have to listen and actually pay attention to someone who is talking. You can then use this experience to remind him or her when he or she is overloading your circuits. A gentle, respectful reminder is all that is necessary. You might even develop a code-word for the problem like “overload” or “maxed-out” or something that the child picks. Eventually the child will have a better idea of how many words the average listener can tolerate before the work of listening becomes too hard. This will be useful information for your child’s social functioning.

Call for a Time-Out
If the talking is excessive, call for a time-out. For example, you may say “I love to hear all about your day, sweetie, but daddy is a bit tired from work and needs a few quiet moments to rest. Let’s talk about it later when we’re having dinner, O.K.?” If you do it gently but firmly enough, your child will eventually respect the boundaries you set. And if your child generally has trouble holding his thoughts and questions in, get a timer or an alarm clock and tell the child to come back when the buzzer goes off. When kids can track when time out starts and when it ends, then they can be able to hold their stories for later.

Give Them Something to do When you Need Quiet and Peace
The chronic talker is really a chronic interacter. This kind of child depends on constant social stimulation. However, this obviously puts a strain on other people. Help your child develop other sides of his brain by re-directing him or her to tasks and activities that will encourage introspection or self-directed play. Point them to storybooks, puzzles, train sets, crafts, art projects, computer programs, physical exercise, TV programs or audio books. When kids know ways to enjoy themselves even if they don’t speak a word, then they are less likely to talk excessively.

Teach your Child Social Skills and Manners
Sometimes, firm rules on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior is a good way to help a child who talks excessively. For example, teach them that it’s okay to share, but not okay to interrupt when someone else is speaking. Or that it’s okay to ask questions, but not when mom or dad is driving. Most importantly, teach them to take turns in a conversation, allowing the other person to speak for an equal number of minutes. Your child has to learn balance and restraint. You can introduce the notion of conversation sharing that works like a see-saw: the people alternate back and forth in a fairly equal exchange. If the other person talks only briefly, your child needs to do the same. Otherwise he or she is “hogging” the conversation, taking more than his or her rightful share.

Consider ADHD
Excessive talking is often found in those who have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). It may be related to troubles with impulsivity (controlling and limiting behaviors). Particularly if your child also has other symptoms of ADHD like problems attending to boring tasks and subjects, disorganization, fidgeting, interrupting, trouble waiting his turn and so on, you should consider getting a psychoeducational assessment. Ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist who can diagnose your child. The psychologist can determine whether the excessive talking is part of a syndrome or whether it is just a feature of personality.

Child Doesn’t Speak Clearly

Your child is talking, but can’t seem to produce speech sounds properly. He or she stumbles with particular letters or letter combinations, such as s’s and th’s. Your child may also be omitting certain sounds when speaking, e.g. saying “I wah to ee donuhs” instead of “I want to eat donuts.” And on some occasions, your child simply gives up trying to say certain words.

Your child has trouble articulating.

Articulation refers to act of producing sounds. The clarity and accuracy of how you pronounce your letters and words represent successful articulation. Articulation is both a physiological and psychological process. If your child is having problems with articulation, the best thing to do is to consult a speech therapist or a speech pathologist as soon as possible.

What are the possible causes of articulation problems in children? Consider the following:

Your Child’s Developmental Stage
Some degree of articulation difficulty is normal in young children — hence, the baby talk. Toddlers 12 to 18 months, for example, have a marked preference for vowels and tend to drop consonants in their speech. It’s also not unusual for younger kids to have trouble producing sounds that require vibration in the throat such as r’s, or the deliberate control of their tongue such as s’s. Unless there’s an underlying medical or psychological impairment that will keep them from doing so, kids will naturally outgrow these articulation problems. Parents should be concerned only when their child skips the typical language development milestones.

Physical Problems
If your child’s articulation difficulty persists beyond what is expected from kids their age, then consider the possibility of a physical impairment. Hearing problems can cause poor articulation; kids, after all, learn language by imitating the sounds they hear from other people. Cleft palate, problems in the vocal cords, nasal allergies, gaps in the tooth and poor control of the muscles of the tongue can also cause articulation difficulty. There are also neurological issues that affect speech. A condition called Oral Apraxia, for example, results in the difficulty managing oral movements, and thus results to poor articulation.

Learning Disabilities
Articulation problems may also be caused by learning disabilities. Dyslexia, for example, can cause articulation problems in children, not because of any physical impairment, but because their letter recognition issues result in hesitancy when speaking.

There are also emotional issues that can cause articulation problems in children. When a child is nervous or self-conscious, he or she may have trouble producing particular speech sounds. It is not unusual, for example, for some kids to have trouble articulating during a speech or class presentation. Sadness, anger, and fear may also cause speech difficulty in children. If your child is having articulation problems during a particularly stressful transition, then consider the speech problem as a sign of hidden anxiety.

What to Do About It
You can obtain an accurate diagnosis of your child’s speech issue by arranging a consultation with a speech and language therapist. If the therapist feels that the child will simply outgrow his or her challenges, she’ll let you know. If the therapist feels that some remedial treatment is in order, she’ll let you know that as well. Sometimes school boards or community hospitals provide speech treatment free of cost but private services are also available.

When Your Child is Wild

Some children have LOTS of energy! If they don’t literally hang from the chandeliers, buy they certainly do so figuratively – running around, shrieking, and maybe even being a little destructive in their impulsivity. While they may be happy, their parents are not. Parents of Wild Ones are always trying to figure out ways to calm their youngsters down.

If your child is wild, consider the following tips:

Excessive Energy is All Relative
Toddlers and pre-schoolers tend to have lots and lots of energy. Their wild behavior is actually normal for their age group. Since they are not yet totally socialized – that is, they don’t know the rules of proper behavior – they often follow their impulses. They’ll open cupboard doors, throw things around, experiment with whatever they find – not because they’re naughty, but simply because they are normal, inquisitive, small kids. However, this same kind of behavior in an older child may actually indicate the presence of a developmental disorder. For instance, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can cause wild behavior in both children and teens. Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, bi-polar depression and other syndromes can also lead to wild behavior. Of course, mildly wild behavior can just be a personality issue; a child may just be very active and a little impulsive without having any biological condition of concern. This latter kind of wild behavior should respond well to the interventions below. However, if it doesn’t, then speak to your pediatrician. A proper assessment may be helpful.

Avoid Negative Labels
Don’t call your wild child a wild child! Labels like “wild,” “destructive,” “immature,” and so on, have a way of sticking in the child’s brain. The more a parent calls a child “wild,” the wilder that child will tend to be. Labels affect self-concept and self-concept leads to behavior. Therefore, even when correcting a wild child, use words like “calm,” “restrained,” “slow,” “careful” and “self-control.” For instance, a parent can tell a child who is running madly and loudly around the house, “Jason, you need to go slowly, carefully and quietly right now. Please calm down. Use your self-control.”

Minimize Attention to Wild Behavior
Don’t get wild yourself! Speak quietly and slowly to a wild child – lower your voice. Your intensity can accidentally reinforce wild behavior by giving it too much attention, whereas your restrained and calm demeanor can rub off (a little, anyways) on your youngster.

Use Emotional Coaching
Let your child know that you understand his feelings. He wants to run around and enjoy himself. Show him that you understand that by articulating his feelings (i.e. “I know you want to run around now.”). Avoid using the word “but” after you speak his feelings (i.e. “I know you want to run around now but it’s making a lot of noise.”). Using the word “but” is akin to saying “I know you want to do this, but I don’t care!” Put a “period” after your acknowledgment and start a completely new sentence if you want to give your youngster instructions. It might sound like this: “I know you are having fun running around. You need to settle down now and play more quietly.”

Use the CLeaR method
Reinforce positive behavior with the CLeaR method. When your child plays normally and is not wild, make a comment to show you noticed his behavior. Then give him a positive label (and perhaps a reward) to reinforce such behavior in the future. A sample dialogue would be, “You’re walking slowly and carefully.” (Comment), “That’s very mature of you!” (Label), “You can play outside for a bit longer today because I see you are working on your calm behavior!” (Reward). 

Use Discipline (2X-Rule)
In the 2X Rule, the child is told to continue a behavior (in this case, being too wild.) Then if the child continues this behavior, he is warned that there will be a consequence issued the next time he ignores the warning. For instance, you might say, “You need to play quietly and calmly. If you continue to run around, you will have to sit in a chair beside me for a few minutes until you have calmed down.” When faced with a consequence, children are more likely to think about what they are doing before they do it. You can find more information on the 2X Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Use Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can improve behavior. For a wild child, you can use the flower remedy Impatiens (for kids who race around). Chestnut Bud is the remedy for kids who act this way over and over again with no sign of improvement (and also for those who engage in dangerous and destructive activities). For children with too much energy, try the remedy Vervain. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy (to prevent the development of bacteria). The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the behavior improves. Start treatment again, if the behavior degrades. Eventually, the behavior should improve permanently.

Many “wild” children outgrow this behavior as they grow up. Even children with ADHD whose hyperactivity is wired into their brains tend to become fidgety, rather than racey, as they mature. However, many wild kids are not suffering from hyperactivity, but rather immaturity. Their condition simply improves as they mature. However, if your child is ten years-old or older and still very wild, consider consulting a mental health practitioner for assessment and treatment ideas. It is possible that social skills training may be helpful.

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!