To Retain, or Not Retain, That is the BIG Question

Gone are the days of “holding children back” as the only solution for poor grades in school. Retention, or repeating a grade demands a great amount of examination of all factors contributing to a child’s failure in school.  For children with diagnosed learning disabilities (LD), retention is almost never a viable option.  Instead, these students must receive alternative, caring and loving educational support, either in part time Resource Rooms or in Full Time LD classrooms.  Spending another year, with the same curriculum and same instruction, does nothing to resolve the problem of a child’s learning disabilities.

There are occasions when it may be appropriate to give a child another year before advancing to the next grade.  That time would be very early in their schooling.  For instance, at the pre-K or kindergarten level.  There are children developmentally young for their age, and simply need another year to grow or acquire perquisite skills for formal schooling. Giving them that extra year is all to their favor and they never are labeled as a “failure”.

An issue directly related to retention is the “Third-Grade Reading Laws”, practiced in more than 30 states (from National Center for learning Disabilities, accessed, June, 2018) in the United States, which basically says that students must be performing at a certain level in reading to be promoted to the fourth grade.  Intensive monitoring and interventions are in place to help these struggling students to acquire the needed fourth grade level prerequisite skills.  Those children with diagnosed learning disabilities are exempt from retention, with documentation of LD placement into fourth grade. If you think your child has a learning disability, be sure to have him or her tested before third grade, in order to qualify for exemption from the Third-Grade Reading Laws.

Another challenge for parents who choose a private, Christian school education for their child with learning disabilities, is that many Christian schools are not able to accommodate programs for children with special learning needs.  Unfortunately, some of these well-meaning Christian schools allow these children to enter their school if the parents are willing to hold the child back a grade “to level the playing field” for the child that is probably at least a grade behind their peers in at least reading, and likely in other subjects as well.  I say “unfortunately”, because all children with learning disabilities must receive interventional and individualized instruction in order to achieve success.  Just repeating a grade does not make their learning disabilities disappear.

So, what’s a parent to do?  First, be sure, if your child is failing in school because of a diagnosed learning disability, that he or she is placed appropriately in school.  instruction should be accommodated with an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), which specifically addresses all the identified learning disabilities, with specific and time programed intervention strategies.

Then, if you decide to place your child into a Christian school, choose one that accommodates children with learning disabilities…not hold them back, with the false hope that another year in the same grade will remedy their learning problems.

All children can learn.  For children with LD, it is a matter of loving and caring teaching, with foundational learning strategies targeted to their specific leaning disability.   NOT grade retention.

Different Minds

I love this quote, as it reminds us to respect the individuality of each learner!

“Dyslexia is a different brain organization that needs different teaching methods. It is never the fault of the child, but rather the responsibility of us who teach to find methods that work for that child.”

~ by Dr. Maryanne Wolf, Education Researcher and Dyslexia Advocate, quoted from Bright Solutions for Dyslexia Newsletter, June 2018

 

In the Eyes of the Beholder

We (parents and educators) need to always look beyond “failure”.

Many children with LD or ADHD meet with “failure” either in school, on the playground, at home, at church, at parties…any place where they are made to feel that they didn’t measure up.  Until parents get them the right kind of help with their conditions, they suffer with humiliation in these different settings.  They won’t always feel successful…none of us do, but to bolster their confidence along the way, share the following “successful failure” stories.

*From Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, by Robert J. Morgan, 2000

  • In 1902, the poetry editor of The Atlantic Monthly sent a sheaf of poems back to a 28-year old poet with his curt note: “Our magazine has no room for your vigorous verse.”  The poet was Robert Frost.
  • In 1905, the University of Bern turned down a Ph. D. dissertation as being irrelevant and fanciful. Its author was Albert Einstein.
  • Henry Ford forgot to put a reverse gear in his first car.
  • The rhetoric teacher at Harrow School in England wrote this on sixteen-year old Winston Churchill’s report card: “A Conspicuous lack of success.”

In his book, Failure, The Back Door to Success, Pastor Erwin Lutzer wrote, “We forget that God is a specialist, He is well able to work our failures into His plans.”

Parents, let your eyes always be the lens through which your child sees that they are worthy and will succeed.

Does Jesus Care?

 

You finally got your child tested for his or her serious learning problems, which proved to be a specific learning disability.  You were relieved to know help was on the way. After the diagnosis…after it settles in, you think, “This is lifelong…the challenge of parenting a child with LD or ADHD!’  When the challenge becomes overbearing, when the frustration levels hit the ceiling…then the question arises, “WHY?” Some ask, “Why God?” “Why did God allow a child to be born with a disability, such as Learning Disabilities or ADHD?”

The simple answer is, “Bad thing happens to good people.”  True. But not without hope.  We ALL experience trials, disappointments, and inevitably, death of loved ones. With the subject of disabilities, the focus must be on acceptance and determination, and encouragement.

Key to encouraging your child, is to daily instill in them their worthiness. Each child is precious in God’s sight. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19: 14).   Jesus set the example, to love and accept the children, unconditionally.  Our children need to see and feel that their parents bathe them daily with love and acceptance.

It takes work and determination and most importantly, faith that God didn’t just “let it happen”, He allowed it and stamped His signature on the blessings that would flow from the “disability”.

The Lord says to all who follow Jesus, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)

So, parents, discover the best ways for your child to learn; encourage them to persevere and work hard, also teach them that God will bring His good from the trials that go with having a disability.  Along the way, and after they are grown, they will look back and KNOW, Jesus cared about the trials and worked out His good purpose for them.

 

 

 

Peer Conflicts and Special Needs Children

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

― Frederick Douglass

Children spend approximately 12,00 hours of their lives from kindergarten through twelfth grade in a place called school. In those thirteen years of schooling, children experience both positive and negative treatment from others. What’s a parent to do when negative peer conflicts reach the bullying stage?

Many children with LD often lack the social skills to deflect problems with schoolmates. As a result, they are often the target of ridicule from their peers.  Parents should not rely solely on their child’s school to teach conflict resolution skills.  Statistics are staggering for violence in our schools for lack of preventative measures.

Here’s some recent statistics for public schools:

  • More than one out of every five (20.8%) students report being bullied (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016)
  • More than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied (Hawkins, Pepler & Craig, 2001)
  • The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016)
  • 19% of students with specific learning disabilities face high levels of bullying victimization (Rose e.al., 2012)
  • The percentages of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have nearly doubled (18-34%) from 2007-2016. (Patchin & Hinduja, 2016)

Undeniably, American public schools are facing a crisis situation in regard to unresolved peer conflict.  Christian schools are not exempt from problems with peer conflicts.  What measures are Christian schools taking?  Many programs for peer resolutions and reconciliation are part of the curriculum in a growing number of Christian schools.  But, parents, don’t leave it up to the school to teach conflict resolutions.  Make it your commitment to teach your child how to handle difficult peer problems.  One biblical model that can be taught very early to children is the following:

  1. Overlook an Offense: Proverbs 19: 11 “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
  2. Discuss the conflict, as advised in Matthew 18: 15: “If you brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.”
  3. Negotiate, as expressed in Philippians 2:4, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Ken Sande, from his book, The Peacemaker)

LD children especially need training for resolving interrelations problems.  Many times, they suffer with broken hearts and crushed spirits because of cruel remarks from other students.  They may react in anger or hide their true feelings.  You child needs to be taught how to manage their own behaviors and how to get along with peers.  Parents must teach these skills at home and not depend on the school to do so.

If you find that your child is continually being bullied, and he or she has endeavored on their own to resolve the conflict, then it is time for them to report it to a teacher.  If left unresolved, it is then up to you to report it to the administration.  Don’t let it go on and on, because statistics show that when not resolved, the bullies only increase their tactics.  A child needs to know their parents will intervene, when necessary.

A verse for all parents to heed: 

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

                         ~  Proverbs 22: 6

 

 

 

 

Wise Advice About Learning Disabilities

The following article from Understood.org provides great advice for parents on how to explain to their child, a better way to view his or her learning disability.  Go to Understood.org and learn even more!

 “How You Can Respond to Your Child’s Concerns”

Children of all ages are very observant. Even young kids know that there are some things that are easier for them to do than others. And they also know that among their friends, some kids excel at things that other kids have trouble doing.

These observations are a great place to start off your conversation. It’s important to explain that learning and attention issues are very common. You can say:

“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.”

Talk to your child about what you’re really good at and what isn’t as easy for you. Then ask him what he’s good at and what is hard for him. Let your child know that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and give specific examples. Highlighting his strengths can make it easier for him to acknowledge his challenges.

When you explain how he learns differently, try to keep focus on strategies that can help. This can empower your child to use accommodations to work on things that challenge him.

“A disability is a difference.”

It’s important to explain to your child how the word disability is used. A disability is a difference that makes it difficult for someone to do something that others can do easily. For younger kids, it helps to use obvious examples.

For instance, your child might consider a person who uses a wheelchair disabled. Your child sees someone who can’t walk or stand. But it’s important to explain that the person in the wheelchair has a difference. And that difference means that person has difficulty in one area compared to others who don’t.

But that doesn’t mean that person has difficulty with everything. And it’s important to make that point to your child. When that person is doing something else, like playing video games or helping out with math homework, your child probably doesn’t think of the wheelchair at all.

From  Understood.org

 

Child overwhelming you?

 

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by your child? Your child may have a very different temperament than yours. I think it is essential to consider when you think of relationship dynamics.

If you search the internet you can find many temperament or style surveys. Take a look. I think you will be reminded again of how people really can be different. Understanding the differences and accepting them can increase connection and communication. If you can change the pattern of communicating that is not working, your overwhelm can decrease.

If you are raising a fun-loving, possibility thinking child you will feel overwhelmed if you think you are responsible to make all their ideas come to life. You can simply respond with “we cannot do that now” in a neutral tone of voice. “It’s a great idea, but right now we are doing this or that and remember yesterday we …name it. Let’s write it down and do it on another day. I love your great ideas.” It’s good for your child to then find a way to entertain themselves or to try to put their ideas into effect. Your job is to admire the ideas and encourage them to be creative, not to overwhelm with all the possibilities.

Parenting a sensitive child can be overwhelming because there is so much emotion to deal with. Help your child to name their feeling and release it. Do not feel responsible to fix it or change it. Teach them the meanings of emotional words. There are tools to help you online. Teach them the language to speak up about their feelings before you and they are overwhelmed by it. Teach them to ask for more time, to ask questions they need to have answered, how to express their anxiety etc. These tools can reduce meltdowns and overwhelm later.

Parenting a strongwilled child can be very challenging. Their strong will is a gift but it can overwhelm you if you get into a power struggle with them over who is in charge. As parents, we like to assure that our children get to have a say, but that does not mean that they get their way. Tell them in a calm, authoritative voice (I like to suggest like a policeman who pulls you over and is calm and polite and sticks to the facts), what the rules, limits or boundaries are. If you up the emotion in your voice, so will they. If you respect yourself and them, they will learn that too.

Parenting a child who wants to go, go, go is challenging also; particularly if you are a calmer, more reflective type of person. You will certainly overwhelm if you think you have to keep up and be on the go when it isn’t part of your nature. You cannot keep up with all that energy, so don’t try. Create time and space for your child to release physical energy with parks, sports, classes, trampoline, bikes, scooters, basketball nets etc. Create a space in your home for a rebounder, large balls, exercise equipment, and movement. Your child needs to move and explore so give them support and encouragement to follow the needs of their bodies to move. No guilt if you cannot keep up. Suggesting outlets for them to explore is your part to play.

Understanding each others’ needs and energy levels is important so that there is no guilt and no overwhelm. Know Thyself is true for you and for your child.

by Guest blogger:  Patricia Ritsema