Month: October 2011

“Dear Mrs. Smith: The Work Is Simply Too Hard For Him: He Can’t Read the Story”

So many of the kids that I see are given work on a daily basis that they can’t handle. No amount of trying harder or paying attention better will matter. When it comes to reading one of the best ways to test out whether a child is in over his head, is simply to listen to the child read. For me, listening to a child read a passage out loud is a type of x-ray.

Every once in a while, to determine whether the work your child is getting is too difficult, ask him to read a paragraph or two from the text, story or worksheet they are being asked to manage independently.
How does the reading sound? Is it relatively smooth or is it strained and labored? Were most of the words read fairly effortlessly or were there nonsensical substitution words (e.g., “pricopinny” for porcupine). If there are more than a few of these words substituted in a paragraph, the material is simply too hard. No medication or increased motivation will overcome these weaknesses. 
If the work is too difficult, let your child’s teacher know that your child cannot do the work he is being asked to manage.
Please feel free to copy this note for the teacher and put in your own specifics:
Dear Mrs. __________:
Last night (James) attempted to do his reading. Pretty quickly it became apparent that he was getting frustrated. I asked him to read a part of the story to me, and it was clear that the material was well above his level.
I would appreciate it if you could take him off to the side of the room apart from the other children to listen to his reading the story to you. I presume you will see what I mean. The work is simply too hard for him – he can’t read the story.
Please advise.   Thank you for your concern.
Approach the problem positively with the teacher (at least initially). The old expression, “You get more flies with honey, than vinegar.” applies.
(**In future posts we will talk about a few specific strategies that can be very helpful.)



Homework: Need the Blood Pressure Medication

What is it about homework that gets everyone’s blood pressure so elevated?

The kids can be slugging each other in the family room, one hair from breaking their skulls open and there may be barely a peep heard.   But, when the mom goes on the internet board (for the third time in the day) and finds a missing homework assignment, a storm is unleashed.
Perhaps it’s the symbolism of homework that gets us all crazy. Homework non-compliance taps into all of our fears. When a child does not comply readily or consistently, it understandably strikes a nerve with us. All of the fears about the child’s future are lurking underneath, fueling the firestorm of parental reaction.
Rather than going ballistic over the homework, you might try talking about your fears calmly and honestly with your child. 
“The reason I become a ranting banshee over homework is I am scared for you.    The deal with homework is that homework is used as a yardstick for whether you are in the school game or not. When you don’t hand in your homework, you’re not in the game. I worry a lot when you’re not in the game. It also sours my mood.
So, from here on I am going to try and stop being a raving lunatic over homework.   It’s one way or the other. If you’re in the game, wonderful – you’ve met your basic responsibilities. But if you’re not in the game, please don’t come whining to me about hustling you off to the mall (or wherever) come Friday night. I probably won’t be in a good enough mood. Instead of driving you places, I probably will be working on my mood. No yelling, no punishing, just working on my mood.  You decide.  Either way is fine.”


The ADHD Soup Pot = A Dash of Inattention Sprinkled With a Helping of Reading Difficulty & a Pinch of Social Struggling

What comes to mind when you read the following about a 10 year old?

• Trouble focusing
• Doesn’t stay on task
• Easily distracted
• Can’t retain material

Of course, you would be thinking ADHD.

My problem with stopping there (as many professionals do – ok, the M.D.’s) is that it is rarely the end of the story.

What would you say about the same child if his answer to the question as to how “winter and summer were alike” answered, “I don’t know…this one’s hard…you turn up the heat in the winter and in the summer it’s already hot.”

I’d be thinking, something like, “With school struggling, it’s rarely to never straightforward and it’s almost always a soup pot of different variables and this kid is going to need a lot of help with reading comprehension – he’s confused.”

In addition, this same child when asked how he was getting along with other kids in school answered, “I’m not, ” and then proceeded to tell me ways that he felt others were making fun of him.  From what he told me, he’s going to need a lot of confidence building.

While I believe that this child will be helped by stimulant medication, it’s rarely just one solution that is the answer.  There are other areas often overlooked with the simple labeling process. 

It’s rarely a simple brew.


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