Month: February 2012

Getting Clear on “Average”

When a child is evaluated by the school’s special education team, frequently parents hear something like, “Your child’s reading skills are average, meaning he/she is not eligible for services.”
Upon closer inspection of the child’s report, I often see that the “average” is a standard score of 90, 91 or 92, meaning the score is in the lowest possible point of the “average range,” or about the 25th percentile. 
While it is technically true that the child may not be eligible for services, be clear on one thing. Even though your child is being called “average,” he/she will probably need help, but you will need to seek this help on your own.  
I’m not suggesting the team is doing anything wrong, but watch being lulled into thinking your child is fine, when he/she is in that point of the “average” range.

Boy Disconnection to the Writing Process

I’m not sure what’s going on out there, but more and more I hear parents say that when their child (typically a boy) is resistant to school, the resistance is linked to anguish (hatred) of performing any type of writing.   

Writing is painstaking. Trying to find the right words, revising your product, thinking about how your words sound, takes time. There is almost never instant gratification. That pencil in the hand thing can really make your hand ache.
At home, the average boy spends hours a day pressing buttons playing video games. Virtually nothing they are doing in the course of their day lends itself to being competent with writing. They have a very hard time tolerating frustration.
Last week there were two boys that I interacted with who stood out in my mind as typical of the legions of those who are writing resistant.
The first one, Holden, is 7 years old. Holden spends large chunks of his day on his iPad, playing Angry Birds or something.  As his mother had told me, whenever Holden is asked to write, he has melt downs. When I greeted him and his mother in the waiting room, Holden could not bother to look up from his iPad. His mother was a bit sheepish when he didn’t look up, but said nothing to him. 
In the second scenario, Alex, a 15 year old, tenth grader is a major video game player who has little interest in anything else. Writing (and reading) seem like activities from a distant century to him. Similar to Holden but in a much larger body, he has a teen version of a tantrum whenever he has to perform difficult academic tasks.
From where I sit, the boys are having a very hard time facing a reality that is not instantly gratifying.  I know it’s their world, and iPads certainly trump pens and pencils (or even typing on the keyboard), but you need to carve out time to get them off their screens.   
They need to start coping better with frustration. Make it positive, not a punishment. Find ways to reinforce good effort and not melting down. 


Homework Shenanigans: A Play in One act

Players: The Mom and Miles, age 11
Scene:  Family Office.   Door closed. Miles & The Mom in the room. No One else is around.
The Mom: (Speaking very calmly with no edgy tones) Miles, I’ve been thinking about it. I realize that I’ve been really messing up the whole homework scene.
Miles: (Not saying anything but looks definitely interested with perked up ears.)
The Mom: Yep, I realize I’ve been too involved and too controlling about your homework.
Miles: (Still not speaking, looking very, very interested.)
The Mom:  I know you don’t want to do your homework and from now on I want you to know it’s totally your choice. It’s up to you. But here’s the deal, though. Playing your video games and texting are going to be earned. It’s one way or the other. If you choose to do your homework, great.  That’s wonderful. That means you have earned your electronics for the evening. If you give me a rough time and avoid like usual, that’s ok too. It just means you haven’t earned the electronics for the night. Either way is fine. 
If you choose to not do your homework, I just have to write a note to your teacher letting her know about your choice.  You’ll just let me know.”
Miles: (Stunned at mom’s calm and objective tones is wondering when she’s going to erupt like she normally does. He’s feeling really worried that this time, she just might be getting it right.)
The Mom:  We’ll start tonight. Let me know what you choose.  If you choose to do your work, let me know if you need any help with anything.  I’ll be in the kitchen putting things away.
Miles:  (Walks out stunned wondering what happened to his mother.  "I wonder if she really means this," he thinks to himself.)


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