This week my “Annoy-O-Meter,” which is usually running pretty high (like at a level of 70 out of 100), was up in the high 90s.
What pushed it into the upper end of the dial was a run of girls that I either evaluated or met with their parents to discuss their girl’s struggles.
I heard consistent stories such as the following:
“We’ve seen our daughter struggling with school practically every day. It’s not that she isn’t doing her homework, but she breaks down crying in the middle, sobbing that ‘she’s so stupid – she’s so dumb’ and that others are starting to laugh at her in school. She’s an anxious mess and we think she may be getting depressed. The school says the same thing they’ve been saying since she was in kindergarten and now in 5th grade – ‘But, she’s so sweet; she’s so smart; she’s such a pleasure.’”
“We know she’s sweet – we know she’s smart. We also know that she’s struggling and that she can’t read, spell or write.”
I know I run the risk of generalizing here and that broad stroke statements don’t account for individual differences, but quite often this is what I find.
The girls are masters at teacher pleasing behaviors (in contrast with the boys). As a result, they are literally off of anyone’s radar screen of concern.
Interacting with teachers in such positive ways often covers a wealth of flaws that are there, but are rarely commented on because of being “so sweet – so smart.”
Here’s a writing sample from one of the kids, Christine, age 11, a fifth grader, who has not gotten referred for any testing. She’s not on anyone’s radar screen even though her parents are very worried about her.
Defining the word “barrage,” she spelled it as “brage” and then said it was, “heavey and continuos firing of wea pons during a battle (no period)
For “pacifist” she spelled the word, “pastifiet.” Saying someone who beleves that war and volence are wrong.
Writing is always an x-ray that reveals many things including a child’s thought process and understanding of sound-symbol relationships. The writing should be the bell that sounds the alarm.
In this situation, no alarm was sounded, because Christine could not be more pleasant, engaging and positive. Yet, every night she was breaking down behind the scenes.
Of course with such breakdowns, someone will be soon diagnosing her with either ADHD and/or an anxiety disorder (with the medication regimen to follow), but that is a subject for another post.
It’s really great that your daughter is “so sweet – so smart,” but don’t be lulled if you have concern. You’ll need to have someone dig a little deeper beyond the sweet and smart.