Month: November 2021

“P.A.D. – ‘Pain Avoidance Disorder’ & the Reality of School”

In the landscape of modern childhood there is something that I have come to call, “P.A.D.” or “Pain Avoidance Disorder.”

For children showing P.A.D., basic tasks/chores asked of them are viewed as enormous impositions and they will go to great lengths to sidestep the perceived discomfort.

Take, Callie a 9-year-old who begged her mother for two years to get a dog.

After about three months of having the dog, the novelty wore off and asking Callie to take the dog out for a walk upset her, as it interrupted her ongoing TikTok viewing.

“How could her mother dare interrupt her pleasure on TikTok?  Didn’t she know it was important,” was Callie’s thought process.

P.A.D. style children also have the notion that school should be fun most of the time.

While school has its fun, inevitably there will be hard work and periods of boredom.  As 11-year old Peter protests to his mother while playing Fortnite,  “School is so boring – I hate the work.  It’s just not fun.”

So, Peter largely avoids completing school work.

Similarly, 14-year-old Kyle offers a litany of complaints about the horrors of school, complaining that school is boring and not fun.

During a session  Kyle continues his complaining about the intensive boredom.

After a few minutes of listening to the complaining, I joke back at him and respond, “Wait! Stop.  I can’t listen anymore.  When was school ever fun? Since at least the year 1650 school’s always been a pain in the rear end (said differently), so why should it be any different now?”

I ask Kyle to translate to see if he understood what I said. “School sucks and it always sucked, Kyle translates.” “Brilliant analysis,” I tell him.

While laughing, he continues to tell me the horror of his teachers and why his classes are so terrible, trying to convince me that his problems are due to the teachers and the way they run their classes.

I continue poking fun at Kyle explaining to him about the law of averages regarding how many teachers out of five or six are going to be fun and entertaining.

I do my best to bring a dose of reality to his head, but it’s not making too much of a dent.

Takeaway Point

P.A.D. can run very deep especially when pleasure is at their fingertips throughout the day.  There’s a built-in reality to school and school work that needs to be understood to help these kids work through their issues.

Copyright, 2021
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Math Word Problems – “I’m Just Not That Smart”

Mathematic word problems are quite popular in school.  Starting in the early grades they become the primary vehicle for developing mathematic skills.

Unfortunately, for many of the children, even if they show good mathematic facility, they start to believe they are “bad in math” because of their poor showing on these problems.

Cayla is a recently-turned 7-year-old second grader.  While Cayla has memorized some common (sight) words, she shows signs of struggling with any words that were she has not memorized.

As a result, Cayla was starting to say things like, “I don’t think I’m very smart.”  “I think I have a bad memory.”  “The other kids around me are much smarter than I am.”

After evaluating Cayla, it is clear why she was having those feelings.

Even though her cognitive functioning was well above average, Cayla was an inefficient reader who had trouble with virtually all of the words in the text that were beyond her sight memory.

While reading middle first-grade passages out loud, Cayla’s reading was choppy and erratic.  There were numerous substitution errors that interfered with her capacity to understand what she was reading (such as reading “tane” for “train,” or “fleerer” for flower.”)

In contrast, Cayla showed a good facility for any mathematic computation.  A screening of Cayla’s mathematic computation skills noted her to be in the 95th percentile compared to other children her age.

In contrast, her mathematic word problem score placed her in the 15th %ile.

Here were two of the word problems that Cayla was asked to read for a recent school test.  (There were ten total.)

Steven has a black leather strip that is 13 centimeters long.  He cuts off 5 centimeters.  His teacher gives him a brown leather strip that a 16 centimeters long.  What is the total length of both strips?”

“An ant walked 12 centimeters to the right on the ruler and then turned around and walked 5 cm to the left.  His starting point is marked on the ruler.  Where is the ant now?  Show your work on the broken ruler.”

Some of the hypotheses offered for her poor word problem performance were attributed to either issues of distractibility and inattentiveness (with the implicit suggestion that Cayla should be seen for medication) or problems with reading comprehension.

The fact of the matter is that Cayla simply couldn’t read the word problems with any degree of success.

As noted in the ones above, there were at least 10 different words within these two problems that Cayla could not read on her own.

Words such as “leather, recently, centimeter, ruler, length and strip,” were simply not in her level of reading ability.

 Takeaway Point

Mathematic word problems are very popular in school within almost all grade levels starting in early elementary school.  If a child is struggling with these, make sure you have a pretty good sense as to what is contributing to this difficulty.



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