I spend a good deal of my professional life assessing children in an attempt to identify their profile of strengths and weaknesses. Once a child is assessed, I do my best to explain the data to the parents in straight-forward, non-jargon terms.
The part of the process I like the least is the question that inevitably arises: “Well, how do we fix it?”
The reason I don’t like this question is that I rarely know the answer. I never think of kids needing to be fixed – they’re not car engines.
One suggestion would be to change your mindset.
“Fix-it language” suggests something is broken. “Skill-language” leads to a productive understanding of what skills can be targeted, which then leads to taking appropriate next-steps.
Really, almost all of the concerns you have as a parent can be framed in skill language, such as, “We need to work on the skill of organizing your backpack…or ‘the skill of comprehension,’. .. or ‘the skill of sharing with others…or ‘the skill of waiting your turn.'” All of these skills can be directly taught and practiced, as can most others you can name.
Better questions to ask than, “How do we fix it,” might be, “So, what do we do next?” “What skills are we targeting?”
Whether it be in the social/emotional realm or the academic, focusing on specific skills helps the child and the parents get their mind around what to do next and away from a “fix-it” mindset.
Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D. 2022, www.shutdownlearner.com.
To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes the “problem” is simply that developmentally, a student is not quite ready to handle the current material, and that in 6 months, or 1 year, or perhaps longer, the “confusing” material will make more sense. Just as there are developmental windows for walking (8 – 18 months?) and talking (18 – 36 months?), these “windows” exist for all sorts of mental processing of information, especially in the realm of abstract vs. concrete thinking. So sometimes the answer to the question “what do we do” is simply, let’s wait awhile and revisit this issue sometime in the future, and not to worry too much about it in the meantime.
Thanks for the comment. Could not agree more.
The challenge with so many of the kids that I deal with is that on nearly a daily basis the struggling kids that I meet are given material in the form of worksheets and other reading material that they can’t handle. It’s analogous to asking someone to lift weights that are simply beyond their capability. Especially with reading (and mathematics, of course), building the foundation skills help to smooth the road a bit.
Frankly, I think Finland has it right. From what I understand, they don’t start “formal” education until about 8 years of age.
Very helpful advice. It may seem like a serious disadvantage when young but many children who had this challenge have successful and interesting careers as adults. As parents never let your children be seen as ‘disabled’ or ‘disadvantaged’ as they are justvlearning in a different way and need some help and support.
Thanks for your comment. I agree that kids don’t need to be burdened with the term “disabled.” I also agree with the trajectory of many becoming successful and interesting adults. I talk about that trajectory in my book, “School Struggles.”