“Marlene, just doesn’t follow directions.  You know when she goes into fourth grade there’s going to be no more hand-holding. ”

“All the kids in the class, but Benjamin, know what to do.  He really should be able to do the work.  After all, he is in 7th grade.”

“What is it with Kyle? It’s like he’s in a different time zone.  He should be more aware of time management.”

This “should talk” is ever unproductive. 

Sure, on average, by fourth, seventh  or  whatever grade, a child should  be pretty self-sufficient.  They should be following directions, managing their time, processing information independently.

But, that is on average. 

In a class of 20 or so kids, I expect about six of them (about 30%) to be having some type of difficulty.   Often the parents of the 30% hear something like this – “We’re not medical doctors, so we can’t diagnose, but maybe you should have this checked out.” 

The unspoken meta-message is, “Your child needs to be on medication.”

Not all of these kids need to be on medication. 

So what do these kids need?

In non-medical terms, they need structuring, cuing and guiding.  What that looks like is an adult (usually the teacher) providing a little more assistance than is needed on average by the 70% who are capably following along. 

At home, they may need a little more parent assistance than would normally be expected for a certain age. 

Sure, it would be nice if by fourth grade a child was fully independent, but many are not. 

The Marlene’s, Benjamin’s and Kyle’s mentioned above, need a bit more external support that would be expected for a given age.  It’s the external support that provides them with a percentage boost. 

I can see this in action with some aspects of the testing that I do.  For example, a child may be getting bogged down on a task and not see how to proceed.  A sense of confusion may kick in overloading the child.  At that point, I may cue a child in to the task, help a little, and perhaps show him a clue as to how to proceed.  Often,  I see the light bulb go off –  “Oh, I get it…that’s how you do this.”   

A little structuring, cuing and guiding goes a long way.