It’s early September. The “Curriculum Ship” is leaving the dock.   This ship moves full steam ahead with its goal of getting to the distant shore on the other side by about June 1st.

About 70% of the kids can ride the ship pretty well.    While there may be a few ups and downs along the way, the journey is pretty smooth sailing.

It’s the 30%, many of whom have learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, or ADHD that will be riding on stormy seas.  The curriculum ship does not stop or wait if anyone falls off the side.

Teachers are under a lot of pressure from various sources to cover the curriculum.  They know that in their class there will be some who just can’t keep up with the pace of things. Sometimes these kids are referred for special education assessment, but many times there are kids who are not seen as “bad enough” or they are ultimately seen as ineligible for receiving extra help.

Take young Luke, a seven year old child who is showing signs of reading struggling.  Luke is entering second grade, but there is a definite gap between where he is in reading (and spelling and writing) and where the average child is in his class.

Luke is already feeling some stomach pains (so is his mom) and he is getting ready to pull out his range of avoidance maneuvers, such as going to the bathroom a lot, class-clowning and others.

Here’s a few pieces of advice for the Luke’s out there:

  1. Fairly early into the school year, talk with your child’s teacher. Use plain language and stay away from clinical terms or diagnostic categories.  For example you might say something like, “Mrs. Jones, Luke really likes you as a teacher, but the work is way over his head.   He is coming home every night panicked that he can’t keep up.  He’s starting to make himself sick. What can we do to help this.”


  1. Most of the time, especially in early elementary grades, kids like Luke are having trouble with the words in the worksheets and stories that are not all that common (i.e., the bigger words). Encourage the teacher to preview the material with the child  (not in front of the other kids), so he can get a better sense of the words that he will encounter prior to any reading or independent activity.


  1. Think skill development Know what you are going to target. Don’t wait. Seek help in the form of focused, skill-based tutoring.

Adapted, “School Struggles, ” 2012, Richard Selznick,Ph.D., Sentient Publications

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