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How to Figure Out Why Your Child Struggles in School
There are many possible reasons why your child struggles in school. The level of the course material, study skills, homework environment, peer relationships and learning disabilities are a few factors to consider. To determine why your child struggles in school, it is best to speak with them directly. Listen to their experiences and concerns. Take notes and then talk to their teachers to figure out whether the problem relates to the subject matter, study skills, learning disabilities or other considerations.
Evaluating the Difficulty of Schoolwork
Ask your child what is going on.Sit down with your child, tell them they are not in any trouble and that you want to talk about school. Ask them how school is going. Give them the space to talk. Listen attentively and write up some notes afterward. If necessary, ask your child follow up questions to figure out whether there is a problem with a teacher, a classmate or a particular subject.For example, you could ask them:
- “What do you think of your teacher this year?”
- “Do you have any new friends at school?”
- “Are there any really hard classes this year?”
- “What is hardest about school?”
Find out if they are struggling with a particular subject.It is important to know whether it is one subject in particular that your child finds difficult. Although your child may be performing poorly across the board, it could be that one subject is at the root of their challenges.Start by asking your child if there is a particularly challenging subject and then inquire with their teacher:
- “Is there one subject in particular that they are having a hard time with?”
- “What do you think the root of their struggle is?”
See if their courses are too easy.If the subject matter of one or more of their courses is too easy, your child may not be sufficiently engaged. You can determine whether it is too easy by examining the textbooks or other course materials, as well as by observing your child doing their homework. If the materials are too elementary, their struggle may be a result of disengagement rather than any learning difficulty.
Determine if their courses are too difficult.It is possible that your child’s school struggles are a result of inappropriate placement. Examine the textbook and related course materials to see if they are at an appropriate level of difficulty. Then, observe your child completing their homework and see how much trouble they have with it. If the material is too difficult for them, they simply need to take a lower level subject that includes appropriate introductory material. After taking the introductory course, your child may be in a better position to perform.
Evaluating Other Potential Causes
Consider whether this is a new or continuing struggle.If they are having a hard time with a particular subject, consider whether they had a hard time with it in the past. If they are having a difficult time with a particular student, think about whether they have had similar troubles in the past.
See if your child is making time for homework every night.Reflect on your child’s nighttime routine. If your child is spending too much time playing video games or watching television and not enough time studying, they may simply not be putting in the time to succeed.
Check if your child’s study partners are supportive.You should make sure that your child’s study partners are supporting rather than hindering their learning. If they do their homework with friends, make sure the group studying is supporting their learning and ability to get homework done.
- If your child is studying mostly with a friend, see if the relationship is distracting for your child.
- If your child is studying alone, see if they are focusing on the work or if they get easily distracted by pets or other activities in your home.
Make sure they have adequate parental supervision.Lack of supervision may be a cause of your child's struggles at school. Your child may need some parental supervision during their study time. If your child normally does their homework on their own, try offering some support. Sit with your child while they do their homework. You should respond to questions and offer instruction where necessary. However, you should avoid doing their homework for them, since this would defeat the purpose of learning.
- If you are having a hard time making time to assist them with homework, you could look into a homework helper or a tutor for a particular subject.
Make sure they have the resources to do their homework.See if they are missing space or equipment. If your child does not have a desk to study or a home computer to write an essay, their performance may suffer. See if they have necessary supplies for their classes, such as pens, pencils, rulers, computer, desk, desktop organizers and other school supplies.
Take them to a doctor to see if a medical problem is why they're struggling.If your child is suffering from an illness or another medical condition like vision loss, it could be affecting how well they're studying and learning. Bring your child to the doctor for a checkup and explain that they're struggling in school. The doctor will examine them and possibly run tests to rule out any medical problems as the cause.
- If the doctor determines your child has a medical problem, talk to them about treatment options and coping strategies.
Think about any family issues that could be causing them to struggle.Problems at home or in your extended family, like alcoholism, illness, depression, and unemployment, may be taking a toll on your child and disrupting their learning. If your family is dealing with any of these issues, you may want to seek outside support to help your child get back on track.
Seeking Outside Support
Make an appointment with their teacher.Give the school a ring and ask to make an appointment with their class teacher. To prepare for the meeting, review notes from your conversations with your child, as well as their school history (e.g., past struggles, school changes). Consider what questions you want to ask their teacher. For example, you might want to ask the following:
- “Why do you think my child is struggling this year?”
- “Have you noticed any changes in my child’s behavior recently?”
- “What advice do you have in terms of getting my child back on track?”
- “Do you think my child has a learning disability?”
- “How could we determine whether or not they have a disability?”
Seek a recommendation from your doctor.If you suspect your child has a particular learning disability, you might want to get a recommendation from your doctor for professional help. Common types of learning disabilities include ADHD, dyslexia (i.e., difficulty with reading) and dyscalculia (i.e., difficulty with math). To determine whether or not your child has a learning disability, you can ask your family doctor for a recommendation for a child psychologist, educational psychologist or other professional. Your family doctor may refer you to one of the common professionals who deal with learning disabilities.
- Educational psychologists, child psychologists, school psychologists and developmental psychologists are a few of the professionals that deal with learning disabilities.
Get a learning disability assessment from your school.You should be able to get your child assessed within their school.Your child will be assessed by a multidisciplinary team including educators, psychologists and professionals from a variety of fields. The team will produce a report on your child. This report will be used to create a learning plan for your child.
- The evaluation will be based on observations of your child in the school setting, standardized tests, interviews, school history and other data.
- Your school will invite you to talk to another team of professionals to discuss the report and whether any special education program is needed.
Obtain a private assessment.If there is a long wait for a learning disability assessment at your school, you might consider a private assessment.Your child will be evaluated in a private clinic away from the school. The private evaluations are not as standardized and may or may not include classroom observations.
- To determine whether or not it is worthwhile, you should ask what the evaluation looks at and whether classroom observations and school history are considered.
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