Q: My son is in the sixth grade and started this year at a new school. He is having a difficult time adjusting to the amount of homework assigned because he is very slow at completing it. His teachers also comment on how slow he does his work. I am beginning to worry that he might have a learning disability. – Worried A: Your son has now been in school for more than three months. The adjustment period is over. Keep in mind that the workload in middle school does start to pick up, so if he has poor study skills or is not reading on grade level, this will cause him to take longer to do his work.
There is a red flag. Both you and his teachers notice that your son is doing his work slowly. Everyone needs to find out why. Observe him at home. Does he plan how to tackle his homework? Are some subjects giving him more trouble? Is he using his time wisely?
Don’t waste any more time. You need to talk to your son’s teachers. Ask his guidance counselor to arrange for a meeting with all his teachers to talk about how slowly your child works in school. At the meeting, find out if this is a problem in every class. And work with the teachers to pinpoint exactly what the problem is and how it can be resolved.
Schools are no longer rushing to test children for learning disabilities. Now they are trying out other interventions first to see if they work.
Q: Our second-grader has been in school for several months now, and he is having behavior problems. He is unable to stay in his seat. If he happens to be in his seat, he is always talking. The teacher says he never stops. I am running out of ideas on how to discipline him when he gets home at night. – Tired A: You can discipline him when he gets home, but it won’t do much good after the fact. Go to his school and observe his behavior in class, and see if you have any suggestions for the teacher.
This teacher needs to become pro-active. The school’s behavior specialist or a mentor should come and observe your son in class. Then a behavior intervention plan can be developed to improve his behavior. Try this at home: Purchase a mid-sized exercise ball for your son to use while doing homework.
Studies have found that children who move or fidget a lot can stay more focused while seated on a ball. (It works by stimulating a section of the brain.) If you find this helps him, share that information with his teacher, the school might allow him to use one in class.
If neither of these approaches work after a few weeks, he may need to be tested to see if there is some underlying reason for his behavior. MP Parents should send questions and comments to email@example.com or ask them on the columnists’ web site at dearteacher.com.
Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts