Is Your Child
Struggling in School?
by Jennifer Disch, EdS, Engage the Brain
Whether you are a helicopter parent
who has all your child’s internet website
passwords memorized, or a free-range parent
who allows your 5-year-old to commute to
a friend’s house by public transportation (or
Uber!), or fall somewhere in between, you
are a parent who knows that discovering your
child is struggling in school is a miserable
and frustrating experience.
In most cases, however, faltering in school
doesn’t just happen one morning when they
wake up. There are usually warning signs.
Shut Down Learners
According to Dr. Richard Selznick,
child psychologist and Director of Cooper
Learning Center, Department of Pediatrics
at Cooper Hospital in New Jersey, some
children are at risk of becoming “shut down
learners.” Selznick says that warning signs
can include your child
• is increasingly disconnected, discouraged
and unmotivated towards school;
• displays a dislike of reading or writing;
• receives little or no gratification from
• exhibits an increased anger towards school.
Where to begin
The first place to begin is with a visit to
your child’s pediatrician to rule out any
physical issues. The pediatrician can check
your child’s vision (perhaps she is having
trouble seeing the whiteboard from her
seat); hearing (can she understand and hear
the teacher); and rule out any attention and
ability to focus issues.
If your child is struggling with attention
issues, gaps can form in his learning. He may
simply miss a lot of instruction.
Skills build on one another. Like a house
with a poor foundation will develop cracks,
children with cracks in their foundational
learning will find challenging concepts
difficult to grasp. Think of math. If your
child struggles with basic multiplication
facts, asking her to multiply a three-digit
number by a two-digit number would be
demanding at best.
Emotional issues can affect concentration
and motivation. Are there any significant
issues happening at home such as a divorce
Perhaps your child has a learning disability.
If your child has average to above-average
intelligence but still struggles with academics,
there may be a learning issue. According to
the National Institutes of Health, 15% of
the United States population has some type
of learning disability. Difficulty with reading
and language skills are the most common
type of learning disability. And learning
disabilities tend to run in families.
Once you have met with the pediatrician,
the next step is to meet with your child’s
teacher. to discuss your child’s strengths and
weaknesses. Alison Ehara-Brown, a licensed
clinical social worker and school consultant,
suggests you volunteer for the day in your
child’s classroom. If you cannot do it, or
feel your child will not respond well to your
presence all day, then hire a child therapist or
learning specialist to evaluate your child in
Ehara-Brown looks for teaching style
versus your child’s learning style. Are they a
good match? Also, observe your child in the
lunchroom and playground. How is your
child socially with her peers?