Helping Struggling Students Who Don't Qualify for Special Services
Even if your child doesn't qualify for special education services, she may continue to struggle in school. Learn how to identify the underlying causes of her difficulty so you can support her.
As her parent, you'll want to find ways to reinforce instruction, keep her motivated, lessen the pressure and celebrate her talents.
By Jan Baumel, M.S.
Has the public school determined that your child doesn't have a learning disability or qualify for special education services - yet she continues to struggle in school? What can you do to help her?
Everyone struggles with learning at one time or another. Just because your child isn't eligible for special education services or a 504 Plan doesn't mean her problems aren't real. If she was assessed by the public school and didn't qualify for any special services, the good news is that her test scores show she's learning. Be sure to compliment her about the strengths and achievements her results showed. Encourage her to stay motivated, because that's the key to success.
Uncovering the Cause of Her Struggle
It may be helpful for you to determine whether any of the following factors are causing her to struggle in school:
- She may feel overwhelmed by the amount of work expected of her or panicked about how to do her homework. Could anxiety be a factor? Emotions have a strong effect on whether a child is able to learn. Teach her ways to relax when she begins to feel anxious - count to 10, take a deep breath, practice yoga, take a break or get a drink of water - depending on whether she's at school or at home.
- If she attends a school with many high achievers, she may struggle with the curriculum even though her test scores indicate she has average skills. This kind of competition can be frustrating and lead to feelings of inadequacy. You'll have to decide if she's in the right school for her or if a change needs to be made to protect her self-esteem.
- Your child may feel she's the only one in the class who doesn't understand, has to work hard or spends hours on homework. Check with the teacher or other parents to see if this realistic. Examine your own expectations for her performance and decide whether she's putting unrealistic demands on herself. Let her know how proud you are of her hard work, and help her find ways to ease up on her expectations. Remind her that no one is perfect.
- Certain grade-level transitions create a jump in expectations for kids. For example, the transition to middle school can place a strain on all kids, but if a child already has problems organizing, this transition becomes exceptionally stressful. Since academic stress points can be anticipated, you can prepare your child with necessary support and structure ahead of time.
- Sometimes problems are specific to a subject area. A conference between you, your child and the teacher can help identify where the breakdown occurs. Does she have the necessary basic skills, understand the vocabulary, need to review the subject matter with you or a study group, need to get additional explanation from the teacher or work with a tutor? Once you get this information, you can plan ways to help her learn.