By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist
My 6-year-old son hates school. He says he hates doing the work and he thinks it is boring. I have talked with the teacher and she says he has a negative attitude but he is very smart. She, and I have tried to find his interests but he says he only likes gym, recess and lunch. He was originally put in the gifted and talented program but was taken out because he seemed disinterested and was not putting any effort into it. He said he felt sad when he couldn't go with the gifted teacher anymore but things are not improving in class. He will sit in his chair until told what to do and not make any effort. Could he be bored and need more of a challenge? The teacher doesn't think so, but I don't know what else it could be. He does his work and seems happy at home. He has friends around the neighborhood and in school. He has always been exceptionally bright and willing to take on new things. I just don't know what to do! If you have any advice it would be greatly appreciated!
After reading your concerns, I find myself with more questions than answers:
Are these new behaviors/attitudes, or did your son display this same type of resistance in Kindergarten? If they are new, then something has changed for him. Perhaps it's a learning or attention issue. First grade requires increased task focus and attention to detail. In addition, new academic skills are introduced; children with previously undetected problems may begin to struggle in first grade or may refuse to work because they feel inadequate. How are things at home? Have there been any major changes within the family, such as separation, divorce, or the death of a pet or loved one? Sometimes children show no reaction at home but act out at school. If any of these is the case, you might want to arrange for your son to talk to a licensed counselor or psychologist.
How was your son evaluated for the T&G program? Did he undergo a full educational evaluation with multiple tests, or was he simply given a screening tool? If your son did not have a full educational evaluation, including an IQ test and evaluation of his academic strengths and weaknesses, then you should consider asking for a full-blown evaluation by the school district, to include both academic and behavioral assessments. As noted above, learning disabilities often are not detected until academic demands increase. The behavioral assessment will give you a clearer picture of what you're dealing with.
What does your pediatrician think? If you haven't already done so, schedule an examination and a consultation with your son's physician. Be sure to have documentation from the teacher regarding his classroom behaviors, so that the physician can get a full picture, as well. This way, any physical problems can be ruled out before you tackle the behaviors. I also suggest having his vision checked.
Finally, if learning difficulties, attention problems and physical illness have all been ruled out, then you are clearly dealing with behavioral issues. The good news about behavior problems is that oftentimes a child's actions can be altered with some simple changes in how the adults around him respond and reinforce him. As was noted previously, a few sessions with a licensed counselor or psychologist will help you find your way.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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