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Parents often bring children into my office when they are already failing several subjects in school. These students are dejected, frustrated and often depressed. They believe that because of their past performance, they will never succeed in school. It is not strange that constant effort and subsequent failure have taught these students to believe that failure is their only option.
11-year old Avi was just awarded a trip to visit his cousins in Detroit – because he didn’t get into trouble in school or fight with his siblings for one week. The prize his parents originally had in mind was a new speed bike, but when that failed to motivate him sufficiently, they searched for a more appealing incentive.
Asperger’s Syndrome was first described in the 1940s by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who noticed that he had many patients who were deficient in social and communicative skills even though they had normal language development and cognitive abilities. Professionals still debate as to whether Asperger’s Syndrome is “high-functioning autism” or whether it is its own disorder completely. Regardless, in 1994, Asperger’s Syndrome was added to The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a separate disorder from autism.
In the previous two columns, we focused on phonics, sight-reading, comprehension and fluency. While phonics and sight-reading are different approaches to reading instruction, comprehension and fluency measure the level at which a student reads.
Sara is pulling straight A's in all of her classes. She scores high grades on most of her exams and tests. You would think that she and her parents would be thrilled with her progress. But Sara is struggling in school despite her academic excellence. Socially, she is a wreck. While all the other girls easily group together during recess she has few friends, little social contact, and she is generally reclusive and shy around classmates and teachers.
Shaindy and Tova have both just earned their degrees and are eager to enter the job market. Both young women are highly qualified, and both are well equipped with impressive resumes and a long list of prestigious references. But while Shaindy finds employment almost instantly, Tova finds herself wandering aimlessly from one interview to another, never quite landing the job that she's looking for. What's the difference between the two young ladies? Shaindy prepared herself for the interview process in advance. She knew how to present herself and what to say. Tova, unfortunately, did not.
Kaboom! That's what we experience when there is an explosion. And that's exactly what we feel like when we are dealing with an "explosive" child. For those of you who don't understand what I'm talking about, consider yourselves blessed. But those who know exactly what it means for a child to "explode" for no apparent reason understand what a tremendous challenge this is. It's like living inside a simmering volcano. As one frustrated mother put it, "We are in a perpetual state of crisis."
With Pesach behind us, what better time to take a closer look at the annual burst of intensity that propelled us, in the weeks and days leading to the yom tov, into a frenzy of cleaning? That sustained embrace of scrupulous cleaning offers insight into a subject that has lately received a great deal of attention in psycho-educational literature. The topic, OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, might be understood by comparing it with that exhausting endeavor from which many of us are just starting to recover.
Two months into the school year, Shonnie's enthusiasm for school inexplicably took a nose dive. Her morning routines seemed to take her forever. The 7 year-old reacted to her mother's exasperation by turning sulky and tearful. With increasing frequency she missed the bus and needed to be driven to school.
Most people don't think much about their socks, but for eight-year-old Suri W., they are all-important today. The seams at her toes are terribly irritating. Suri spent an inordinate amount of time this morning getting them into a perfect position. But now, three hours later, they apparently shifted. The teacher's voice has receded into the background; a friend's request for a pencil has gone unheeded. The itch has taken over.
The abbreviated language of text messaging has entered our everyday lives. While texting is an excellent, quick way to communicate with our friends and family, it is a symptom of a greater issue facing today's students: declining writing skills.
Seven-year-old Naomi* has her teacher stumped. Her reading level is far above second-grade level and her precocious vocabulary often leaves her teacher astounded. She surpasses her peers in almost all language art subjects. Full of zest to learn, she takes an active part in class discussions and is focused and alert in her studies.
Of all the various disorders and syndromes that affect children in our community, I wonder if any is as misunderstood or puzzling as "selective mutism." Until very recently, professionals and educators just assumed that children with selective mutism were actually being silent "on purpose." It is only within the last year or two that we have discovered that it's really not under the child's control.