As the school year begins, optimism is in the air. It’s a very positive time for the majority of school-age girls and boys as they look forward to seeing all of their old friends, making new ones, and experiencing new learning challenges. This of course is not true of all, for there are those that look with dread and anxiety at the start of a new school year. The dread is based in part on past school years’ experiences and their struggles with learning. Parents and school personnel generally easily observe these learning difficulties and there are systems in place to support and remediate those who struggle with learning. What’s not easily observed are the less obvious signs: the anxiety, hesitancy to respond, self-doubt, isolation from peers and disabling fear as to how their peers perceive them.
These emotional indicators can be as disabling as the learning disorder itself, and are frequently tied to the learning disability, attention deficit, language disorder, spectrum disorder, et cetera. Because of the impact of these factors on learning, any plan—be it formal, such as an IEP, or informal as a part of the Response to Intervention (RTI) plan—should address these factors.
The true purpose of this article and the title “I See You” is meant to bring heightened awareness on the part of teachers, counselor, administrators and teacher assistants as to the non-verbal indicators. I recently read an article by Dr. Tim Jordan (www.drtimjordan.com), a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician here in St. Louis County. The article, titled “Sitting alone at lunch: the saddest girls I know,” not only got my attention, but tugged at my heart to the point that I had to write this piece.
My first reaction to observing a child (girl or boy) sitting alone might be to go over and ask: “Is everything all right?” The key word here is observing. The isolation of the child, whether it is of the child’s own accord, or due to shunning by others, is a red flag. If the isolation is due to bullying then appropriate actions on the part of school must take place. All schools have bullying policies and all staff have been or should have been educated on these protocols. Additionally, staff is trained on what actions to take when bullying is observed. When teachers and administrators act quickly and forcefully there can be a quick end to the blatant acts that come to their attention. However, it’s the subtle acts that frequently go unnoticed by staff and parents that can negatively impact emotional health.
Because I am a caring and responsible observer, I see you:
“I See You” holds true because it’s important that children feel safe. Being observant helps ensure that safety.
Check out next month’s eNewsletter for: “I See You (Part 2)” where the topic will be, “You are a valued member of our school and I recognize you for who you are and how important you are in our world.”
Mark* was a typical 3rd grade student. He was not into school, but loved his sports, soccer being the main one. He was falling behind academically, and his parents contacted St. Louis LDA to see if we could offer any help. Mark went through a battery of tests and was diagnosed with a Language Impairment and LD in Written Expression. When I first met Mark, he really wanted nothing to do with me. Knowing he needed a tutor was embarrassing to him. He did not like to be singled out for help. Much to his dismay, I was seeing him twice a week. We quickly established a routine where we worked on academics for 45 minutes and then Mark was able to choose a different activity. He usually picked playing a game. By the time he was in 5th grade, our sessions were strictly business. He would come in with his assignment and we would get right to it. There were times we would even work beyond our allotted 50 minutes. When Mark entered middle school, he was glad to see me. We worked on his assignments and our relationship became much more positive. When he stopped tutoring, he "got it" and aggressively completed his homework on his own and turned in assignments on time. Mark had acquired the skills to work with his Language Impairment and make school a positive environment. His grades were excellent and his attitude was wonderful.
Story shared by former St. Louis LDA tutor Ken Cohen