It’s not uncommon for children to struggle at school. It might be clear from the outset or a child who has previously been doing well at school can sometimes stall; their grades may start to slip or they might start playing up in class. If this sounds familiar, what might be the cause? Their teacher might be able to shed some light on this, but with a class of 30 kids to look after, they can’t always pinpoint the reason. The best way to get to the root of the problem is by talking through their difficulties with your child. They might be reluctant to discuss things with you, particularly if your child is worried that you may be annoyed that they aren’t doing well in school; it can be a confusing time for them too if they are unsure of why they are having trouble. If your conversation does not seem to help identify the cause, one idea is to sit with them while they do their homework to see whether you can identify a possible problem yourself. Although there are a wide range of possibilities, here are some of the most common causes for difficulties with school work and how you can spot them.
If when reading with your child you notice that they seem to be having trouble reading the words on the page or are unable to make sense of what they have just read, they might have dyslexia. The letters in words appear jumbled, but children with dyslexia are unable to explain what they see, so the cause of their troubles may not be determined for some time. Extra support can be provided to help children with dyslexia with their school work. While children with dyslexia struggle in maths and English, they often do well in subjects that are more creative or hands on.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Children who don’t sit still, listen or follow instructions can sometimes be labelled as naughty, but all of these can be symptoms of ADD, where children are unable to suppress involuntary responses. Their inability to behave, understand or remember things is a large barrier to learning. However, when ADD is treated through therapy with or without medication, their symptoms can be well controlled, aiding your child’s ability to participate in class.
Difficulties with sight
Often difficulties at school are related to poor vision. If their eyesight has gradually been deteriorating, it may have gone unnoticed, but common indicators that they may have a problem with their vision includes experiencing a lot of headaches, squinting and complaining that objects appear blurred. If your child reports any of these, discuss how they manage to read from the board or from their books. Be aware that your child might deny problems with their sight as they fear that they will need glasses, which can make many children more self conscious. Although a lot of schools provide a yearly eye test, this will not always pick up problems, so your first port of call should be an eye doctor if you suspect your child has problems with their sight.
Difficulties outside of school
Even if you aren’t aware of it, children can pick up very much on what is happening around them. The death of a family member, the arrival of a new baby, parents who argue or any other stressful situations at home can all affect a child. They may not talk to you about how they are feeling, but these feelings can come out in how they perform and behave at school; this is often the cause if children have previously been exemplary, but then start to produce poor work and begin acting up in class. It might be necessary to consider how your home life is impacting on your child and put a plan in place to provide some relief for them.
Very bright children who are bored can soon lose interest in their studies and put minimal effort into their work. These children need to be stretched beyond what their peers happily do in class; otherwise they feel that they are merely covering old ground, which to them seems pointless. The best route to take here is to speak with their form teacher and the principal to see whether they can be offered more challenging work or even be moved up to the grade above.
Beth writes about eye care and health for children. It’s important to always pick up on problems early so that treatment has the best chance of success.