About this time of year, I frequently hear this concern raised. Unfortunately, it’s often put another way: “Should we just forget about this year, and hope next year is better?” The parent will usually continue, “We’ve tried our best. We’ve talked to him (or her), we’ve encouraged him, we’ve pushed him as hard as we can, we’ve even tried tutoring and counseling, hoping for the best, and nothing seems to have gotten better. The school is talking about holding him back and putting him in a special class.”
Usually, as I inquire further into the child’s problems, I will hear they’re having significant problems academically and can’t seem to focus or retain what they’ve learned at home, or they’re having a lot of behavioral problems at school, lack confidence, are isolated… or all of the above.
There are really two parts to this question. For the first part, no, it’s definitely not too late to get help for this school year. It’s at the end of the school year that evaluations and decisions are made as to what’s best for the child in the coming year, and we’re definitely not at that point yet. I’ve worked with many teachers, and I’m consistently told that if they see significant improvement in academics and/or behavior before the end of the year, it can definitely affect their decisions.
A parent’s attitude toward this question is also critically important to their child. Your decision to accept these problems as unavoidable and/or to give up on this school year, as opposed to not giving up and continuing to find the solution to your child’s difficulties, makes an indelible impression on how your child sees themself and their approach to solving problems.
If you take the first option, things will probably get worse for them as they’ll sense you’re giving up, and they will, too. They’ll also think less is expected of them, and they may put forth less effort. If you choose the second option and ground that for them firmly in the fact that the problems don’t represent their true self or abilities, and they’re worth these extra efforts to solve the problems, then you’ll have the opposite effect. Their self-esteem and effort will climb – and so will their chances of final success for the school year.
The second part of the question is in regard to whether or the not the proper underlying cause of the problem is being addressed. While tutoring and counseling definitely have their place, the problems mentioned here are more likely stemming from ADHD. This is a disorder that many parents reject testing for, and, if present, treating, because they understandably fear what they think is the unavoidable use of medication with its undesirable side-effects and rigors.
There is, however, a much preferable alternative to this scenario. Neurofeedback is an effective, drug and side-effect free procedure in which the individual learns to retrain the attention and/or impulse control mechanisms of the brain, alleviating the condition. Once training is completed, no further treatment is necessary.
Dr. Stephen A. Ferrari is the Director of Alta Neuro-Imaging Neurofeedback