Tag Archives: School problems


Day dreaming or ADD

Why this parent advice topic

This post continues the series  “Getting along in school.”  The previous posts have looked at temperament, goodness of fit, the three major learning disabilities – Dyslexia, Dyscalulia, and Disgraphia; the most recent post, looked at Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD with a focus on hyperactivity.  Considered more as a behavior problem than a learning disability, hyperactivity definitely creates school problems.  Now the focus shifts to ADD without hyperactivity which also creates school problems, not ones that are always noticed.

Distracted by boredom and inner thoughts.

While Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is over diagnosed, Attention Deficit is under-diagnosed.  Why? The child’s behavior tends not to annoy most adults, teachers in particular.

Here is a symptom check list for ADD:

  •  Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
  • Often has trouble organizing activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  • Is often easily distracted.
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

The first hint that I might have a tendency toward ADD came from  quote that I believe I read in Halloway and Ratey’s book Driven to Distraction.  A golden oldie that should be required reading for all teachers and most parents.

Here’s the quote, “Always organizing, never organized.”

Never checked out to see how many of the symptoms I had.  Did so now.  As my mother always said, “God blessed you when he sewed your head to your neck.”

Yes, I lose things constantly.  Which reminds me, I am hoping my cell phone is in our car, but first I have to figure out where I put my car keys.  Sigh.  Found the car keys but not the cell phone.  Haven’t give up, but feeling it may be gone for good.  Life goes on.  Anyway, I don’t fully qualify for the diagnosis.

To be officially diagnosed one must have at least six of the symptoms.  I have three. Moreover, the symptoms must be seen in at least two different settings – home and school; home and church.  Well, I seem to take them everywhere I go.  However, the symptoms must interfere with the ability to do what needs to be done.  I am highly productive.  Annoyed and frustrated because of my various challenges, but productive nevertheless.  Finally, the distractablity  must not be due to another major mental disorder.  Trauma is a big culprit here.  More about in a future post.

Parent advice

Parent tip number one:  If you have not read, all of my posts about trouble in school, read them. The tips all apply.

Parent tip number two:  Program, program, program. This is a good tip for most of us.  Possibly not the obsessive compulsive who may be over organized.  By program, I mean instill things like:  A place for everything and every thing in its place.  My soon to be three year old grandson knows were his toys go and what happens if they don’t go there.

Parent tip number three: Routines. A time and season for everything meaning designated free time, me time, play time, T.V time, work time, study time, family time.

Parent tip number four: Check lists.

Parent tip number five: Guard your child’s self-esteem.  Promote what matters.  What matters? Kindness, caring, generosity  working for peace.  Moreover, those three things require no special talents, no huge pocket-book.  You star in your life when you seek to leave your corner of the world better than you found it.

Stay strong

Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle, but also brings more joy to your life.


Disclaimer: Forgive my grammatical errors for I have dysgraphia.

if you need perfect posts, you will not find them  here;  I will understand if you don’t follow me.  If  you want to hang in with me, thank you; if a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you but you want to keep reading try again in a few days   Often I catch the worse mistakes when I read the post after a few days.


IMAGE BY: Smashing Hub

This post is about one of the lesser known learning disablitites.  If you read my posts, however, you know I battle Dysgraphia in order to  write right

Dsygraphia is not just about bad handwriting, although that can be one of the symptoms. The bad hand writing seems to stem from a glitch in the brain that is like dyslexia.  Many who have dyslexia also suffer from one or another of the symptoms of dsygraphia.  At other times the two are totally separate.

Reading has been one of my life lines, I read quickly, and grasp multiple levels of meaning – why some of my professors thought I should teach English.  When it came to putting words to paper, however, other professors wondered that I had made it through highschool.  I do not have dyslexia, and I do have dysgraphia.

Here is a good description of dysgraphia  from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers, and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:

    • Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees
    • Language processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears

As with all learning disabilities (LD), dysgraphia is a lifelong challenge, although how it manifests may change over time.

If your child is having difficulty in school, you need to think about the possibility of dysgraphia.  Particularly if she is an avid reader, can understand what she has read, and can talk clearly about the plot, and what she like, but is not doing well in spelling tests or writing assignments.

What to look for?

  1. Unusual pencil grip particular after the age of six or seven
  2. Difficulty staying within lines, may not enjoy coloring
  3. Forms letters slowly and with difficulty
  4. Letters are poorly formed
  5. Letter reversals
  6. Poor spacing.  Words may run into each other, sentences run off the page, double spacing for some lines half spacing for others.
  7. Mix of cursive and printing
  8. Mix of capital and lower case letters.
  9. When copying skips or leaves out words
  10. Incorrect words — “our” for “own” or “now” for “not”
  11. Common words such as “the” or “and” are mis-spelled at least half of the time
  12. Can’t follow along and read what another is writing
  13. Can spell or punctuate properly one day or for several sentences in a row, but not consistently.
  14. Can dictate a coherent story or test answer, but cannot write the same answer

What can be done?  accommodations range from concentrating on try to improve handwriting to eliminating the need for the child to write by having a scribe.  Sometimes using a computer helps, sometimes not.


Parenting tip one:   If worried, learn more. If you have not already read the earlier posts about school problems,  read them now.  Also go to the various links and read what each has to say. Browse the internet for other resources.  Learn all that you can about learning disabilities.

Parenting tip two:  Observe your child for signs.

Parenting tip three:  As always make sure your relationship with the school and your child’s teachers are positive. It never helps a child with problems to have the parent seen as troublesome also.   See what my guest blogger Jean Tracy had to say about that in her post Getting Along in School.

Parenting tip four:  Ask if you can sit in on a class to observe your child.  Most schools will allow some short parent visits to the class room.  Make your request in writing.   If you can email your teacher, great. Otherwise write a note and ask that it be placed in his mail box at the school.

If the answer to a class room visit is “No,”  do not make a fuss, just send another note saying,   “I am worried about the problems he gives me when I try to practice help him with written work.  I wanted to see if he gave you the same trouble as well as what I could learn from how you teach him.”

That said, add, “Lets make a date to talk about this.”

Parenting tip five:  Prepare for your  face to face talk.  Your goal is to arrange a proper evaluation, starting with the school’s resources.  Begin by asking for the teacher’s ideas about what is going on.  If she seems to know he might have a Learning Disability or is struggling.  agree and talk about the symptoms you see, then ask for  an evaluation.

If the teacher doesn’t seem to think your child is anything but a slow learner, talk about what you have learned.  Agree he is struggling with written work, but point out he seems to be advanced in other ares and say that is a common sign of a specific learning disability.

Say you have been trying to figure out what is going on and have learned a bit about learning difficulties, but one thing you know is that it takes a professional evaluation to really figure the problem out and you want to know how to arrange this through the school.

Parenting tip six:   Try to inject a bit of humor or self-deprecation into your conversation with the teacher.  Doing so can defuse feelings he is being challenged. Teachers want to be seen as experts and in control.

Say something like.  “Maybe I am just a hover parent, be patient with me.”

Then add, “I know we both want what is best for all the kids.  Do you see a problem with asking for a professional evaluation?”

Parenting tip seven: Don’t rush your child, or the teacher.  Rushing and pushing a child to learn what is hard for her, only creates frustration. Not helpful.

As for teachers, although more and more is known about various learning disabilities, most teachers do not yet have specific training.  If you have followed my posts about school challenges, you may know more than the teacher.  So if after doing the above, the teacher is reluctant to ask forga psychological evaluation at the school, suggest that you will work with your child at home, and you would like to meet again with the teacher in four to six weeks.  If there has been no major improvement, then you feel it might be time to go  up a level and discuss the problems with the IEP team.

What is an IEP team?   Since 2004,  all public schools in the United States have been required to have a team devoted to making certain all a children’s educational needs are met.  The team is charged with creating what is called an Individualized Educational Plan for children not learning as they should be.   Wright’s Law is a useful web site  to learn all about the what a public school in the USA must do to make sure all children get properly educated.  Other countries approach things differently.  If you have a child challenged in school, you need to know what a school is required to do legally.  A teacher may want to help, but may be limited in what she is allowed to do by legal restraints.

Parenting tip eight: Find support for yourself.  In the past ten years in the United States at least, parents have demanded more inclusion when it comes to planning for their child’s education or when needed, mental health care.   For many years professionals devised “treatment” plans without asking for parents’ ideas about what would work.   These plans were announced to parents and a parent who did not agree could be referred  to the child welfare authorities for educational of medical neglect.

The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health successfully advocated for the right of parents to sit with the experts when it came to making  plans for a child.  Their motto  is “Nothing about us without us.”

If there is not such an organization near you, ask a friend to offer you support while you work out the best educational plan for your child.

Parenting tip nine: Tailor all advice, even mine, to your child and your need. Even the most learned researchers and theorists quarrel about much.  Take their advice and mine carefully.  Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think.  Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you by others.  As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.

Stay strong

Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle, but also brings more joy to your life.


If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. As noted above, I have dysgraphia which means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are. Thanks for your understanding and reading my work.


All my books are available on Amazon, and readable on any tablet, laptop, Mac, PC, e-reader or Kindle device.

When Good Kids Do Bad Things. A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers

Parents Are People Too. An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents

Tame the Test Anxiety Monster

Coming soon from Metaplume: How to Hold a Successful Family Meeting,



School has started. For 25% of all students, happy times will prevail; these are the academic super stars. For the majority of students, school will be okay. For 10-20% of students, school will be torture. Temperament is one of the factors determining if a child is happy or unhappy in school.

Many of my foster children, and both my sons, struggled with various learning disabilities. One was also super sensitive and easily hurt; school tortured him.  He was only happy on weekends or school vacations.  The other son had different temperament traits and could shake off  his learning problems a bit more easily.

When a child hates school or always has a stomach ache on school days—particularly on test days—or begins saying “I’m stupid” or becomes a behavior problem in the class room, these as strong signals saying “I need help.” Your job as a parent is to figure out what is going on. The place to start is temperament.

Starting in the 1950s, researchers Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess, Herbert G. Birch, Margaret Hertzig and Sam Korn began the classic New York Longitudinal study regarding why some children were easier to raise and lead better lives than others.  They found it had nothing to do with parenting but with the combination of genetically endowed ways of being.

Jerome Kagan, retired Harvard guru of child development, published a list of eight factors that shape lives, and fist on the list is temperament. Temperament is one of the first things to think about if your child is unhappy in school.


Tip number one:  Temperament is genetic. That should have lifted the pall of blame from parents for the things they cannot control. It didn’t? Lift it for yourself by learning about temperament.

Tip two: Read this quick introduction to temperament.

  • Activity: Is the child always moving and doing something OR does he or she have a more relaxed style?
  • Rhythmicity: Is the child regular in his or her eating and sleeping habits OR somewhat haphazard?
  • Approach/withdrawal: Does he or she “never meet a stranger”, ie. are they friendly and confident with everyone OR do they tend to shy away from new people or things?
  • Adaptability: Can the child adjust to changes in routines or plans easily OR does he or she resist transitions?
  • Intensity: Does he or she react strongly to situations, either positive or negative, OR does he or she react calmly and quietly?
  • Mood: Does the child often express a negative outlook OR is he or she generally a positive person? Does his or her mood shift frequently OR is he or she usually even-tempered?
  • Persistence and attention span: Does the child give up as soon as a problem arises with a task OR does he or she keep on trying? Can he or she stick with an activity for a long time OR does his or her mind tend to wander?
  • Distractibility: Is the child easily distracted from what he or she is doing OR can he or she shut out external distractions and stay with the current activity?
  • Sensory threshold: Is he or she bothered by external stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights, or food textures OR does he or she tend to ignore them?

Tip three: Use this quick guide to figure out the various temperaments operating in your house.

Tip four: Look for the next blog post which will deal with “Goodness of fit” issues and give some tips for handling those that are interfering with school.

Tip five: Learn more about temperament.  There are lots of books out there that discuss temperament as well as lots of articles on the web. An educated parent serves their children best.  Start with this Wikipedia article.  Then look at some of the resources it suggests.   It points you to a Myer’s Briggs site and when I took their test at a management training, my marriage improved.  I made David take the test and comparing results improved our understanding of each other and our children.


Like this post, comment on it—if only to tell me what you didn’t like—share it.  On Pinterest? Pin it and follow me; I will follow you.  Every action you take will help me stay strong, will strengthen you, and hopefully some others.

You will also be practicing one of the 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises.  Click here to view all Daily Emotional Fitness  Exercises. If  regular practice of the 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises does not improve the quality of your life, more might be needed.  That is the time to think about adding more support to your life or  getting coaching, counseling or therapy.

Good luck, life is a struggle, caring for children harder than you expect AND despite the struggle, life as a parent can be wonderful and the best part of life as a grown up.



First:  All advice should be thought of as suggestion, particularly parent advice.  Take it all with a grain of salt, mine included.

Second: Sometimes my posts are a bit peppered with mis-spellings, oddly used words, weird punctuation.  These stem from a lesser known learning disability called dysgraphia, but also from rushing.  My apologies. Don’t read or check back in a day or so, as I usually catch most of the errors when I re-read.  Also practice forgiveness is a useful Emotional Fitness Exercise.