School has been in session for over a month now and children have started to adjust to being back in person full time. After a year of online schooling, this has been a challenging transition for some. Many children started a new school (middle or high school) during online learning and never had a chance to meet their new peers.
The new school year may have highlighted that they need more support. The education system is designed for typical learners though does offers accommodations to those with learning challenges and disabilities. However, the diversity of needs does not always get addressed in the standard classroom.
Due to these challenges, some children will have serious questions: will I fall behind in school due to my learning disability? Is this the year that I struggle with ADHD to the point of needing support? Now that I am in a higher grade, will I be able to sit at my desk for as long as I need to? School can be a source of anxiety for many children which could decrease with a more accommodating classroom.
A question to ask about yourself and your children is what kind of student are you? There are the lifelong learners who anxiously anticipate the beginning of school as they are eager to learn. Lifelong learners seek knowledge throughout their lives whether obtaining multiple degrees or attend trainings for their given professions.
For the lifelong learners, school is fun and something that is sought out despite the challenges school may pose. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the type of student who learns through hands-on methods. This is the person who can take apart electronics and rebuild them, who creates beautiful structures by glancing at the design, or who works on cars successfully without ever taking a course in automobile mechanics. The hands-on student finds it difficult to sit in a desk and have knowledge spoken to them. They are more successful when they get to apply the knowledge, such as mixing chemicals in chemistry or playing a sport in P.E.
Another type of student is the one who struggles with school due to other factors including learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, ADHD or other mental health conditions. School is a symbol of their struggle as it imposes rigid boundaries on how to act and be in class. Without an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan, this type of student is expected to suppress their behaviors and symptoms to conform to the school’s requirements.
This is frustrating for all involved and the student ends up losing out on learning. Diversity within the education system that is reflected in the actual classroom environments would benefit many students.
So, once you know what type of student you or your child are, you can advocate for what is needed to be a successful learner. Sometimes this means filing for an IEP or 504 plan, but it can also mean teaching your child tools to be successful in school. Tools may be needed to address excess energy, difficulty focusing, how to ask for help, how to fulfill sensory needs, and others. Discussions with teachers and administrators about diversifying the classroom environment to include the various needs would promote a level of inclusion that could benefit many children.
Education is a necessity and can be a wonderful experience. Finding ways to support your child’s specific needs will increase your child’s ability to learn and prevent negative associations with school. For more support, contact Treehouse Family Counseling as we can help in this process by teaching various coping and regulation skills.
Michelle A. Culver, LMFT