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Maybe He's Just Lazy!

Sometimes I Wonder If There Is A Problem.  But I Know My Child...He's Smart.  He Just Doesn't Seem To Care About School Work.  He's Not Motivated.  He's Just Lazy!

Have you ever wondered the same thing about children you know? I can't tell you how many times I've heard those thoughts in the last 14 years. But you also ought to know I've never seen a lazy student.

(O.K., I'll admit that occasionally I think that my own children are lazy, but I'm sure they are different!)

I certainly do see some students that look as if they are just lazy. I've seen kids do everything to get out of doing academic work. I've even seen tired kids. But never one who is truly lazy. The purpose of this article is to help clarify

How can a kid
"look" lazy and not be?

It's simple. Either they can't do the work no matter how hard they try, or the work is so difficult for them that they will do anything to avoid it.

Have you ever sucked on a baby bottle? If I had to work that hard to eat, I'd eat a whole lot less. Have you ever tried writing in a car while the care drove across a bumpy road? It's very hard to do. Most of us simply decide to wait until later when we know it will be easier.

But what if you didn't know it would be easier later? What if you thought that you would have to work that hard the rest of your life? Wouldn't that belief change both your attitude and your behavior? Those are the kinds of people that we deal with here at the Stowell Learning Center.

While each individual is different, there are some common behaviors that indicate an individual is struggling These behaviors are clues that a struggle is going on. These behaviors include:

  • class disruption or defiance
  • inattention
  • poor performance
  • working too hard or too long on schoolwork
More often than not, these characteristics are mere symptoms. Of what? There are three major categories these issues fall in. They are:
  • overplacement
  • psychological/emotional concerns
  • learning disabilities

But knowing which of these is the root of any problem is vital to choosing the best road to change and success. So if the symptoms can be the same for any of the root conditions, then how can you tell what kind of referral to make? Let's take them one at a time.

Overplacement
In the first five years of life, kids do EVERYTHING when they are ready. Suddenly, it all changes when they are five. Ready or not, off to school they go. Readiness for school is a function of a child's TOTAL growth - emotional, social, intellectual, and physical. Every child has a rate and pattern of growth unique to himself which may or may not correspond to his chronological age.

Have you ever wanted to tell a kid (or yell) "GROW UP!" That may be closer to the child's needs than you think.

But just as the farmer can't go out to the field and make his crop grow faster by talking to it, children can develop ONLY over time. So how can you tell if those characteristic behaviors that you observe are caused by overplacement?

Here are some signals to look for:

  • Young birth date
  • Immature compared to grade level peers
  • Relates best to younger children
  • Fatigue, tenseness, frequent colds
  • Avoidance, passive resistance
  • "Uneven" development (children who are overplaced can't cope with everything all at once. They might end up putting most of their energies into academics while acting "shy" around peers. Or they may do the reverse - have lots of friends and do poor academically.

The solution
Overplacement is best solved by giving the child another year to mature before placing him in the succeeding grade. Ideally, the unready child will be spotted prior to kindergarten entrance, but since these children do not usually "catch up," a grade adjustment even at an older age may save the child from being uncomfortable and unsuccessful in school.

Psychological/Emotional Concerns
are a little trickier to diagnose because they "hide" a little better than overplacement does.

Poor performance in school often opens the door to low self-esteem and emotional stress. But when a psychological or emotional disturbance is the primary cause of the school problems, the behaviors don't stop when the child leaves school. Instead, the behaviors tend to spread throughout the child's life. Here are some examples:

  • a child with an extreme fear of failure or lack of self-confidence may do his schoolwork very well but "lose" it before time to turn it in for fear that it might be wrong.
  • On the baseball field he may have excellent skills, but be unable to perform in a game so that he spends most of the game on the "safety" of the bench.
  • A student who is explosive with his schoolwork may also be volatile on the playground and at home.

Students who have problems in school for psychological/emotional reasons may have learning disabilities, but often do not.

Their mental (and sometimes physical)
energies are simply tied up with concerns that
are more primary in their hierarchy of needs.

Psychological and emotional concerns can best be dealt with through the help of a qualified counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Learning Disabilities
are sometimes called the "hidden Handicap." Learning disabled children and adults look and act like the rest of the population. They are bright and often talented in creative or physical areas.

Their "disability," with its accompanying frustration, withdrawal, or coping behaviors, rears its head in the face of specific tasks or expectations. What are the factors that distinguish a learning problem from a maturity problem or psychological/emotional interference?

If the student has at least average intellectual potential and is placed in the appropriate grade for his developmental age, the following list will be helpful in recognizing if your child's/student's school concerns are related to learning disabilities.

  • Emotional/behavioral reactions that are specific to academic situations
  • Difficulty adjusting to the structure of the school environment
  • Difficulty with recognition, manipulation and sequence of symbols, such as numbers and letters.
  • Difficulty with following directions and retaining newly learned information
  • Disorganization in thinking, planning, and keeping track of possessions.

Many students can cover or compensate for a learning disability for a long time, but eventually it catches up with them. While the 3rd/4th grade level is common to diagnosing learning disabilities, some students may get to middle school or high school before help is sought.

Clinically, we have found people at the graduate degree level before they finally seek remediation. How far a student CAN go before help is required will be different for each person.

But help is available and should be sought at the earliest possible time, because"compensating" is stressful even when not outwardly visible; it requires far too much energy.

What can be done?

There are two ways of dealing with learning disabilities. The most common method used is to treat the symptoms by giving students extra work on basic skills, as well as more individual attention.

Our approach is to attack the underlying processes that interfere with attention and learning (yes, ADHD children CAN learn to focus their attention). We know that children and adults of at least average intellectual potential can and should become proficient learners. Because the traditional methods have not worked for some, we know that they must be taught in a different ways - not just individualizing the same old methods.

By concentrating on underlying processes, along with developing the needed basic skills, we have been able to help students who, until now, have enjoyed only limited success in school.

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