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Learning & Health

My Child Is Struggling in School. How Can I Help?

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My first-grader is not doing well in school. His teacher says he’s a good kid, not disruptive, but not a standout student, either. I worry that he may be falling behind. How can I help him succeed?
– Kate

It’s great that you’re addressing this problem now, while your child is just beginning his schooling. Kids who struggle in school year after year have a harder time getting back on track once their learning problems are addressed. You need to get to the root of the problem to learn how to help your son.

So, ask yourself: Does your child struggle to see the blackboard? He could need glasses. Is he anxious about going to school? Maybe there’s an underlying emotional issue. It is hard for him to sit still and focus? He could have a problem paying attention. Talk to your son to see what may be getting in the way of learning. Then, schedule an appointment with:

  • His pediatrician. The doctor can evaluate your son to see if there’s a physical problem (for instance, with his vision or hearing) or whether he might have a developmental or behavioral problem, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

  • His principal. Tell your child’s principal about your concerns and request a referral for an educational evaluation. An educational evaluation can assess your son’s strengths and weaknesses and pinpoint any learning disabilities.

One you’ve identified why your son is struggling, take steps to help support him. Some kids with learning disabilities meet with a tutor for a few hours a week to learn study skills that can help them compensate for their learning disability. Others take medicines to help cope with a behavioral problem, like ADHD.

If needed, some schools develop a 504 education plan or individualized education program (or IEP), which addresses a student’s needs and outlines things that can help the student improve. These plans make guidelines that teachers must follow. Plans can include tutoring sessions, or the use of special equipment to help with learning, such as books on tape or laptop computers for students who have dyslexia.

With the right support, your child can adjust to any differences he may have and learn new strategies that can help him improve and succeed.

Reviewed by: Andrew R. Scherff, PhD
Date reviewed: December 2013