How to Deal with a Child with Behavioral & Learning Issues

Updated on October 13, 2007
D.M. asks from El Paso, TX
17 answers

My husband has been away for over 2 months in Irag..I am struggling on my own with my son's issues..My 5 year old is from my previous marriage and his father lives in another state and is not much hel with the situation..My son started Kindergarden in July and since he has started school, I've been getting phone call after phone call from the school about his behavior and his learning abilities...he is having trouble remembering his letters and numbers and tested very low in his class in which was determined that he needs alot of help...I have tried so many things to hel him with his learning of his letters and numbers..specially about his behavior..I recently took him to our pediatrician to see if they could test him for possible A.D.D or A.D.H.D...I was given 2 for me & the other for his teacher..reading that questionare broke my heart because every question asked pertained to my son..I feel like a fialure in not being able to help my Step son who is 7 is such a smart little boy who new how to count to 100 at the age of 4, his letters, he knows his planets, states and can tell you everything about milityary 5 year old can' makes me feel bad because everybody praises my step son more than my son..I wish there was something I could do to make him learn where he does not struggle and teach him how to behave so that he won't be known as the trouble maker child...please advise.....

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answers from Tyler on

Dear D.,
I want to start by telling you just how courageous I think you are. You too are a hero for the sacrafices you are making for our country! THANK YOU! Can I just say that you must wear a cape. PREGNANT, FOUR KIDS, FULL TIME, GOING TO SCHOOL, HUSBAND IN IRAQ. These alone are all huge responsabilities! I don't know what school system you are in, but when my children started kindergarten, they were not required to know their letters or numbers, or how to count. That was what they would learn in class! There is even a celebration on the 100th day of school and they would practice counting every day in order to join the 100 club on that day. I have two school age kids one 6 year old in first grade, and one 7 year old in second grade. My first child is in the Gifted and Talented program and started kindergarten knowing all his letters, numbers, math facts, and counting. My second child however barely recognized the letters of his name and could only count to 13 without any mistakes. It is hard as a parent to not compare your kids, but that is what I was told again and again. I was able to get my child some extra help at school, with a program that was created for kids who were not following at the same pace as most of the class. I would set up a meeting with the principal and with his teacher and possibly with the school counselor. Get as involved as you can now and try to find out if the school offers any extra help. I would also find out what they are working on each six week period and attemp to focus on just those things at home. Working on one thing at a time really helped my child. Each child is so different and you just need to find something that he loves and spend time doing it and praising him for it. He might be intrested in drawing or building with lego blocks, sports, or music. Whatever it is, I encourage you to find it! Don't give up until you do! I thought that I would be holding my child back in kindergarted, but by the end of the year, he was retaining all the information that he learned and test well in most areas. He is still not loving school like my oldest, but he is doing fine. We have started tiger cub scouts, and he seems to be loving that. We also tried sports, but he wasn't interested. Karate was a big hit for about six months. I hope this helps! Best wishes and many blessings!

Take Care,
W. Cox



answers from Austin on

Hello, My 4th child has a learning disagility. It was hard to accept that she wouldn't excell like the other 4. She is in 2 "special classes" at school.The rest are modified. She is now 15, reading & math 6 gde level. We praise her for it bcause we know how hard it has been for her. & us It is hard not to compare your children especially when everyone else does. Look for something your 5yr old does good and praise him for it. I was having trouble with my oldest behaving in class at school also until someone told me to look for the good & praise him for it. It was hard at 1s because all I saw was bad. (He was in 1st grde) I also read a bk called "Silver Boxes" Don't know if it is even in print now. Tht helped alot too. He is now 25 & the teachers all loved him. I'm a mother of 5 - 25yrs to 13yrs. Hope this helped a little, you are not alone. B.



answers from Austin on

My oldest had issues in school, but he's been fortunate enough to have teachers (for the most part) who have realized he was not malicious, just not mature socially. If he does have ADD/ADHD or behaviors that fall inside of that area, you might consider starting with changing his diet first. We're going to give this a shot and the program we're trying is called Feingold diet ( Basically, you take away a lot of synthetics (like artificial colors), preservatives and some naturally-occurring chemicals out of the diet. Some people (adults included) can react badly to these chemicals. Some people have reported success by eliminating gluten and casein from their diets. You might want to try similar diets for a few weeks before resorting to drugs. I've not heard of results, but there are ads for companies that help kids with ADD/ADHD without drugs (see Austin Family magazine).

Also, if it is possible, I'd consider the advice given above regarding homeschooling. Classroom life can be difficult for kids who are kinesthetic learners (learn through movement). I'm going to start this with our preschooler and it looks like there are a lot of support groups for homeschoolers in Austin. You might also see about getting his sight and hearing checked.

Don't be diheartened: kids who have ADD/ADHD are usually very, very intelligent but it's just manifested differently. They just require a lot more guidance and the adults around them also have to learn a lot about how to teach them and direct them. Does he have interests that he can't get enough of? Hotwheels, soccer, music? Encourage those outlets especially if they're physical and "get into it" along with him. Your presence would go a long way to helping him, I think.



answers from Odessa on

We have successfully been able to homeschool our two daughters for seven years. Our oldest daughter is brilliant when it comes to course work, and our youngest is a little more challenged. Both girls are very sensitive and loving towards others, and can almost do anything that I can do in the area of household and general living. This is because they are home learning how to be people, rather than in school learning how to fit a mold set by the state. Public school is definitely not for the child with behavioral or learning problems, because the teacher does not have time to work with anybody that does not fit the mold. My oldest child was making wonderful grades, but driving her teacher crazy, who was driving me crazy. We brought her home, and our youngest has never been enrolled in school. The school did not think that I could handle my own children, but after seven years, people who once criticized us are now coming to us for advice on how to start homeschooling their own children. Since you work and go to school yourself, this might pose a problem, but I'm sure that if you set your mind to it, you can figure out how to juggle your schedule to meet the needs of your child. The results will be miraculous.



answers from San Antonio on

Does your son have a summer birthday? I found that my daughters (3) all had summer birthdays and most of the kids in their class had birthdays in Sept or Oct and this put my girls almost a full year younger than the other kids which makes a HUGE difference in their learning and social skills in kindergarten. Our school offered pre-kinder which I put them in and they thrived! The extra year really helped them and made them successful for the rest of their school years. Take care.



answers from Austin on

I am a teacher (a reading teacher for elementary students), and I work with students who have ADD and ADHD. I have found that the most important thing you can do is start searching now for your son's strengths and figure out how to use them. Praise him for good behavior and for academic accomplishments. Use a timer - make a sticker chart at home with ten boxes on it. While he's doing work at home, set the timer. If he's on task when the timer goes off, he can give himself a sticker. Once the sticker chart is full, you reward him. This is self-monitoring and it will be very, very important for your son to learn. Allow your son to "fidget" while he works if he needs to. You can put a bungee cord around the legs of his chair so he can "bounce" his feet on it without disturbing others. Asks him how he feels about his behavior and academic achievement and set goals with him. Remember - positive feedback is very powerful!



answers from San Antonio on

I am a 32 year old mother of 3 (one biological daughter, a stepson and a stepdaughter). My husband was a Chief Warrant Officer in the Marine Corps until he was discharged medically in March due to combat wounds. First, I want to tell you that ADHD is a manageable condition. My stepson has profound ADHD. We experienced many of the same things that you are. As a parent, you feel like it is your fault and that you are somehow failing as a parent because you cannot control him. The best advice I received regarding ADHD and discipline is to focus on encouragment. Along with ADHD often comes extreme insecurity in children. The children often exhibit behavioral issues that many times are due to their short attention span. You may tell your child not to hit, for example, 10 times and each time he acknowledges that it is wrong and he will not do it again. Unfortunately, that lesson learned does not stick in their memory very long. ADHD requires repitition of "lessons learned" many times for the lesson to stick. What I have found was the best help for both my son's behavior and learning issues was to boost his self confidence...decrease his level of insecurity. I would give my son small jobs that were at a level he could handle and praise him for a job well done. I would also focus on positively addressing everything that he was doing right, such as taking his plate to the kitchen when he was through with his meal, or placing his shoes in his closet before bed. I made a simple chart of jobs that he would consistently do, such as the tasks I just mentioned, out of posterboard. I made it colorful, with glitter and bright colors. Each time he accomplished a task, I would put a gold star sticker beside that task. Every night before he went to bed, we would count the number of stars he had earned and I would praise him first for a job well done and then we would talk about what he could do better. It is a visual aide that he can constantly refer to to account for his short memory forgetting.

It also sounds like your child may be experiencing separation anxiety due to his father being deployed. Following is some information that I copied on children and deploying parents from the USMC website that you may find helpful. If I can be of any further help, just email me. And hang in there! It will get better!! :) Pam W.

During deployment: a. Maintain routines; regular mealtimes and bedtimes can help children feel more secure. Try to keep the same family rules and routines that were used before separation. Don’t forget to schedule some of the same activities the family enjoyed when Dad/Mom was home. Children may be uncomfortable feeling that everything is “on hold” until the deployed parent returns. b. The parent remaining should discipline consistently. Don’t let separation mean a free rein. Do not threaten your child with “wait until your father/mother gets home!” It’s hard to look forward to the return of someone expected to punish you. c. Let children know they are making a valuable contribution by asking which chores they would like to do. Assign specific chores to be completed at a specific time of day. d. Encourage each child to send his/her own letters, pictures, schoolwork, etc. The deployed parent should communicate with the children individually with stationery, stickers and colorful postcards that are age appropriate. Cassette tapes can be used to send children messages or read them a story. As the deployed parent, don’t forget to acknowledge birthdays and other special occasions with cards, letters or small gifts. e. Talk about the deployed parent in daily conversation and think of ways to keep the connection with him/her. Let children know it’s okay to be sad, teach them how to recover and move on. f. Post a large world map and help the children track were Dad/Mom’s travels take them. The children can also do special jobs such as tracking a favorite sports team or television show and reporting in their letters. g. Look for deployment resources for children via the Key Volunteer Network or MCCS Children, Youth and Teen Program. Return and Reunion a. Parents returning to children need to remember it’s hard for children to get used to having you back home. Your children’s reactions at homecoming may not be what you expected or hoped for. Very young children may not remember you and even older children need time to get reacquainted with you. b. Be patient – let your children know how much you love them. Spend time with them doing activities they like. It’s a good idea to spend time individually with each child. c. The parent who has been with the child during the deployment needs to be prepared to reinforce the adjustment period. It’s important for the returning parent to have time alone with the children to facilitate the adjustment. d. The returning parent should remember not to disturb a family set-up that has been working well without him/her. Give the whole family time to readjust to having you home. e. If there is a new baby at home that has arrived since the beginning of the deployment, the returning parent should introduce himself slowly into the “new baby” routine.
CHILDREN AND SEPARATION Separation from a parent is stressful for a child and there will be reactions from them to that stress. Those reactions will differ among children. The following are some examples of what you might expect: Infants (Birth – 12 Months) • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns • May want to be held more • May seem fussier than usual Toddlers (Ages 1-3 Years) • Show regression in walking or potty training • Cry for no apparent reason • Whine and cling to you Pre-Schoolers/Kindergarten Age • Clinging to people or favorite toy/blanket • Unexplained crying or tearfulness • Increased acts of anger or frustration • Sleep difficulties, nightmares, frequent waking • Worry about the safety of everyone • Eating difficulties • Fear of new people or situations School Age: • Change in school performance • Increase in complaints of headaches, stomachaches or other illnesses when nothing seems physically wrong • More irritable or crabby • Fascinated with the military and news about it • Worry about family and finances Adolescents: • Any of the above signs • Acting out behaviors such as getting into trouble at school, at home or with the law • Low self-esteem and self-criticism • Misdirected anger • Loss of interest in usual hobbies or activities Children who have a good relationship with parents usually cope well with separation. They have an understanding of the parent’s job and why deployment is an important part of it. There is an available adult who is willing to listen to them and talk honestly about their concerns. These children have a strong sense of self-confidence and self-worth. Frequent and dependable communication between the deployed parent and the family plays a role in a child’s security a nd ability to cope with separation. All children are different and adjust differently to deployment. It is important that parents normalize these reactions to separation and stress. If the stress related behavior endures longer than a month, further investigation may be necessary. Suggested avenues are talking to other parents, talking to teachers or the school counselor, attending a parenting class or seeking professional counseling.



answers from San Antonio on

Good Morning D.!

First of all let me tell you that it is no easy job taking care of the little ones all on your own...I know I have 4 and their dad is in Kansas right now!!! But you are a strong women and God equipped you to handle this situation. Just to tell you alittle about me I have a 8 year old with dyslexia...her reading skills are below 3rd grade level and she gets frustrated very easily with homework and has a hard time staying on task. I do want to tell you one thing that is working for us is that when we do homework, I like to take her and do it by ourselves...I do this so I can encourage her and let her know that I think she is great without the other children coming in between. Sometimes that one on one attention helps tons! I know that since I have not gotten frustrated with the situation and just let her know that as long as she is trying her best and I am proud of her! BUT most of all the constant praise and attention the the things that she is doing right helps her get better and want to do better in the other areas she is having a problem with. I hope this helps! Just hang in there! It works! C.



answers from Amarillo on

Hello, D.. I have written many times about my son being diagnosed with a memory recall disorder when he was 3, it sounds like your son may have something similar. The information is there, they are very smart kids, they just have trouble getting the information back out to us. The behaviour problems come from their frustration and anger. One thing that helped my son tremendously with letters and colors was learning the sign language with the verbal name of the letter/color. His teacher started this with him at school and I was amazed at how much it would help. They just use the sign language as a "cue" to help their brain get the right word out. Also, focus on one color and one letter for a whole week or longer before moving on, but review all the ones you've learned daily. By the time my son was 4 and finally started talking, he was fairly good at the letters and colors, sometimes he couldn't remember the right word to say but he would always sign it, which would somehow cue him to say the word. Once he was about 5 he didn't need the sign language to remember them anymore and now at 8 doesn't even remember the signs. LOL Anyway, I do have lots of ideas and advice and would be happy to chat with you anytime. You can find me at [email protected] or on messenger.

OH, also, I had my son diagnosed through the public school system, you might talk to your local school and schedule an evaluation for him. And again I want to stress, if this is the case, your son is beyond smart, his brain soaks everything in, he may just have trouble recalling it back to you. This does get better with time, at 8 my son is an all A honor roll student who reads way above level and is a math whiz, he does still struggle with some things such as reciting his address or phone number, but he knows it, he just can't tell it to me on certain days or certain times.

Continue to show your son anything and everything, find something he is particularly interested in, for my son it was different kinds of tractors and trucks. Talk about different things, read lots of books, go on lots of outings to parks and museums. Think of his brain as a bank, the more you store in it now, the more he will be able to talk about when he can verbally recall it all to you later.



answers from Sherman on

All children are different and each has his/her own talents. So your son may not be able to do the things your step son can but there are things your son will be better at. You sound like a great mom and you are doing a good job. Just hang in there. I am the mother of 3 children with ADHD and 2 of them are learning disabled as well. I was a foster mom for 7 years and I have lots of experience with all sorts of kids with different special needs. If you need someone to talk to I would be glad to talk with you. My email is [email protected] and feel free to email me anytime. Take care.



answers from Killeen on

first of all i have been in your shoes. i have a son just like yours. my son was diagnosed with ADD when he was in the second grade. i held him back in the second grade because he had a really bad year and i knew there was no way he could handle third grade. his second time in second grade he did wonderfully. i had to fill out that same questionairre and i hated it. but you have to do it. if they say it is best to put him on medication then you have to do that too. remember it is what is best for your son. just stay away from "rittalin". it has very bad long term effects. i had my son on "concerta" for a whole school year. after school was over i took him off of it because he doesn't need to concentrate at home in the summer. and when school started i just didn't put him back on it. and he was fine for awhile then he started having problems again. so i put him back on it. this time the medication didn't work anymore. so i took him off and left him off. i noticed last year that he was having problems again but i didn't want to play russian roulette with my son's body so i wouldn't put him on anything. well, now he is on it again. they put him on "adderall".
recently his teacher called me and said we needed to have a meeting. i had called my mom just a couple of days before because i was so frusterated with my son and everyone else that i wanted to scream. everyone treats my son different than my other 2 kids. they talk about him and i feel bad for him. my son is 10 and he does things that a 2 yr old would do... dump out my shampoo and refill it with water, cut his hair just because he saw his dads mustache scissors on the bathroom counter, shave anywhere on his body because we left a razor in the shower, stuff like that. and he doesn't get along well with other. him and his older brother fight like cats and dogs. and he has a REALLY short temper. he is always getting into trouble for something. i had called my mom because we have tried EVERY form of punishment and none of them work so i was trying to get advice from my mom about what else i could do to teach him right from wrong and help him remember why he got into trouble so he won't do that again.
well, i had the meeting with his teacher and she told me that she had already met with his other teachers and the school counselor and they are all concerned about him. i could see he was slipping here at home but i was hoping he wasn't at school. well he was. she set up a meeting with the school counselor for me and we discussed some options for helping him at school. the next day i met with the school counselor and she told me that we may need to try medication again because it has been over a year since he was on any and maybe they can get him the right kind this time to help him. and she also said that i needed to contact his physician and have them refer my son to the scottish rite hospital for learning disability testing. so i took my son to the dr and put him on medication and asked them to refer him to the scottish rite hospital. then last week i got a call from one of the nurses at the clinic where i take my son and they said they had an appt made for him. i got a letter on friday saying that he has an appt with a Dr. Howe who is a child psychologist. i talked to a friend of mine who's son sees a child psychologist and he goes to the same one. i asked her if Dr. Howe does testing for learning disabilities and she thinks he does. that is all i wanted was for my son to be tested for learning disabilities. so we'll have to see what they say.
one thing i have found is that it is easier to deal with my son if i have someone to talk to about him. the school counselor has a daughter (who is an adult now) with ADD and she is giving some insight into what it feels like to have it. and i recently found out that the speech diagnostician here has a son who is in 10th grade with ADD. she said anytime i need someone to talk to i can contact her.
you might try talking to the special education department of your school and see what kind of services they can help your son with. if you don't get his behavior under control now it is going to get worse. and he has to learn to control himself because you can not sit with him 24/7 to make sure he is doing what he is supposed to when he is supposed to. right now my son doesn't have any behavior problems but his teachers (dr, school counselor, and me) are afraid if we don't teach him how to handle things now then as he gets older he'll get further behind and then he'll start having behavior problems to compensate for being so far behind.
i would like to keep in contact with you if it is alright. my personal email address and myspace page are being sent to you as a private message. i wish you all the best.



answers from Lake Charles on

You should not be alarmed or feel bad if the doctor suggests putting your son on meds. My son was almost 3 when he had to be put on adderall for adhd...the youngest his pediatrician had ever put on it. You will not believe the difference in this child now. He is in 1st grade and just got his first report card ever..all A's! He started on a low dose and as he gained weight, it wouldn't work as well so they would increase it. He only takes 10 mg. in the morning and then 10 mg. at 11 a.m. at school... They can definately see a difference in him if they "forget" to send him to the office for it! Adderall does make him not eat as much but his eating habits are improving. No matter what drug a doctor suggests you try, if any, please remember that although we didn't want our children to be medicated, we do want them to not stand out from their classroom, be made fun or , or to constantly get in trouble at school. Especially with more children at home, you have enough to worry about. The first couple of days of school this year, the doctor hadn't gotten the paper filled out to give the meds at school to my son, so he just had the morning dose. The difference in his handwritting from those days and now is amazing... he just scribbled and wrote very fast without the meds. On the meds, you can read his writing, he stays on the line and even colors in the lines. We as mother's want the best for our children. Keep us posted on what your dr. recommends that you do. God will get you through this!.. Hugs.



answers from San Antonio on

I know how you feel about wishing your son was farther along developmentally. For a while I compared my son to other children, "why won't he potty train, why is he such a rough and tumble kind of kid, why won't he sit still long enough", and I found that I began to start being impatient and less than loving with my child. I turned into a drill sargent. Thank God I stopped that and started addressing my son as an individual and when I did that he has become a happier child.

I would stop comparing him to his step-brother. He's not that other child and never will be. But I'm sure your son has great atributes that you can focus on. I would begin with being loving, supportive and utilize every professional around you. If the school knows he needs help, what are they doing? Have they put him in a class that would better meet his needs? Do they have someone working with him?

I'm also wondering, you work full-time, you go to school part-time. Could this be a factor in how much time you have to work with him right now. You might need to take a semester or two off to focus that time with him.

With your husband gone I'm sure that's putting a stress on the whole family - you might need to have some FUN!



answers from Corpus Christi on

Ask the teacher for some suggestions that may help. You could try to get/use puzzles that have the letters and numbers or do an "a" pictures collage, etc. You can email me anytime... [email protected]

Stay positive.. maybe he could be the teacher's helper? could possibly help with his behavior.



answers from San Antonio on

I know how that goes, my eldest boy is 4 almost five. I noticed at the age 2 and a half he did not speak other then stringing sounds that made no sense. Then I told the pediatrician and did not find out PPCD untill he was 3 ( almost four) He started a PPCD program ( a program wich deals with speak and social delays. He started to improve about a month later and though still behind is catching up with much speed this year he started Pre K and does well minus some social and speach delayed areas....

So early on with our 2 years did not talk either I contacted Easter Seals and now he is PPCD at school, 30 days later. Though wanting hope find a certin dispear...he was diagnosed with a seizure disorder ( we found that out at 20 months ) and this year was told he is on the"spectrum for autism" your in a much later area that I have not gotten to yet.

The best thing I can suggest is to seek a Developmental Ped' Doc' this dotor will discuss your child, and poissably do an ADOS ( its a test for autism) along with this comes observation for things like AD,ADHD, was explained to us the that some autisic children have ADHD.....
Whatever the case ( and I hope you do not have to deal with any of these things) knowing ahead of time is much better and a tool for getting your child help.

In the San Antonio area, Dr Harkins and Dr Fierro(sp?) are the two developmental doctors that I know of...other than that Village of Hope also has something for ADOS and simular tests.

Also have heard of people taking children to therpist but, my insurance does not cover that so...

feel free to email me sometime or if you ned some numbers



answers from Wichita Falls on

Does your school district offer the option of putting him in preschool another year?

I ask because of three key pieces of your question.

1. SON - some boys aren't ready as early as most girls... and especially if your son has a summer bday he may just not be ready to keep up with a bunch of kids who will be 6 this year... an extra year of prek may be all he needs.

2. Father (for all intents and purposes) is in Iraq, and if your son has any comprehension of that situation he's worried about his daddy.

3. ADD/ADHD. Boys account for more than 70% of this diagnosis - think it might have something to do with number 1?
As a teacher with 10 years in the classroom and 3 sons, I think it must.

Kindergarten today is NOT what it was when you went. Here, they are expected to be READING BY CHRISTMAS. Not hat, cat, sat - but entire paragraphs of what used to be called first grade (or second grade) words. Thank you so much, TAKS test.

Fantastic that your stepson was/is so advanced - I was too, and my little cousin never felt like she measured up. T-1 was the greatest thing that ever happened to her academically, though - and she just finished an MBA in accounting. She's still a goofwad, though. :)

Once your son hits 7, if he's still having problems, you might look into PACE -




answers from Austin on

Talk with his teacher about the special needs programs at his school. You can work together with a team of people to put together an IEP-individualized education plan(if diagnosed with a learning disability). Some schools have a pull out program where children are taken out of the classroom for an hour or so to get extra help. I am not completely sure if this is available in kindergarten or not. I know that it is available first grade on. It is worth talking with the teacher or the principal to see what help is available within the school.

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