Help! My Kid Hates School!
Dyslexia and ADHD Can Produce School Trauma
When a student hates school, wise parents take notice. As an academic tutor, I find that most children who hate school exhibit dyslexia or ADHD. Both of these learning differences affect reading, writing, and math. This does NOT mean the children are defective! It does mean the classroom fails to meet their educational needs. Children naturally love to learn. So, if they don’t enjoy school, investigate. Observe the classroom and playground. Ask your child open-ended questions. What do you enjoy at school? What do you wish you could change at school? Sometimes children can tell you exactly what makes them unhappy. But, they need to feel safe and sure that their answers will not be used against them as proof of laziness or stubbornness. Neil Alexander-Passe has written a helpful book, The Successful Dyslexic: Identify the Keys to Unlock Your Potential, which discusses how to use the “trauma of school experience” in a positive way to power success rather than cause depression.
Identify your Child’s Strengths
First, identify your child’s strengths! Students blossom when taught according to strengths rather than weaknesses. Dyslexia sometimes looks like ADHD in a classroom because students act out when frustrated. So before leaping into treatment, educate yourself thoroughly. Your child’s health depends on it! Doctors and teachers only see your child in one setting. You see your child in many environments, so you hold key knowledge! One of the most important books you can read, in my opinion, is The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock and Fernette Eide. This will alert you to possible strengths to focus on.
Ask the School for Exactly What You Need
Do not wait for the school to do something. If your child hates school, then every day makes the situation worse. Pairing negative emotions with learning harms your child’s ability to learn. You can get some great ideas for what to ask for from Dyslexia Advocate!: How to Advocate for a Child with Dyslexia within the Public Education System, by Kelli Sandman-Hurley. She explains your rights and how to use the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to get what you need for your child. I dislike the word disabilities, as I recognize dyslexia and ADHD as examples of healthy neuro-diversity. In many settings these diverse ways of learning present a distinct advantage! However, if you need to work with a public school, IDEA is your ally. Another helpful book on the subject is The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning, by Ben Foss.
A Student Who Hates School Doesn’t Need a Cure; Just an Appropriate Education
Learning differences are NOT diseases. Your child isn’t sick, so please don’t try to cure him or her of hating school or learning differently. Instead, adjust the education to fit the learner. If your student is in middle school or older, I highly recommend The Self-Help Guide for Teens with Dyslexia: Useful Stuff You May Not Learn at School, by Alais Winton. Consider listening to it together as an audio book. As an example, my daughter’s first grade teacher told us she was “uneducable.” She now holds a doctorate in music composition and is finishing a master’s in computer science. She’s a professor. She didn’t need cured; she needed a different kind of education.
When to Exit the Public School
Dear parent who is pulling your hair out — have you tried everything you can, but your child still hates school? Don’t give up! There are options outside of standard public education. If you see signs of depression, behavior problems due to frustration, or red alert hints that your child is so beaten down as to consider harming themselves, act now! Your child needs to know you will do whatever it takes to help. Explore charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling. Private schools can be expensive, but some have scholarships. Charter schools are public schools of choice, and are therefore tuition-free. Homeschooling can be done with a library card and creative scheduling around work. Check out Homeschooling Children with Dyslexia by Valerie Arredondo of you feel you need expert guidance.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
I look back with fondness on the day I realized my daughter could not flourish in a standard classroom. It was a terrible day, but I’m grateful for the journey that ensued. It was the best thing that could have happened to our family. Her educational experience transformed from horrible to wonderful over time and we had so much fun! Here’s one last book for you, and it’s FUN! Henry Winkler wrote Hank Zipzer books books based on his own childhood experience with dyslexia. Read and enjoy together!