Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

I’m not a medical expert, so excuse me if I show my ignorance, but I am constantly amazed by what looks like a overdiagnosing of kids. From ADHD to autism, from dyslexia to language disorders, our students are being bombarded with medically based names for sometimes seemingly everyday based problems.

Sometimes these diagnoses prove spot on, and ultimately guide the teacher to better understanding their students. At other times however, I feel the diagnosis seems rushed, lazy and counter productive. Not only do such students receive the stigma of their newfound disability, but they also tend to lose more confidence because of it, rather than letting the revelation give them a new lease on life.

What bothers me is that in making these diagnoses, GP’s, occupational therapists and speech pathologists often see a child’s low confidence levels as a sign of a condition that is impeding their learning. Why can’t a child’s learning challenges be caused plainly and simply by their confidence issues? Why does it always have to be a condition? Why don’t they try to improve a child’s self-esteem before prescribing and labelling?

I can’t tell you how many students I have seen over the years that have been diagnosed with some learning disorder that have responded not to the recommended regime, but to a devoted teacher that spends just as much time trying to raise the child’s self-esteem as they do trying to improve the child’s academic skills.

Sometimes I think we fool ourselves into believing that school life is easy and that all children should be able to cope fairly well. School is tough for children. It can potentially damage a child’s sense of self and can be quite detrimental to their feeling of worth.

I’m not surprised kids are reluctant to go to school. I am surprised however, that our psychologists think that only 1-2% of children fall in that category:

… suffering from school refusal, an anxiety condition that affects 1 to 2 per cent of children.

”A certain degree of anxiety or reluctance to go to school is normal,” psychologist Amanda Dudley says.

”But for some, they experience excessive anxiety and it can result in persistent refusal to go to school.”

Children who experience school refusal often complain of stomach aches, headaches, nausea and other physical symptoms and are often extremely distressed when it is time to go to school.

”It can be all of a sudden that the child refuses to attend; it can be after something upsetting at school or after legitimate absence from school,” she says.

School refusal isn’t a condition. It is a natural response to the challenges that children face at school. It is also a sign that educators are blind to the real needs of their students. By overlooking self-esteem issues and instead concentrating on placing seemingly normal children on an ever-growing spectrum, we are labelling children instead of responding to them. We are diagnosing instead of truly connecting with them.

I accept that there are children with special learning needs who require targeted programs and individual support, but I also believe that there are many children who would be better served if their school helped them to adjust to school life instead of bracket them with a condition or disorder.

 

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One Response to “Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students”

  1. John Tapscott Says:

    Hear, hear! Every child needs his/her teacher to find ways to help him/her to learn. The issues are ultimately educational and not medical. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The man (sic) who can take something difficult and make is easy, he is the teacher.” There is a corollary. “The man who can take something easy and make it difficult, he is the bureaucrat/politician”.

    In order to accomplish his/her task then teacher needs a vast array of strategies. These develop over time and with experience. Reducing an educational difficulty to a medical condition does nothing to help a child to learn and provides an excellent excuse to do nothing. It reminds me of the proverb which states: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

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