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«A Resource Guide for Parents and Teens Developed and Compiled by the Youth Council of the DuPage Workforce Board A Letter to Parents: Your teen’s ...»

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Academic Challenges WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to read, write, speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual and in society. According to a study from the Carnegie Corporation, more than half of all high school freshmen in the top 35 cities in America can’t read above a sixth grade level. The National Center for Family Literacy provides the following facts about literacy

and children:

 Those who watch less than three hours of television a day score better on reading and writing tests than those who watch more than three hours of television a day.

 Those who do well in reading are more likely to score well in mathematics than children who do not score well in reading.

 Those who have strong literacy skills can make connections between their lives and texts, films, previous school experiences and other experiences.

It is important for every parent to remember that children with learning challenges can succeed in school and can become successful in their adult lives. Correct support services, and love and understanding at home make the difference. Warning signs of

learning difficulties, particularly in the middle school years, can include:

Slow to learn reading strategies.

 Math problems are challenging to the point of frustration.

 Spells the same word differently in a single piece of writing.

 Avoids reading and writing.

 Has difficulty remembering or understanding what he or she just read.

 Has difficulty understanding and/or generalizing concepts.

 Misreads directions and information.

 Why do many of our students give up their basic education? According to National Dropout Prevention Center/Network statistics, students give the following reasons for

not attending school:

Classes viewed as boring, irrelevant, and a waste of time.

 Did not have positive relationships with teachers  Did not have positive relationships with students.

 Was suspended too often.

 Did not feel safe at school.

 Could not keep up with schoolwork or was failing.

 Classes not challenging enough, students can miss class days and still receive  credit.

Couldn’t work and go to school at the same time.

 Drop Out Prevention and Alternative High Schools Alternative high schools assist youth who have school performance, behavioral, emotional, or learning problems by helping them to focus on educational goals in an environment that meets their needs, helps keep them from dropping out of school, and serves the community's interest in seeing them complete high school successfully.

Each day in the United States, an estimated 2,000 youth drop out of school because of academic failure, behavioral problems, or early pregnancy. Thousands of youth are suspended or expelled because of disruptive or violent behavior. Out-of-school youth are substantially more likely than their peers to be involved in delinquent or criminal activities. This strategy provides a structured learning environment for a smaller group of high school-aged youth, which includes supervision, counseling support to establish goals, and guidance on improving behavior. Alternative high schools are useful for dealing with youth having problems in school and those involved with the juvenile justice system for minor offenses.

Alternative high schools, often called "learning academies," are small-scale school environments where a limited number of students receive intensive tutoring, consistent discipline with sanctions, counseling to establish goals for academic success and a transition to work, and guidance on developing life skills to cope with any special needs (child care, learning style that makes traditional teaching or studying techniques a challenge to the student). The programs are run as separate sections of existing schools or as off-site programs serving students from several areas in the community or a juvenile court jurisdiction. The alternative schools also can require parents to give permission for their son or daughter to be placed in the environment. The programs can be voluntary or mandatory.

Alternative schools are usually developed in partnership with the juvenile court or police department to handle suspended students or juvenile offenders. School administrators work with teachers, parents, students, and school resource officers to identify students who would benefit from an alternate high school environment. Parent-teacher organizations can support the program by providing information to all parents, so that any family in need will be aware of services available.

Some local school systems, particularly those in growing communities already strapped for classroom space will have difficulty financing such programs. This is a particularly important potential challenge to confront since the alternative school setting requires a more intense concentration of teaching and other resources than traditional classroom environments. Believing that alternative schools help deter youth from experience with school failure and eventually crime, some local juvenile court and corrections systems support alternative high schools in their communities. In addition, nearby school districts can pool resources to develop an alternative high school to serve the needs of students from several communities at once.

.Successful Transition to High School for Students with Learning Disabilities

The transition to high school from elementary school can be stressful for any youngster, but it's even more so for the young teen who's coping with a learning disability (LD). It's difficult for his parents, too. If your child's disability was diagnosed early and is being dealt with at his public school, you both might fear the effects of his entering the unfamiliar environment of high school with new teachers and different expectations. Discuss your concerns and questions with the professional staff at the current school or at the school board during his final year. Go with him to the orientation evening for new students at the local high school and check out the resources available. Find out how classes are adapted to respond to the needs of students with particular learning disabilities and what resources will be available for your teen.

A child's learning disability is usually identified in kindergarten and the primary grades, but some disabilities become more obvious in junior high and high school -- particularly in mathematics and problem solving which require the ability to remember and apply the memorized material. In high school, teens face an increased amount of written work, and the demand on their capacity to remember or memorize in several different subjects increases. Although problems may have first appeared when your child was in grades five and six, they might not have been as severe. Students with this disability have a history of poor handwriting, some difficulty learning to spell, and messy or incomplete notebooks. Or they may find science classes fascinating and have no trouble understanding scientific concepts, but they falter when faced with memorizing the vocabulary of biology or the formulas in chemistry. Difficulty learning a second language can also be an indication of a learning disability.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the expanded term that encompasses what was once called attention deficit disorder (ADD), one of whose characteristics was hyperactivity. It is rare for it to be diagnosed as late as adolescence, but it's fairly common for the disorder to continue throughout adolescence and into adulthood. How it manifests itself may change during adolescence what once appeared as hyperactivity may evolve into a constant need to be busy and a feeling of restlessness. In about 60 per cent of cases, the original characteristics of the disorder continue, causing difficulty both for the teens and for those around them. But a child who responded well to Ritalin, the most common medication, may continue with this medication as a high school student.

Whether your child has been dealing with a learning disability for several years or the diagnosis is new, as a teen he must learn gradually to shoulder responsibility for requesting help when needed, for recognizing his personal responsibility for learning and implementing the life skills and learning strategies that will carry him into adulthood. It's still important for you to develop and support your teen's strengths. If he has an aptitude for sports or music or art, the pleasure he gains from successes in these fields will boost his self-esteem and give him added strength to surmount other obstacles.

Look for help If you are concerned that your teen may have a learning disability, check with your family doctor to rule out any physical health problems. She may also be familiar with the assessment process used within the local school boards. The assessment usually involves educators in the student's school, a counselor from the school, and an educational psychologist with the board. If the school board has a waiting list of two or three months, your doctor might know whether the child development clinic at a nearby hospital or university conducts these assessments. Weigh the costs and time involved against time lost until your child's turn on the school board's waiting list.

The advantage of the formal assessment through the school or school board is that the identification of a learning disability usually entitles the student to special education help. Your teen's teachers and guidance counsellor and others in the school or board can provide the remedial and tutoring options needed. They can also suggest what coping and learning strategies might benefit your child. Some high schools accommodate learning disabled students by allowing students to tape-record classes, by offering extended time for completing tests or exams, and by providing different, less-crowded rooms for writing them.

Kids with learning disabilities need not have lower expectations than their peers. They can still achieve their academic goals, although they may require a longer time; for example, taking a smaller class load each year and spending an extra year to get their high-school diploma. In some provinces, colleges and universities also offer special services and resources to these students. A learning disability doesn't fade with time, but a person who develops strategies for offsetting the disability will improve his learning abilities as he matures.

Helping Students with Disabilities Experience a Successful Transition For Middle School Students The transition from elementary school to middle school is traumatic for many students and their families (Wells, 1989). By only eighth grade, 20% of all students with disabilities and 40% of Hispanic students with disabilities have dropped out (Williams Bost, 2004). Below are some tips for parents of

middle school students with disabilities:

Let your child know that you value education as important to his/her future.

 Set aside time every day for homework, even if your child doesn’t have any.

 Make sure that your child completes his/her homework. Find out if your school district has a  “homework hotline” students can call for help when studying at home.

Limit the amount of time your child watches television and plays video games to no more than  one or two hours each day.

Talk to your child about school problems and achievements every day.

 Help your child use problem-solving skills in difficult situations at home and at school. Praise  good behavior.

Know your child’s friends and their families.

 Let teachers know that you want to be contacted immediately if your child has problems with  homework or behavior.

If your child is struggling, seek help. Parents and other adults can reduce the likelihood of  dropout if they take steps to help youth cope with their problems.

For High School Students Only 57% of youth with disabilities graduated from high school in the 2001-02 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education (2002). To help ensure successful completion of high school, try the following tips, which are based on current dropout prevention research.

Maintain contact with your child’s teachers throughout high school.

 Monitor school attendance. If your child is skipping school, it may be a warning sign that  he/she is having trouble.

Encourage your child to seek out extracurricular activities or employment where they can  develop positive relationships and have success outside of a classroom setting. Many schools provide after-school and summer programs that cultivate new interests. Encourage your child to participate in at least one extra- curricular activity at school or with other students. These activities can help your child feel part of the group, important to the school, and more motivated.

Help your child explore career options that interest them and the education needed to be  successful in those careers.

Let your child know that individuals who earn a high school diploma are likely to earn twice as  much each year compared to those who don’t have a high school diploma or equivalency.

Help your child establish graduation as a priority. Keep track of the credits he/she needs in  order to graduate.

Identify postsecondary goals. The most important questions to ask are: What interests your  child? What is your child good at? Postsecondary technical training or two-year community college programs are appropriate paths to meeting employment goals. If attending a four-year college is the way to reach his/her vocational goal, put steps in place to make this happen.

When There’s a Problem

If your child is not doing well or is beginning to have behavioral problems in school:

Discuss your concerns with your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. Request  a functional behavior assessment—a process for determining why problem behaviors occur— and identify effective strategies to address them. Decide, as a group, what can be done to help your child, and what new skills or behaviors your child can learn.

In some cases, a tutor can help a student who has fallen behind or who has missed important  earlier concepts.

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