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Helping children who are challenged

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/2/2006 | Education

Children suffering from mental illness or physical disabilities often find going to school a tougher challenge than most other children. The same is true of dyslexic children and children burdened with family problems. They instinctively shrink from changes and prefer to stay in the background.

This is where parents, teachers and their friends can make a huge difference. They can instill confidence in these children, and teach them how to overcome their difficulties.

The main focus should be to identify the root cause of the problem. It could be due to the feeling of insecurity, a lack of confidence or shyness. It has been noticed that a stressful and insecure atmosphere at home also affects the child.

The only way to help these children is to understand their fears and reluctance to be part of group activity, and work on their strengths without hurting them. Today, most differently-abled children are integrated into the mainstream school environment. Some differences are obvious and noticeable, others are not.

It is natural for the child to feel insecure or self conscious about the fact that he or she is different from the rest of the classmates. Your job is to make the child aware of their differences in a positive manner. This makes it easy for the child to handle any situation.

You should inform the school about your child as soon as possible. You should also brief the childs teacher extensively on your childs problems. This should include the childs interests, strengths and weaknesses, enabling the teacher to place your child in those activities that will make him or her comfortable and well settled in the class.

Most schools have specially trained teachers to take care of dyslexic children. Their work becomes easier when the parents interact with them on a regular basis. It makes them understand the childs needs better, and play a more useful role.         

You should constantly monitor the childs progress in school. But, as a rule, you should not put pressure on your child to perform better. Let the child develop on his own. You should encourage the child to pay more attention to any special skills that he may have. This can help him forge better relationships in the class. It will also make him grow stronger and confident. Once the child socializes, his friends will become more protective and provide constant emotional support.

Children under stress cannot build social relationships, and invariably end up as loners. You should correlate their distress to their home environment, and help them forget the painful memories while they are at school. You may find that they start enjoying school much more.

If family issues blow up and the stress is likely to increase, the parents should inform the school so that the teacher can factor the childs moodiness and irritability into his behavior. Often one-to-one interactions between the teacher and the child serve as channels for releasing pent up emotions and frustrations.  It helps them feel more secure and stable and in control of their life.