What to do with a kid who's just slow?

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Sundog
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What to do with a kid who's just slow?

Post by Sundog »

OK, I need some advice. You've heard me brag about my kids more than you want to. But there's one of the bunch, my wife's son, who is in scholastic trouble, and I need some advice. I'm great with gifted kids but I have no idea how to deal with a really slow one.

He's 13 and a really nice kid, but his grades are atrocious. He's going to be repeating a grade this year for the first time; they should have held him back years ago but they kept booting him into the next grade. Now he's at an age where he needs all those rudiments and he just doesn't have them.

He's been tested, there's nothing wrong with him that they can find. He reads well; he's read Lord of the Rings several times, the whole series, and loves Harry Potter. He's even a moderately good chess player. But any sort of complex ideas just seem to go right over his head, especially in math or science.

I'm very worried that he's at a very high risk of not completing high school. I try not to force my methods on my wife's kids, but I am of the opinion that he simply watches too much TV, plays too many video games, doesn't pay attention in school and doesn't study. But I will be the first to admit that I don't understand scholastic problems at all.

We're going to adopt at least some of my ideas, that is, limit TV to an hour and video games to an hour, and supervised homework. We don't have the money to send him to special tutors or anything like that.

Suggestions are welcome, with thanks.

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TruthSeeker
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Post by TruthSeeker »

How does he explain his difficulties? Is he bored, not interested, working hard, frustrated?

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Sundog
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Post by Sundog »

TruthSeeker wrote:How does he explain his difficulties? Is he bored, not interested, working hard, frustrated?
Well, that's a good question. His mom deals with him mostly, he's sort of intimidated by me, though I try my best to connect.

When his mom asks him what the problem is he kind of just shrugs his shoulders and is uncommunicative. I think frustrated is probably closest to the truth.

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Cloverlief
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Post by Cloverlief »

Number 1: Fight like mad to have that child not held back. A good portion of kids who are held back do not graduate high school and do have self-esteem and embarrassment issues.

Number 2: Hire a good tutor or find a learning center and start this child in immediately with tutoring, don't wait until the first report card and you see that he has low grades, do it from day one. Have the tutor come to your house and work with the child on the troubled areas. Call you local community college or university who often have certified tutors available - it will cost you about $20 an hour depending on the tutor, but it is worth it in the long run.

Number 3: Kids learn at their own pace, try to understand that and don't criticize him for it or hold up the other kids as better such as, "Soandso gets A's in math, why can't you be like Soandso?!"
Chani

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Sundog
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Post by Sundog »

I appreciate the advice, but...
Chanileslie wrote:Number 1: Fight like mad to have that child not held back. A good portion of kids who are held back do not graduate high school and do have self-esteem and embarrassment issues.
Too late, and I really don't agree. He already has embarrassment issues arising from the fact that he can't do the work his classmates do. I feel it's essential that he master the things he's already supposed to know. I think he should have been held back years ago, maybe more than once. His esteem and embarrassment issues are the least of his problems.

Number 2: Hire a good tutor or find a learning center and start this child in immediately with tutoring, don't wait until the first report card and you see that he has low grades, do it from day one. Have the tutor come to your house and work with the child on the troubled areas. Call you local community college or university who often have certified tutors available - it will cost you about $20 an hour depending on the tutor, but it is worth it in the long run.
Not an option, as I explained, and way too late for that. His grades have been atrocious for years.
Number 3: Kids learn at their own pace, try to understand that and don't criticize him for it or hold up the other kids as better such as, "Soandso gets A's in math, why can't you be like Soandso?!"
We don't do that. He has enough pressure just living in a house full of geniuses.

Learning at your own pace is fine and dandy, but there comes a time when that pace is just going to have to accelerate or he isn't going to make it.

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Cloverlief
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Post by Cloverlief »

Yep, might as well give up now because it sounds like you have already abandoned the kid. I feel for him.
Chani

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Sundog
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Post by Sundog »

Chanileslie wrote:Yep, might as well give up now because it sounds like you have already abandoned the kid. I feel for him.
Thanks a lot. Way to make generalizations about a situation you know a few paragraphs about, and insult a pair of parents who are exemplary in every way.

If that's the quality of advice I can expect from you, please keep it to yourself in the future.

I don't know why every person who is employed by a school seems to think they are an expert in how to educate children. :x

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Generalisimo
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Post by Generalisimo »

Have you offered to assist him with his homework? You say you've mostly kept your distance. If you want him to graduate, you really should work on bridging that gap during the summer vacation.

Does it seem like he does fine in subjects he is motivated in? Or is he an all-around bad student? How bad are we talking here, anyway? Does he usually score in the 60s? In the 40s?

Talk to his teachers and see what their assessment of him is. They might not be right, but they are another point of view. Do his friends get good grades? Is he hanging out with a crowd that doesn't care about school?

Or, simply ask him. Ask him why he doesn't complete his homework or do well on tests. Ask him what he thinks of school, which subjects he likes and doesn't like, and whether he understands the significance of his being held back a grade.

Communication is key. If you can't talk to him, you're not going to help him. If he's still intimidated by you, ask his mom to pose those questions.

Either way, it's best to get the scoop right from him. If he won't talk to his parents, try to enlist the help of a trusted friend, teacher, bus driver, etc. Someone that he'll open up to.
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Sundog
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Post by Sundog »

Pardon me, but I feel the need to elaborate after such a nasty comment from Chani.

There is no money in the house for $20 an hour tutoring. We just last year got the state to force the kid's deadbeat dad to pay child support. I've been raising her kids and mine, five in all, for over a decade on my salary alone. If you have the money to throw $20 an hour at the problem, good for you. Don't throw your hands in the air and say obviously we've abandoned the kid simply because we can't afford tutoring.

The only other thing I can figure that you're being so judgemental about is my statement that his grades have been atrocious for years. Do you simply assume we've tried nothing? My wife has tried to work with him until she's been reduced to tears. She doesn't know what else to do to help. You try to explain things to the kid and he just stares at you.

The only other point you raised, I simply disagree with. I am an educator too; your opinion on the subject is no better than mine.

No need to respond, and I don't want to argue with you anyway; I like your hubby. But think a little bit next time before spouting your half-baked assessments of a total stranger's situation.
Last edited by Sundog on Fri Jul 16, 2004 7:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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TruthSeeker
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Post by TruthSeeker »

Frustrated is good as it implies some motivation.

I agree with Generalisimo that he needs to talk. Maybe this isn't about school but something else like depression? An adult friend/relative that you trust might be ideal.

I do think he needs specialized one-on-one educational attention, as well. I wonder if there are options that would fit your budget. I know that here the public libraries and some of the community centres offer free tutoring. Does he have an older sib or cousin who could do it? Expert would be better in some ways, of course, but maybe just having an older role model he wants to impress might be enough to light his fire.

Good luck

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Sundog
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Post by Sundog »

Generalisimo wrote:Have you offered to assist him with his homework? You say you've mostly kept your distance. If you want him to graduate, you really should work on bridging that gap during the summer vacation.
My wife works with him. He's too intimidated to listen to me very well. I don't really understand why but it's true.

He's been in summer school every summer for years. This year they wouldn't enroll him in it because his grades were too bad; he simply has to retake the whole year.
Does it seem like he does fine in subjects he is motivated in? Or is he an all-around bad student? How bad are we talking here, anyway? Does he usually score in the 60s? In the 40s?
That's what I don't get. He isn't just dumb! He consistently failed 4 classes this year but gets B's in the others.

Talk to his teachers and see what their assessment of him is. They might not be right, but they are another point of view. Do his friends get good grades? Is he hanging out with a crowd that doesn't care about school?
We have. Half of them want him tested (we did, he's fine). The others say he just doesn't pay attention and doesn't hand in his work.

Or, simply ask him. Ask him why he doesn't complete his homework or do well on tests. Ask him what he thinks of school, which subjects he likes and doesn't like, and whether he understands the significance of his being held back a grade.

Communication is key. If you can't talk to him, you're not going to help him. If he's still intimidated by you, ask his mom to pose those questions.

Either way, it's best to get the scoop right from him. If he won't talk to his parents, try to enlist the help of a trusted friend, teacher, bus driver, etc. Someone that he'll open up to.
That's a good idea. I have mostly left this up to his mom because she's much better at communicating with him than I am, and I'm not particularly patient.

Thanks for your input.
Last edited by Sundog on Fri Jul 16, 2004 7:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Lisa Simpson
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Post by Lisa Simpson »

If it's just that he's not getting math concepts well, maybe he needs someone to explain them better to him. My sis-in-law 'gets' math concepts easily. But she can't explain those concepts well at all. She just looks at a problem and knows the answer. Her daughter (my niece) doesn't understand math well either. But we've have learned that I can explain math to her in a way she understands. Maybe that's what your son needs, too. Someone (a teacher, maybe) who can explain the concepts he should have learned years ago, in a way he can grasp. All kids learn in different ways.

Cutting down on the TV and video games won't hurt either. I had to cut them out entirely for my oldest. He just "forgets" to do his homework if the computer is around.

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Post by Generalisimo »

Sundog wrote:There is no money in the house for for $20 an hour tutoring.
I know this was not addressed to me, and you probably already know this so I apologize if I'm stating the obvious, but...

You might want to look around for a free tutor. Ask his teachers if they have an older high school student that would be willing to sit with him for even an hour or two a week. Or try a local college. Heck, you can probably get a college kid to help him out for a couple hours in exchange for a nice home-cooked meal.

Even the teacher might be willing to help. If he has any really good teachers, I'd bet they would stay late and help him for free, if they saw potential and that he was trying. It's that drive to help kids succeed that makes good teachers, and I've known of more than one that has worked on their own time for a kid that was worth it.

Just some thoughts, some areas to look for free help. I am not an educator, so feel free to tell me that all these ideas wouldn't work.
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Post by TruthSeeker »

Sundog wrote: You try to explain things to the kid and he just stares at you.

This is an expensive suggestion, but your sentence is provocative: Has he been tested for learning disabilities (like information processing problems) by a licensed neuropsychologist?

Sometimes, you can get reduced rates by having a trainee at a teaching hospital do the testing (they report to a licensed person so the interpretation is often even more careful as you have two brains looking at the data) or you can get free testing by enrolling in a research study that includes testing.

I have no idea if any of these resources are available to you. I'm just brainstorming.

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Post by Sundog »

TruthSeeker wrote:Frustrated is good as it implies some motivation.

I agree with Generalisimo that he needs to talk. Maybe this isn't about school but something else like depression? An adult friend/relative that you trust might be ideal.

I do think he needs specialized one-on-one educational attention, as well. I wonder if there are options that would fit your budget. I know that here the public libraries and some of the community centres offer free tutoring. Does he have an older sib or cousin who could do it? Expert would be better in some ways, of course, but maybe just having an older role model he wants to impress might be enough to light his fire.

Good luck
I think you two have hit on it, and I know just the person. He has a good rapport with his priest, ironically enough, and people in his church. I think I'll try to enlist their aid.

I like this idea. I feel like the kid just won't talk about what's wrong.

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Post by TruthSeeker »

Sundog wrote:
I think you two have hit on it, and I know just the person. He has a good rapport with his priest, ironically enough, and people in his church. I think I'll try to enlist their aid.

I like this idea. I feel like the kid just won't talk about what's wrong.

Excellent!

Keep us posted.

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Sundog
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Post by Sundog »

TruthSeeker wrote:
Sundog wrote: You try to explain things to the kid and he just stares at you.

This is an expensive suggestion, but your sentence is provocative: Has he been tested for learning disabilities (like information processing problems) by a licensed neuropsychologist?

Sometimes, you can get reduced rates by having a trainee at a teaching hospital do the testing (they report to a licensed person so the interpretation is often even more careful as you have two brains looking at the data) or you can get free testing by enrolling in a research study that includes testing.

I have no idea if any of these resources are available to you. I'm just brainstorming.
He's been "tested" for learning disabilities, but now you have me curious. I'm going to find out just exactly what he has and hasn't been tested for.

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Generalisimo
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Post by Generalisimo »

Sundog wrote:My wife works with him. He's too intimidated to listen to me very well. I don't really understand why but it's true.
Try to understand why. Maybe talk to his friends on the sly, or his friends' parents even. Maybe there is a part of your personality that keeps him distant, and you're totally oblivious to it.
Sundog wrote:That's what I don't get. He isn't just dumb! He consistently failed 4 classes this years but gets B's in the others.
Ah, so he can do well, but there are subjects he does not for whatever reason. Either he doesn't care, or he just doesn't get it. Perhaps he has a learning disability that only inhibits certain types of learning (i.e., math and problem solving, or reading comprehension). Or, as others have suggested, someone needs to take a different approach with him.

I took Calculus in high school. I did well, As and Bs on all my assignments. Got to college, and I struggled to comprehend what my idiot professor was saying. If I hadn't saved my notes from high school, I wouldn't have been able to pull the grades I did in Calculus I and II.

Then came Calculus III. The professor was decent, and tried to help me, but there were concepts I just couldn't get my arms around. I don't know why, and I had friends tell me that Calc III was easier than I and II. Not to me, it wasn't!

A year later, I took two Calculus-based Physics courses, and did very well in them. The professor had an uncanny knack for explaining concepts in ways I could understand. He was my favorite science teacher ever.

Anyway, the point of my babbling is this: sometimes, the same subject material taught a different way can make a world of difference.
Sundog wrote:That's a good idea. I have mostly left this up to his mom because she's much better at communicating with him than I am, and I'm not particularly patient.
Perhaps it is the impatience that keeps him distant. He doesn't think you'll hear him out, so he doesn't bother.

It's funny who a teenager will open up to, and who they won't. My volunteer work has me hanging around teens quite a bit. I'll dispense advice, and they'll take it. Later, I'll talk to their parents, and they'll be like "I've been telling him that for months! You tell him once and he does it." -- I usually reply with "of course, you're his parents, he's not supposed to listen to you!" :)

Developing a relationship with him is primary. But it wouldn't hurt to also develop relationships with those he opens up to.

(I see after I wrote this post, you've found someone you might be able to talk to. Good deal.)
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Post by Viking Chick »

I can't add anything to what has been said already - some excellent suggestions.

I just want to say that I applaud the way that you and your wife are exploring every avenue open to you, including looking to others for help, it seems to me that you have anything but given up on the kid, and that more kids could do with having the support that he obviously has. Some things are plain and simply worth more than any amount of money.

I hope it all works out well for you.

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Sundog
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Post by Sundog »

Viking Chick wrote:I can't add anything to what has been said already - some excellent suggestions.

I just want to say that I applaud the way that you and your wife are exploring every avenue open to you, including looking to others for help, it seems to me that you have anything but given up on the kid, and that more kids could do with having the support that he obviously has. Some things are plain and simply worth more than any amount of money.

I hope it all works out well for you.
Thank you very much, and thank all of you. This is terra incognita to me. I appreciate the suggestions and I feel that some will actually help.