The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Things To Do Before School Starts

It  is  the  time of year when  parents  bring  their  young children  to  school to register for kindergarten  in  the  fall. They  are  ready for “real” school now.  Parents can  do  several things to ensure their child’s success in this new adventure.

Many   children  have  difficulty  in  school   because  of undetected  visual  problems.   One child in four  has  a  vision problem and one child in five needs glasses.  These problems  are not always discovered  by the school eye chart.  Up to 80 percent of  such problems slip past this test undetected.   Inability  to focus,  to  gauge distance and to follow text on a page,  if  not discovered early, can interfere the learning especially  learning to  read.  Serious nearsightedness, which makes it difficult  for the  child  to  see  what  is  on  the  blackboard,  often   goes undetected.

Parents  need  to be alert since children usually   are  not aware  of  inadequate vision.  Here are some  signs  of  possible vision problems:  avoidance of close work; watery, inflamed  eyes indicating  an  infection or allergy; inability  to  see  distant objects; turning or tilting the head to one side as if trying  to clarify  an  image;  excessive  clumsiness;  holding  objects  or reading material close to the eyes; rubbing , blinking, squinting and  closing  one  eye  to  see  something  close  or  far  away;  complaints of headaches or dizziness after doing close-up work.  

Failure to correct vision problems could result in permanent impairment.   If  you  have any  concerns,  consult  a  pediatric opthalmologist.

Other children have problems in school because of undetected hearing  loss.   This impairment seems to affect boys  more  than girls.  There are some boys who, although their hearing  problems were  treated  as  babies, may be prone  to  auditory  processing problems  when  they  go  to  school.   They  cannot  screen  out conflicting  noises and miss much of what is said.  This  problem often  goes  undetected  because they can hear  in  a  one-on-one situation when the adult looks right at them, but fail to get the message when competing sounds interfere.

Here are some signs to look for in your child.  Be concerned if  he  is not disturbed by loud noises; does  not  respond  when spoken  to; uses gestures almost exclusively to  establish  needs rather than verbalizing and watches adults’ faces intently; looks around  the  room  and his attention  wanders  while  someone  is reading to him; often says “huh” or “what” indicating he does not understand; breathes with his mouth open.

When hearing problems go undetected, children have  problems in  school which are usually attributed to other reasons.   These children are restless, have short attention spans, are distracted in groups, and are seldom first to do what the teacher asks.   In addition,   they   are  unaware  of   social   conventions   like automatically  saying,  “thank  you.”, “I’m  sorry”.   They  grab another  child to get his attention rather than saying  his  name and, in general, are unaware of disturbing others with noises.  
Children  with  undetected hearing loss may not be  able  to communicate or to use words as effectively as their peers.  As  a result  they may appear to be less intelligent than  they  really are.  When  tested,  they  may do  poorly  because  they  do  not understand  the  questions and may guess or say “I  don’t  know.”

This  appears to confirm the hypothesis of limited  intelligence. These children often have behavior problems because they are  not sure what is expected of them.

If  you suspect your child may have a hearing impairment  or an auditory processing problem, try to have him evaluated  before he  goes  to kindergarten.  It is best to have an  otologist  who understands children do the assessment.

Children  need all systems on GO in order to do well in  the crucial primary grades.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of  cure”  is a very apt saying since, at this age,  the  earlier the  cure,  the greater likelihood that the child will  become  a successful learner.

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