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Bright Child Has Tourette's and Poor Grades
Q: My seven-year-old is in first grade at a private Christian school. She excels in most subjects and her teacher is working with her on more challenging reading and spelling assignments (at about the third grade level). Recently her grades have fallen dramatically. Her teacher tells me my daughter isn't trying and is having trouble completing assignments. My daughter tells me that she is daydreaming a lot. I should also mention that my daughter has had two seizures in the last year and has Tourette's syndrome. Where do I begin to address this problem?
A: I hesitate to go into a discussion of possible reasons for your daughter's change without first considering her medical situation. I am assuming that your daughter may be on some medication to treat her seizures. Perhaps the medicine is causing her some attention problems, or needs adjustment. It would be a good idea to consult her physician. When there is a neurological disorder, prolonged periods of inattention could be a physical problem rather than an emotional issue. I would also add that seven is the age when many kids need glasses for the first time. Has there been a professional vision check recently?
If she checks out well medically, as we hope, then have an open discussion with your little girl about any school issues. What does she think about the special work in reading and spelling? Does she want to pick her own books, is it too hard, too easy? Is she being teased by peers for being too smart or the teacher's pet? (Unfortunately it still happens!) If the problem continues, I would consider having an educational evaluation. That would give you an IQ potential, as well as a clear idea of her strengths and possible academic weaknesses to help you plan a challenging education for her.
Have you seen the book Children With Tourette Syndrome: A Parent's Guide, edited by Tracy Haerle (Woodbine House Press)? I have found it to be very informative to me in my periodic clinic work with children with this diagnosis. I hope you find this information helpful.
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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.