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Ten-Year-Old's Behaviors Worry Stepmom
Q: My 10-year-old stepson has had a problem with reading since first grade. He reads well, but he can't comprehend what he's read. His teacher says he's a good math student, but he's not into problems that use reading. He either doesn't pay attention or doesn't comprehend the assignments. As his teacher describes it, he "zones" in and out at school. At home it's the same -- I don't know if he just doesn't understand or isn't listening. He's a smart child, but at times seems to be in his own world.
At both his mother's and our home, he doesn't understand a "consequence," that one action leads to another. He requires being told to do something many times and if he wants to, he will. He also lies. He's so believable and insistent that he's telling the truth, yet he knows that we'll check. I'm concerned about his behavior.
Where can I find information and advice? Our school does not offer any type of testing, so I'm on my own and don't know where to begin.
A: There are so many possible reasons for the behaviors you are describing. There could be something going on with the way your stepson is processing language; he could also be showing signs of an attention deficit disorder or a learning disability. He may be experiencing some emotional stresses that cause him to think about other things when he should be "concentrating." It could be one of these, a combination or these, or none of these.
You really must have an evaluation that will look at all the possibilities before an intervention plan can be recommended. If your stepson is enrolled in a public school, the school district (but not necessarily each individual school in the district) must offer evaluation services. Even if he is in a private school, the school district you live in must provide the services if you request them.
Contact the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (1-888-GR8-MIND), the National Center for Learning Disabilities (1-800-575-7373), or Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (1-800-233-4050). There must be a branch of a parent advocacy group in your community that they can refer you to. You need someone appropriate to help you navigate the "system" to get an evaluation for your stepson plus services to support his needs.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.