Friday 3 July 2015

My dyslexic son won't apply himself to his school work

Published 10/09/2013 | 05:00

David Coleman recommends talking to a year head about son's learning difficulties
David Coleman recommends talking to a year head about son's learning difficulties

My son will be 15 in December and is just starting third year in school. I am already dreading the year and am afraid that he just will not apply himself back in school.

Before the summer he had lost all interest in school. He is dyslexic but despite this has the ability to do well.

He is very good with his hands and loves the practical subjects but he will not apply himself to do any book work at all. He had started smoking and mitched off a few times before the holidays but he claims he has stopped all that now.

I want him to get the Junior Cert and hopefully to stay in school long enough to do his Leaving Cert.

We are only a week into the school year and I am stressed already. He won't listen to me at all so I don't know how I am going to get through to him.

David says: Sometimes our anticipation of problems can cause us more anxiety than the problems themselves. Even though you don't yet have any evidence that your son is lackadaisical in his approach to school this year, you are expecting it.

So, while your fears may be realised as the year progresses, it really won't help you or your son to be predicting a disastrous year for him this year.

Do remember the positives, like his practical skills, that you have already identified from previous years.

It does sound like last year was difficult for your son, and for you.

It is always a worry when youngsters seem to lose all interest in their education.

However, 14 is a tricky age. It is typically the age at which most youngsters are coming into, or are already in the throes of their hormonal development.

I think it can be very difficult for young teenagers to focus on their education when their minds are so absorbed with developmental issues, like their identity, their sexuality and where they fit in socially.

Many teachers will probably also tell you that students in this age group can be the hardest to motivate and keep focused.

They certainly are not thinking in the long term about the opportunities they may be denying themselves by missing out on their education.

There is always a risk that youngsters will give up entirely on school and study if they get into bad habits early in their secondary education. Presumably your son started smoking and mitching in the company of a particular group?

If he is still very friendly with that group, then it may be very hard for him to break the habits that he began before the summer.

If he feels that his friends don't value education then it will be hard for him to see the value in it either.

However, if he says that he has changed his behaviours, then it may also indicate that he has moved away from that group.

If he has then this would be a very positive step for him.

You have probably found already that your worries lead you to attempt to motivate him.

But, I'd guess that he rejects your best efforts. He may even feel that you are nagging him, such that he becomes even more resistant or oppositional. So, this may be the time to bring in reinforcements.

I'd suggest that you make an appointment to meet his year head, proactively, while things are still going well.

Be open about your worries for your son drifting away from his studies.

Talk to him or her about your son's dyslexia. In busy secondary schools some specific learning difficulties that students have can be easily overlooked.

Teachers may not remember that he has dyslexia and may not be taking this into account in how they approach his "book work", as you term it.

He may actually be getting more disheartened the further along he goes in school, particularly if he feels he has fallen behind already.

Many youngsters adopt the 'well I haven't a clue, so what's the point' philosophy as they, to all intents and purposes, give up.

If he feels more supported by his teachers it could give him a new perspective on school.

Additionally, it would be great if you could find a man, like his dad, an uncle or a family friend, who may have also struggled in school but stuck with it, such that they then had better opportunities later in life.

A good positive role model, like this, who takes an interest in your son, might have more success in motivating him to stick with his education than you could have.

It is amazing how other people can sometimes 'get through' to our children far more effectively than us.

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