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Here are some practical things parents that can do to help their children achieve the two goals of education: developing tools for learning, and a good attitude toward life-long learning.
"My child needed a high level of everything since the day she was born. She seemed to be constantly in my arms for the first year; she weaned at three years; she slept in our bed until age five. Needless to say, where she went to school and who would be her teacher were major decisions for us. To whom I entrusted my child mattered a great deal to me. I really wasn't afraid of her going to school because down deep I knew that she was a solid and secure child who could handle the challenges of school, yet I wasn't going to take any chances. I arranged for her to have a teacher whom she had met several times and knew. I also arranged for her to be in the same class as her friend. I made a point of being a frequent volunteer at the school and going on all the field trips. I am happy to report that she was much loved by the teachers, who called her "the best adjusted child in the class." She was also liked by her peers and was a straight "A" student. Yet, school was not always a positive experience for her. During particularly difficult times or years I home- schooled her."
"I was so reassured by the teacher's caring attitude that I didn't pay attention to how little my child was being taught. In an effort to put Susan into a nurturing environment, I had underestimated her desire to learn. I soon realized that she needed to be challenged in order for her to stay "plugged in." My fears had led me to get Susan into a safe, nurturing school. I discounted her abilities. We feared that if a school were too highly structured and had expectations that were too high, it would be difficult for Susan. Yet, we found that the class we chose had no structure and no expectations."
"When September arrived, the teacher of our dreams entered our lives, and this year proved to be a turning point for Haley. Mrs. B understood that some children process information differently. She taught with a lot of worded pictures, visualizations, and soft music every morning as the kids settled into their work. She was very specific with her instructions and expectations. This was the setting that Haley needed to thrive. Feeling loved unconditionally by Mrs. B, Haley had the freedom to be herself, unusual temperament and all. Haley and Mrs. B were a good fit and my daughter soared academically and socially."
"'Acting out' her day helped Karen to get used to school. After school, she played school and imitated her teacher. She converted her walk-in closet to a classroom. We gave her an old white board that my husband used for seminars, and she was ecstatic. She would act out the part of her kindergarten teacher in the way she viewed her, as harsh and unloving, and act toward her students the way she saw herself being treated (complete with silk blouses and high heels). This gave us a wonderful opportunity to talk about how she felt when Miss H would treat her like that. Playing school was therapeutic for her. It allowed her to work out a lot of her worries through play, and actually helped her get ready for the next year of school."
"When kindergarten started, we hoped Kendra would find a structured environment in which we knew she would do well, as long as it was accompanied by a nurturing teacher. It wasn't long before she started showing signs of regression. She became more aggressive and negative at home. After sitting in on her class, I saw the problem. The teacher was tall and intimidating. She had little warmth in her disposition and attitude. She had structure, but no flexibility and had expectations that Kendra was having a hard time meeting. She had a harsh, intimidating voice, even when speaking to me. It soon became obvious to me (and Kendra) that she was not one of the teacher's favorites. Because of the way the teacher singled her out when she disobeyed, other kids in the class were also picking up cues that Kendra was undesirable. Kendra began having constant stomachaches, nightwaking, constipation, and didn't want to go to school. We had a conference with the teacher who felt that Kendra needed to conform to her rules. In her eagerness to please this teacher, Kendra became an annoyance in the classroom. She was having more time-outs and was becoming more frustrated. We considered changing schools or classes, but being first-time parents we didn't want to rock the neighborhood boat. In retrospect, I wish we had pulled her, but I didn't have the confidence then that I have now."
As we have repeatedly stressed, because of the mutual sensitivity between high-need children and their parents, these kids catch your moods very easily. If you are anxious about your child going to school, your child will likely also be anxious. Moods between parents and children are contagious, especially between high-need children and high-touch parents. Give your child the message that school is fun, you're excited about it, and it's okay to be there.
High-need children will tax the creativity of their teachers just as they do their parents, so it's important to make sure the teacher and the child are a good fit and to continue to monitor the effect of the school on your child's intellectual and emotional growth.