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Self worth is not tied to academic ability

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For your kids who struggle academically, how have you helped them see that their self worth is not tied to their academic ability?


My dd has a severe math disability. (Like grade 3/4 math level if not lower in some areas but is age 15 in 8th grade. Going to ps this year which is great for the most part)


She’s really struggling mentally with being in special ed math class and is keenly aware how low her abilities are and how much she struggles with things other kids were doing in elementary school.


She starts with a new mental health clinic soon so I’m hoping they have some ideas. The school counselors are great but she’s a kid who insists talk therapy doesn’t help.


She’s got lots of great things going for her. She’s a dancer, Great with little kids, lots of friends, such a nice person but gets so down on herself about academics :(

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Yes, we had conferences yesterday. She had some ideas but was looking to me for suggestions.

That class is much younger than her and much lower functioning (the other students are in there all day) so she doesn’t feel She fits in there, even though math wise, she’s failing that class.

Doing fine in all her other Gen Ed classes.

The sped teacher is trying to get her another period of math daily 1:1 for remediation- hoping to bump up her ability and also self confidence in math if she can make some gains this year.

Edited by Hilltopmom
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It sounds like that class is not very good and the teacher sees it, but the teacher wants to be helpful which counts for a lot.


Is there anything you can do on your side to try to make the 1:1 happen? Do you think the teacher might have been hinting to you to try to pursue that?


I think I have been hinted sometimes (at the previous school district though, not here), when there are things that happen more quickly and are also likelier to go through when the parent is asking for it.


I hope it will work out! I don't think it is good for her to be with kids who aren't a good fit for her, I think it's kind-of not good for kids to be in that situation. Not across the board, but I think this is a negative a lot of kids would have.


Maybe you could even ask for her to do independent work in a study hall, or something, even if she wouldn't make much progress. I don't know. Self-esteem is pretty important.


But maybe the 1:1 would be enough too, if she saw she was making progress with it and the 1:1 person was good with her.

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We often have conversations centered around the fact that everyone struggles with something.  Some are obvious (a person in a wheelchair) and some are not (a private battle with bulimia).  We don't compare struggles, or say that one is "worse" than another, but I often will point out "that's just their struggle" when discussing a friend who is lousy at showing up on time or whatever.  Fostering compassion for others allows for DD to feel less persecuted.  She isn't the only one.


On the other side of the spectrum, I also work hard to point out DD's successes.  She is a fantastic sculptor, a dedicated dog trainer, and can tell beautiful stories.  Those skills are what I want her to focus on.  


ETA - It sounds like the class isn't a good fit academically, I'd seriously consider removing her from that classroom environment to protect her emotional well-being.  Does you district offer online classes?  Some will allow kids to take a class at home online or during a study hall rather than in a classroom setting. 

Edited by Plink
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I have been pondering this topic lately, too, so thanks for posting. It *does* seem like kids decide at a certain age where they academically fit, based almost solely on math ability. It's weird. My dyslexic kiddo is strong at math and science; even though he struggles with spelling, mechanics, some organizational things, he's smart, everyone can "see" that's he's smart and his self-esteem is quite healthy. ;-) My dd has some obvious strengths and does not struggle with spelling, mechanics, etc., but because she struggles with math she seems to pick her friends and sees herself as part of "the other" group at school (for lack of a better term) based on that subject alone. And I think I see this pattern in all the kids.


You know how kids that struggle with reading are sometimes asked to read to their pet? Or maybe to younger kids? I can't shake this recurring idea that if dd could 'tutor' some really young kids with basic math manipulatives, it might somehow give her confidence. I have nothing to back this up, but the thought pursues me.



To get back on-topic, one thing that has helped DD is her part-time job. While there are the obvious math struggles, everyone there has their own thing and she has strengths they don't. The real world is such an antidote to the artificial nature of school, I frankly can't wait until she is out of there.

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I'd be interested to hear how it goes. Her placement sounds terrible for the math. It's both demoralizing AND not a good fit. My ds has one on one or super small group pullouts in his IEP for math, I forget. Especially because she's older, that placement sounds uncomfortable. Also, what's going to happen in 9th? I haven't asked in our area (because we're not there yet, whew), but some people have said they drop certain classes and pullouts in high school. So it might totally change on her next year.


What would happen if you paid for a tutor to go to the school? 

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We have had similiar issues with my son, who struggles across the academic spectrum, but excels in practical life: all aspects of house and yardwork, directions, problem solving in real life situations, excellent work ethic, etc. We make a point of pointing out things that he does well with "in the moment". We also help him see how things he does well with can connect to future life occupations and how personality traits he has are attractive to future employers. It doesn't mean he is less frustrated by his academic work, but we have noticed that he doesn't talk negatively about himself as much as he used to, and is more willing to make a second attempt on a academic task that didn't go well the first time. It is a work in a progress.

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