NOTE TO READERS: This is a draft (12/29/18)
About: For this post, I asked you for your ideas on a topic and curated them below. I did this because one of the biggest challenges that face the students I work with is that they are often misunderstood, and when adults respond based on a misunderstanding, it often makes things worse and creates a lot of shame. Therefore, when we have a better understanding of our children, we can support them better.
So one day I sent an email to you, my amazing audience, and received a ton of responses. I asked everyone to tell me about some of the hidden things that influence our children, the influences that cause a lot of the misunderstanding. We often only see the tip of the iceberg, and I wanted to hear what you think might be beneath the surface. So this is an important post for all parents and teachers who love complicated kids who struggle because it explores the underlying problems that often go unnoticed.
Below I curated the responses for you. I edited them only as much as needed to convey the ideas as clearly as possible.
My intention: My intention for this article is that you can read through it and saturate your mind with amazing insights that might help you help your child more effectively. I hope that it might bring to light some things that you may not have considered. I imagine that for many readers, it might help you discover things you may not have even heard of.
Note: The intention of this article is NOT to shame you, the reader. I imagine that a lot of readers may feel bad for misunderstanding their children. If you notice that you have been misunderstanding, the point isn’t to feel ashamed but to grow from this, to become more understanding. Remember, you were raised with certain beliefs that have had a big impact on you. Now’s the time to challenge them and discover your most authentic truth.
Finally, thank YOU for sharing your ideas, this is an amazing list filled with things I’ve never even thought of! If this helps you, please share this with other parents and teachers who might benefit.
Here are the hidden influences, the things beneath the surface that influence our children:
Mental health issues (including ADHD, depression, anxiety)
Motor planning difficulties
Processing disorders (sensory, auditory, visual)
Eating disorders struggles
Pyrroles disorder or Pyrroluria – which causes a significant deficiency in zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6, low stress tolerance, difficulty concentrating, anxiety
Type 1 diabetes
Body image issues
Lacking the confidence to take healthy risks
Having multiple IEP supports through the elementary and middle schools, then having it all dropped going into high school…because “they’ll have to do it on their own after they graduate.” This is like being pushed of the limb or cliff for the kids. High school quickly becomes one big panic attack when they thought it would be the best time of their lives.
Notations of discontinued IEP accommodations not remaining in a student file for future teacher reference, Understanding vanishes, unless a parent stays on top of school communications.
(all future teachers should know of past reading and/or written expression concerns)
Loss of special services, especially when a student cannot maintain progress to remain above a specific performance threshold. Summer relapse, etc.
Schools and districts not using the word Dyslexia or identifying students as having dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia.
Circadian Rhythm Disorder (in opposition of early morning school schedules)
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Anemia/Vitamin deficiency (Iron, Magnesium, B vitamins). Girls may present differently than boys.
Chronic dehydration/Dehydration-Induced headaches
Tick-related issues, other than Lyme.
Paranoid personality type. So busy scanning their environment that their data intake pipeline clogs.
Hereditary ADHD and Executive Function issues in at least one parent at home can mean minimal effective in-home support.
Home environment may not be conducive to improvement outside a classroom setting (no peace, disruptive or fear/anxiety-inducing neighborhood, hoarding household, etc)
Love/Chronic Crushes/Fanaticism …extreme preoccupation with matters of the heart rather than being in an academic headspace.
Preoccupation for right-brain creative inner fantasy life in avoidance of reality, schedules, order, and goals out of sheer personal pleasure preference.
Another autoimmune issue – PANDAS/PANS.
Lack of sleep
I have found that my kids pretty often have a narrative going in their own mind(s) that interferes with their executive function ability (especially when it comes to school work, but also everyday tasks can suffer). Either it’s a story-type game that they are silently imagining, or they are re-telling themselves some movie/video game or a story they read. Unless an adult knows that they are prone to doing this, often there is no way that we would/could know.
Misophonia – which is a severe reaction to noise – can be chewing, clicking of pens, sounds the pencil makes of paper This was the first clue that we had a student with an underlying condition and it turns out the student had misophonia as well as undiagnosed ADHD. He is now getting help and doing great.
I have a handout that I have given some referral partners in mental health about potential underlying physiological/biological causes of anxiety & depression, but really it is potentially true for all mental/cognitive health issues. The list overlaps with yours quite a bit, but here it is:
Poor diet &/or nutrition
Blood sugar imbalance
Hormonal imbalance such as thyroid and sex hormones
Allergies (histamine is a neurotransmitter)
Dysbiosis (imbalance of intestinal bacteria, or gut bacteria thriving in the wrong section of the intestines)
Lack of exercise
Less than optimal sleep habits
Environmental toxins (mold, lead, mercury)
Vitamin B-6 deficiency
Amino acid imbalances
Undetected chronic infections (Ex: SIBO, Lyme disease, EBV)
SIRS (Systematic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) caused by mold. This is what Rowan has. I am sure there are quite a few others who have the same disease.
Living in an abusive household
Sensory processing issues
Low self-esteem. In my daughter’s case, it is secondary to ADHD and gifted perfectionism. Also specifically girls with autism often slide under the radar.
My daughter has food allergy anxiety. She can’t learn if she’s stressed about being safe in her classroom.
Lack of trust or lack of connection with the teacher has created so much anxiety for my kids. They can’t learn the content if the teacher can’t or won’t “figure out” my 2E kiddos.
What about morning people or night owls, and seasonal syndrome? I’ve had to have school counselors try for school schedules with my son’s hardest classes in the morning when he’s more alert and engaging. Forget about homework when night comes early, he’s already in bed and asleep.
Issues that have come up on Social Media or stresses from Social Media
Here’s a list of just some of the things that I’ve seen over the years that have gone unnoticed and have impacted a child beneath the surface:
Food allergies or sensitivities (known or unknown)
Undiagnosed learning disabilities
Sensitivities to environmental toxins, off-gassing
Processing disorders (a big one that is misunderstood or unnoticed)
Discrepancies in all sorts of different domains (for example, reads way above grade level, writes way below grade level)
Trauma, birth, emotional, physical, etc.
Trauma nobody knows about or acknowledges
Bullying nobody is aware of
Lack of exercise
Highly sensitive to sensory input
Highly sensitive emotionally
Indigo child – highly sensitive to spiritual matters
LGBTQ kids with identity crisis/depression
Medical diseases or conditions that the child or family choose to keep private
Something that happened in the child’s life that nobody knows about but that is affecting the child
Side effects from various types of medications
Feeling uncomfortable with the teacher, feeling that a teacher doesn’t like him/her, feeling misunderstood, feeling that nothing he/she ever does is good enough
Being uninterested in the course content and not having a teacher who brings it alive or who makes it relevant and meaningful
legitimately unengaging curriculum
Being in a class that is not challenging enough or that is overwhelming
Undiagnosed medical conditions
Weakened immune system
Lack of clarity from the teacher about the expectations
Just having a bad day