Teach your kids the secrets of school


Dr Richard Lavoie
Focus on Adoption magazine

Learning disabilities expert Dr Richard Lavoie knows the secrets of school. Here's a summary of some of his ideas.

Social structure

Lavoie identifies four groups of kids at school:

  • Rejected: Kids that are openly rejected by peers, and picked on.
  • Ignored: Kids that are left alone.
  • Controversial: These kids have friends but don't venture much beyond their groups.
  • Popular: The kids whom everyone likes--even those that don't know them--a small number of kids fit this description.

Positive traits

The controversials and the popular kids have the following positive traits. These traits, Lavoie points out, are ones that can be developed.

  • They smile and laugh at people.
  • They greet people in the corridor.
  • They extend invitations to play or participate in some activity.
  • They are good conversationally.
  • They shared.
  • They give compliments.
  • They have a good appearance.

Please the teacher

Lavoie also shares some tips on how children can improve their relationship with their teacher.

  • Be punctual.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Participate--even if just to check on what the homework is.
  • Use the teacher's name.
  • Submit work on time and in the correct format.
  • Request explanations.
  • Thank the teacher at the end of every class.

The hidden curriculum

School is a classic example of a place with unwritten, unspoken rules and, to complicate matters further, each school is different. Children with learning disabilities are often less able to understand the nuances of this hidden layer. Lavoie cites a study that asked 1500 teachers who had experience with children with learning disabilities in their class the three things they thought children with learning disabilities needed to be successful. They listed:

  • Listening
  • Following directions
  • Staying on task
  • Asking for help
  • Ability to get started
  • Finishing on time
  • Reading skill

The first six are all things that might not be obvious to the child but need to be understood and attempted. Other hidden curriculum areas might be navigating around the physical environment of the school, knowing who does what, who should be talked to about particular things, and even understanding the school timetable.

Balancing act

Lavoie cautions against children missing out on after-school clubs because they are receiving extra academic help. Going to a club with the few children who might share a child's interest could be a social lifeline for a child.