Education: Your views - Troubled children

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The Independent Online
I read "Are children breaking down or is it the system?",(EDUCATION, 25 March) and welcome research into the needs of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. I was dismayed, however, to read that "parents... are unable... to accept that they themselves may have contributed to the problem" and that "a psychiatric diagnosis can help to let parents off the hook when it is a question of explaining their children's disruptive behaviour". I trust the research doesn't start from these assumptions.

There may be parents who are happy to find an explanation for their child's problems outside the family. My understanding, however, is that most parents of ADHD children are bewildered as to why this child, out of the whole family, acts in the way he (and it usually is a boy) does. Often years have been spent being ostracised by other parents for the behaviour of this, to all outward appearances, normal child. The child from an early age behaves differently from other children in social situations, and discipline of whatever sort seems to have little or no effect. The parents become increasingly more guilty about their child's behaviour and are prepared to try anything to find a semblance of normality.

The child starts school and teachers cannot understand why this child fails to respond as other children do.

It is all too easy to place the responsibility on parents for failing their child, but this does not take into account the growing body of knowledge that some children are neurophysiologically different and this difference can be observed using appropriate brain scans. It does nothing to support parents and teachers who are daily trying to help and encourage troubled children to find new ways of relating. Instead of further diminishing the already low self-esteem of parents of these children, perhaps it is time to recognise these children have just as many needs as a child with obvious physical or learning challenges, and to consider how families can be given the support and respite care facilities they often desperately need.

Instead of expecting emotionally challenged children to cope with the normal classroom environment and expectations, thought has to be given to making more appropriate provision for them. Maybe they do need a more structured environment than is the norm in most primary schools and maybe they do need more attention to be paid to those areas of their lives where they are succeeding.

LIZ & GORDON THACKRAY

Burgess Hill

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