As a practicing professional counselor working with children and adolescents, it has become evident that there are many children who slip through the cracks of the educational system. Noticeably, adolescents in high school who continually repeat a grade but no questions are raised as to why. Then questions are raised when anxiety and depression begin to interfere. Can the anxiety and depression be a manifestation of a larger issue with undiagnosed educational problems that once in high school become even more difficult to manage without the proper help.
How would you feel being seventeen years old and still a freshman in high school? You are almost considered an adult and at a different developmental stage than your other classmates. What if you did not understand the work and begin avoiding going to school to avoid the work. What if in that case the teacher says you are being lazy and not trying.
Is the system truly built to identify students with learning difficulties? If the learning difficulties were identified could there be a lesser percentage of students suffering from depression and anxiety in high school. Students are often bullied for their academic difficulties which are contributing factors for depression and anxiety. A history of being bullied corresponds with lower academic achievement (Feldman, Ojanen, Gesten, Smith-Schrandt, Brannick, Totura, Alexander, Scanga & Brown,2014).
As professional counselor’s how can we address this issue and aid adolescents who are in counseling services to make sure their educational needs are being met? Is it doing justice to suggest an adult education program with less stringent requirements to help pass the student through school. Does that student then have the skills for a career or higher education? Or is this the answer to a problem that should have been addressed when the student was younger to help make sure the student has all the tools necessary for a successful educational experience. One tool we have as professional counselor’s is the ability to help prepare parents of the children to fight for the needs of the child. We can suggest meetings at school to discuss possible learning difficulties that could be triggering other symptoms such as behavioral problems, depression and anxiety among other issues.
Feldman, M.A., Ojanen, T., Gesten, E.L, Smith-Schrandt, H., Brannick, M., Totura, C.M.W., Alexander, L., Scanga, D., & Brown, K. (2014). The effects of middle school bullying and victimization on adjustment through high school: Growth modeling of achievement, school attendance, and disciplinary trajectories. Psychology in the Schools, 51(10), 104-1062.
Rachel Collins, LPC is a clinical therapist working with children and adolescents in New Haven, Connecticut. Her specializations include eating disorders, self-injury and trauma related work. She has a history of writing articles, giving presentations and serving in leadership positions at the local, state, regional and national level.