“Mom, I don’t feel good.” | When Your Child Tries Avoiding School

The first time Alyssa complained of a stomach ache, she was allowed to stay home from school to rest. But when Alyssa’s stomach started to hurt almost every day, her mother, Sharon, began to suspect that it was more than just a “bug” or a virus going around.


Hoping to find out why her friendly, bright fifth grader no longer wanted to go to school, Sharon began doing some research. She scoured the Internet for information on stomach aches, asked her pediatrician if there were medicines
Alyssa should take and tried to gauge if other moms were having the same experiences.


She asked Alyssa if there was anything she wanted to talk about. Alyssa said everything was fine — she just didn’t want to go to school. Finally, Sharon reached out to Alyssa’s teacher, who said Alyssa seemed to be having trouble keeping up with her peers.


“I didn’t want to tell anyone it was too hard.”

Alyssa felt stupid admitting she needed help, so she didn’t say anything or ask questions when she wasn’t sure. During Social Studies, Alyssa struggled to read the text fast enough; there were just too many words she didn’t know.


She didn’t know how to sound out the word “colonization,” let alone what it meant… so how could she write a five paragraph essay on it? Alyssa was ahead of the class when it came to math, but the rest of her days were filled with long chapters she couldn’t really read and questions she couldn’t really answer.


It was easier to just feign a stomach ache and avoid all of the frustration and embarrassment.


Getting to the Root of the Problem

For students like Alyssa, it’s important to determine the underlying cause of school challenges. Alyssa has difficulty sounding out new words and every time she sees one, she has to begin the laborious process over again. A cause of difficulty in establishing sight words and contextual fluency is difficulty in visualizing letters in words. This is called weak symbol imagery.


A significant number of students—even those who have well-developed phonemic awareness—have difficulty with rapidly perceiving sounds in words, and are slow to self-correct their reading errors.


Being able to comprehend what you’ve read is a separate skill and can be difficult for students with or without decoding challenges. A primary cause of language comprehension problems is difficulty creating an imagined gestalt. This is called weak concept imagery.


This weakness causes individuals to get only “parts” of information they read or hear, but not the whole. Alyssa often misses jokes or forgets what her teacher has asked her to do as a result. It’s also hard for her to remember what words like “colonization” mean, as she is unable to create mental imagery for new words or concepts independently.


Unlock Your Child’s Potential

At Lindamood-Bell, we believe that all students can be taught to read and comprehend to their potential. We start by identifying strengths and weaknesses that may be affecting school performance; our instruction is based on an individual’s learning needs. The school year is a great time to address those learning needs — helping your child develop the underlying foundational skills for reading and comprehension will ensure that they don’t start to miss curriculum-based content because they’re unable to decode or comprehend it.


For a student who has fallen behind, the way to close the gap is often intensive instruction. Click here to learn more about how we’re able to make years of gains in weeks of our research-validated one-to-one instruction. Students can do instruction in one of our learning centers or online from their home or school.


Hear from Lindamood-Bell co-founder, Nanci Bell, about how instruction in our learning centers is a Magical Learning Adventure — and one of the most important gifts you can give your child.



To learn more, contact your local Learning Center or call (800) 300-1818.


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