Teachers Are Overwhelmed! Most Common Reason: Students with Learning Challenges – Blog by Dr. Christine Powell

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Dr. Christine Powell (ADHD Expert & Learning Coach)

I am a parent of a child with ADHD, and also a high school teacher of students with special educational needs, I strongly advocate augmented support for adolescents struggling to learn, plan & get organized. If you think the school is covering the learning basics, it might be helpful to understand the current climate in a public school in the United States and then make informed decisions about your child’s learning journey.

Students with learning challenges have unique learning profiles, and parents often trust that schools hire teachers with the knowledge and know-how to meet each child’s needs best. Trends in education show a minefield of systemic issues impacting how teachers show up in classrooms prepared to teach.

Research has shown a significant increase in the diagnosis of students with ADHD and autism, indicating a growing need for specialized assistance to support unique learning profiles. Despite the increase in identifying students with learning needs, teacher training in neurodiverse learners has remained about the same. Additionally, many teachers have expressed concerns about their lack of sufficient training to work with special needs students effectively. This can lead to potential academic learning gaps and a lack of behavioral support within the classroom.

Another trend, teacher attrition, is a hot-button topic. The high demands of trying to understand & meet the unique needs of students with learning challenges have contributed to teacher burnout. It’s important to note that factors such as low salaries, heavy workloads, lack of support, and challenging working conditions can influence the teacher shortage and turnover issue.

Investing in outside education therapy services can bridge these gaps, providing targeted interventions and strategies tailored to each child’s specific challenges. These services can offer specialized expertise and resources, complementing schools’ efforts and empowering students to achieve their full potential. By collaborating with qualified professionals outside of school, we can create a more holistic and supportive educational environment for our children, ensuring they receive the individualized care they need to thrive academically and emotionally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported an increasing trend in diagnosing ADHD and autism in recent years. According to their data, the prevalence of diagnosed ADHD among children aged 2–17 years increased from 6.1% in 1997 to 10.2% in 2016. Similarly, the prevalence of diagnosed autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased over time, from 1 in 150 children in 2000 to 1 in 54 children in 2016.

Teacher training and working with special needs students:

Numerous studies have highlighted teachers’ challenges when working with students with special needs. A National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report found that 94% of general education teachers had students with disabilities in their classrooms. However, many teachers feel unprepared to meet the diverse needs of these students. A survey by the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) indicated that only 17% of general education teachers felt “very well prepared” to work with students with learning disabilities.

Teacher burnout and special education demands:

Research has shown that the demands of teaching students with special needs can lead to higher levels of teacher burnout. The Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders published a study that highlighted the stressors faced by special education teachers, including the emotional demands of working with students with challenging behaviors and learning difficulties. This stress and burnout can impact the overall quality of education provided to all students in the classroom.

So, collaborate with your child’s school to get the help and support your child needs. If the school lacks the resources, reach out to your community for resources, including therapists, recommended specialists, and other parents seeking support.  Now that you understand the current climate in a public school in the United States, you know you have to help support your child’s educational journey.

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