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Dr. Silver,

I am the principal of an elementary school. I have an eighth grade student that has a behavior disorder. He is a great kid and has made great strides in the past few years. He is on medication and when he takes it he does well.

He has problems with a certain teacher and I am struggling to help her understand his disorder. He does not deal well with any kind of pressure and often times this pressure is because of something that is going on at home. He is easily irritated and frustrated. He often closes himself off when he becomes agitated and won’t do any work. He becomes easily worried and depressed. He does not like to write and when an assignment requires extra writing he shuts down. (We have offered a computer to type assignments, but it is not an appealing alternative to him.)

He is a very intelligent boy but this behavior is all his instructor can see. She cannot understand why he shuts down sometimes. She becomes easily frustrated and continues to single him out in front of his peers when he chooses not to work. This only agitates him further. She honestly feels that he is making a decision to act a certain way just so he is in control of every situation.

The special education teacher and I have both tried to explain the behavior disorder to her. We are unsuccessful in our attempts. What would you say to her that might help her understand that kids with behavior disorders really are not able to control themselves all the time?

May I thank you for being so sensitive to the needs of your students. My first proposal might not fit your administrative style. I would transfer the child to a teacher who does understand the child’s disabilities. I would then request that the teacher he now has receive help in learning how to teach a child with special needs in a general education setting.

If this is not possible, I would assure the current teacher that she will receive supportive help from the special education program. However, this teacher must (not it would be nice if…) follow the recommendations made.

Explaining has not helped. A specific list of teaching approaches that are expected and that will be monitored might work best.

The last thing I would want is to have the child continue to suffer because of the teacher’s lack of knowledge and sensitivity.

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