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Is Your Student Struggling in School? Tips to Overcome Academic Challenges

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As school gets underway in our region, some parents may be asking themselves how they can turn around their struggling student before homework piles up and grades reports come in. Educator and author Barbara Dianis has published a book of step-by-step educational solutions and quick tips geared towards unlikely candidates to academic winners. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte gets some tips from Dianis, who penned the book after her own academic career struggling with and overcoming dyslexia. 

  Overcoming Dyslexia

Barbara Dianis was diagnosed with dyslexia three times in her life, first during her second grade of school. At the time, there wasn't much in the way of special education programs helping students with her developmental learning disorder. She learned her sight words and practiced to keep herself from reversing letters, learned strategies to complete math problems. She attributes a large part of her academic success to her parents, who were educators themselves, for helping her  enroll in summer reading programs and making phonetic flash cards so that by the time she was a senior in high school, she was making A's in her classes. 

The Critical Role of the Parent

Her new book, Grade Transformer for the Modern Student: Early High School Edition, focuses on the hard work overcoming academic challenges and the critical role of the parent. Studies show, Dianis says, that when looking at why students drop out of school, a major factor is that parents aren't involved in their child's learning at the basic level: being present, showing they care, communicating with the school.

She outlines step-by step procedures her students used to overcome scholastic challenges and to excel in areas they never thought they would academically by a combination of pep-talk and plain hard work.

The fundamentals are there: study, quiz yourself, have parents oversee homework. The key, she says, is that parents are present throughout the process.

"What I recommend is that the parents, at least twice a week, sit down with their son or daughter and look at the grades online. Be aware of the tests and quizzes. And if there is an area that needs some intervention, do that immediately. Don't just think the problem will fix itself. Because often learning concepts build upon each other and if there are core learning concepts that are not mastered at earlier levels, they need to go back and just do some review and get some of that mastery to occur so they can go on to the higher learning concepts and be successful."

Dianis recommends parents get the text books before school starts and have their child study the first three chapters. This way, they get a foothold on the course material before classes start, that they show better absorption rate when the teacher introduces the material in class because they already have an understanding of the topic.

Self-motivation hasn't quite gelled yet in students. Some student will naturally organize themselves, but for the student who struggle academically, one might find piles or a mess of papers in their backpacks or lockers. Dianis suggests making organization part of daily routine, reminding parents and their children that "filing your papers and keeping organized is a part of being a successful student."

Dianis' book Grade Transformer on Amazon (a purchase through this link supports WKMS)

More on Barbara Dianis' work

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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