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PSRP/School Support Staff: How do students' physical or mental health issues (e.g., dental, eating disorders, vision, asthma) affect their academic performance?

Comments: 100

The answer to this question is lengthy. However, simply put...academic performance is influenced by many external, internal, and environmental issues. Begin with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and move through Vygotsky's theory and you see that physical and emotional wellness are essential to academic success. Children who live with illness, fear, anger, neglect, and abuse have chemical imbalances that interfere with brain function.

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Margaret Loe
Gig Harbor, WA

Children who are chronically sleep deprived, malnourished, live in abusive homes, are unsure of their safety, etc cannot be expected to learn at the same pace as children not suffering from these problems. Their ability to recall, reason and even stay awake for instruction is negatively impacted by these issues. Therefore it is also ridiculous to expect them to perform on tests at a level deemed "adequate" when not much in their lives is adequate. And to blame their lack of "adequate progress" on their teachers is a travesty. Shame on the AFT for opting in to that aspect of the "race to the Top". Childhood is a journey, not a race!

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Sue Monaco
Whitehall Teachers Association
Poultney, VT

When students are worried about what they are going to eat or where they are going to sleep there is no learning going on. If students are in pain, cannot see, or cannot breathe there is little or no learning going on. I have students who cannot see and who have asthma this year. I have to modify my writing on the board so they can see. I am careful when we do outside activities so the asthma doesn't get bad.

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Patricia Ferryman
ATF
Rio Rancho, NM

Any physical or mental issues affect academic performance. I think about how well I work when I feel rested, calm, fed healthy food, and with sufficient down time. Conversely when I am anxious, sick,in pain, rushed or stressed, the quality and quantity of my work, whatever it may be is adversely affected. Same for kids!! Thanks!

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Freya Sands
Santa Cruz, CA

I am glad to see our union ask this important question for we need to call attention to the conditions that are damaging our children's lives. The widespread demonization of teachers by corporate media has successfully diverted the public's attention away from the economic and social factors that affect our children's futures. The single predictor of a child's academic success is poverty. Children whose families are jobless, homeless, and hopeless struggle to survive; without help they cannot thrive. We need to raise this issue in the media.

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Elizabeth Shanklin
United Federation of Teachers
Bronx, NY

Physical issues can lead to them becoming tired easily or having trouble being able to focus. Sometimes medications have side effects on be-havior. An asthmatic boy on steroids was very silly on his meds.

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Steve Holtsbery
Syracuse
Syracuse, NY

Children (and adults) do not do their best work when they are not well. My niece did poorly in school & hated to read UNTIL vision & hearing problems were discovered & treated. Now, she's an honor student. Often children do not have the knowledge or vocabulary to say what is wrong; especially if it's long term - they just assume it's "normal". My adult students miss classes due to health issues so it takes them longer to finish the class.

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Karen Meyer
TCCFT #2196
Tacoma, WA

According to Maslows hierarchy of needs, physical and safety needs trump all others. This would indicate that health and safety needs preclude classroom learning. As we all know, when we are in pain or sick, it is difficult, if not impossible to concentrate on anything. (Imagine trying to learn Algebra with an abcessed tooth!)

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Kim Thompson
Bossier Federation of Teachers
Bossier City, LA

There is a clear correlation between mental health and academic performance. Please note that I and my colleagues work in a public "center" school. The program I work in is basically a day treatment mental health center. My colleagues and I receive no additional stipend for student performance even though we have achieved adequate yearly performance for several years. Moreover, we receive no additional stipend for our highly qualified status and challenging work conditions. This issue is a great disservice to all stakeholders and magnifies the “discriminatory” nature of the treatment that those needing and working in the such facilities.

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Paul O'Connor
Plam Beach CTA
West Plam Beach, FL

outside factors such as a students physical and mental health issues play a big part in their academic performace. If they are not feeling well or if they are hungry they will not perform well in school because their mind is not on what they are learning but how they are feeling.

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heather forsythe
cleveland, OH

All of these issues strongly affect academic performance. Truthfully, I don't think that the academic community has been of any help in this regard. They are so busy putting excessive pressure on the students, that it is little wonder that they no longer enjoy learning for learning's sake. It is definately a sad commentary in the way education has decided to find its new road.

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Diane Mintz
HFT
Houston, TX

Obviously, if children are experiencing dental, health, vision or speech problems, it impacts heavily on their ability to learn and stay focused in the classroom. As such, it is good for us to know about these issues when we teach these children. HOWEVER, making teachers responsible for dental, vision and hearing as well as teaching is avoiding the parents responsibility in these matters. Community schools run this way, but not every public school is a community school, nor should they be required to be.

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gary j. moore
Retirees UFT
Staten Island, NY

Its important for us to understand the most recent clinical research on brain chemistry and neurobiology to truly recognize that, a child 's mental health has a direct effect on both physical and psychological growth and development. Sadly our schools pay little attention to these issues. There is ample anecdotal as well as clinical research/observation that demonstrates the direct link between these elements. Teachers need to become more familiar with this work and schools need to do more to provide support systems that can identify and treat children who needlessly suffer the negative impact caused by physical and emotional dysfunction

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Neil Friedman
UFT #2
Brooklyn, NY

It affects them greatly because it impacts their brain chemistry, motivation level, ability to regulate their emotions and general alertness. Students need special, focused attention if they are struggling with a mental disorder and their academic performance can be severly impaired if they are just moved along the conveyer-belt of an industrialized education system. Stuffed classrooms and spent teachers can't accomodate and support well the needs of those with mental and physical health issues that impair learning. Students also need better food in their cafeterias so that we are not contributing or exascerbating their health issues.

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susan daugherty
Capitola, CA

It is evident that students who have failing health have failing grades. They miss too much school due to illness and fail to make up the work. As they fall behind, they get discouraged and quit trying. In some cases, parents refuse to acknowledge or accept that their children have short comings (not necessarily due to anything in their control). This also hurts the children because their parents are not advocating for them.

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Bonnie Katz
UFT
Scarsdale, NY

Students cannot learn unless their basic needs are met. As a school nurse I see students daily whose physical and mental health impede the learning process. How can anyone be expected to concentrate if they cannot breathe, see, focus or are nourished well? Healthy Students make Better Learners!

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Kim Palfy
PESPA
Largo, FL

EVERY term of every school year, I have at least a couple of students in each course, whose physical or mental health issues negatively affect their academic performance.

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Andrew Butz
PCCFFAP 2277
Portland, OR

A sound body is a sound mind. If you are not mentally and physically in shape then one's academic performance suffers tremendously. The mind and body needs nutrients to work properly and when one or both of those ingredients is missing then success is limited. A healthy mind is a healthy body.

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Paula Talese
Broward County
Oakland Park, FL

Working in an academic setting I am disturbed by the numbers of students who act out when they do not get their way, have hostility issues toward one another, and have contempt and not respect for faculty members. Cell phone overrides the importance of listening in class. Instructors do not have control of the class setting. Unfortunately we've lost the concept that we are "fearfully and wonderfully designed, crafted, and made by God." We've lost all VALUE to human life, and with it, respect. It's me first!!!! Perpetuated for many generations how -- how sad. How better to view education as important to future success and intelligence.

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Kathryn Dutkiewicz
Phila, PA

I am honestly stymied by the asking of this question. Personally, the fact that it is even asked is testimony of just how depraved our society has become. Of course a student's physical and mental health impacts his/her academics. No one is immune from such. In December 1992 I began a pharmaceutical treatment for chronic depression. The initial result crushed me, preventing me from working for close to a month. At the time, I wasn't a child but an adult. I was fortunate to ultimately stabilize on my meds and return to being productive. How wouldn't a child not be similarly impacted?

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Francis Kittredge
Albuquerque Teachers Federation
Albuquerque, NM

of course they affect their academic performance but I hope that you are not thinking of adding "clinics" to all schools. A school is for education, a doctors office is for medical issue. Teachers/schools cannot and should not do it all. Parents must and shold do their part and take care of the medical needs of the child they brought into this world

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Randi Portnoy
UFT
Syosset, NY

All of these affect concentration. They get embarrassed by not keeping up with their peers. Some just give up and the home life greatly affects all of this also. Without proper care health issues cannot only do permanent damage but short term in the academic world. Eating disorders come from views of themselves and how others see them. Children will become introverts and not excell when they could!

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Dawn Vincent
JFT
Bridge City, LA

A students physical or mental health issues can greatly affect their academic performance. When a child is in pain, hungry, can't see, or otherwise uncomfortable they are naturally focused on their personal symptom(s) instead of actively focusing on learning or what is happening around them.

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Annette James
Supervisory Union
Juneau, AK

Many troubled students are victims of small 't' trauma i.e., ongoing verbal, emotional, sexual or physical abuse. We now know a child's brain is affected when parents are relationally non-responsive or inappropriately responsive. Bessel A. Van der Kolk,MD, is a researcher who proposes a new diagnostic category, Developmental Trauma Disorder, for children. This MD at last put his finger on what teachers already know about our troubled kids. "DTD children exposed to trauma display dysregulation of: a) body and emotions; b) attention and behavior; c) self- and relations; and d) functional impairment in school, family, peers, health." Yes? Yes!

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Tralee Johnson, PPS, LMFT
Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

Students' diets, often high in carbohydrates lead to spikes in blood sugar.Children who have not eaten breakfast often bring candybars to school. This raises their sugar level, leading to a lack of focus and general acting out, then a slump in sugar. Asthma and related illnesses have an absolute impact on students' cognitive functions.If a student does not have enough oxygen, is coughing and struggling with breathing, s/he will have a difficult time focusing on learning. Asthma effects attendance. Lack of sleep is a deterent to Schools need to do more to honor students' physical/emotional needs thru yoga, dance etc to improve cognitio

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Anne Campbell
UFT
Brooklyn, NY

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