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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

Ive frequently seen high levels of stress that, at least, prevent a student from feeling the freedom to creatively and dynamically play with ideas while staying focused on task and progress, and, at worst, prompt anxiety (and plaguing a teacher for better grades or more time or easier assessments) and even fainting!

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Jennifer Radtke
NYSUT 37-7000
Brooklyn, NY

Students' physical or mental health issues (e.g., dental, eating disorders, vision, asthma) affect their academic performance cognitively, behaviorally. Students may feel that they cannot trust anyone to help them, and if a teacher reaches out to them they deny their issues. This puts the teacher in a position of overstepping the boundary of privacy versus the immediate needs of the student. This also affects teachers because not only are they aware of the issues now they have to try and compensate for the students' deficiencies which may conflict with what Administration wants which is only " tests scores and passing students".

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JoniAnn Jones-Chaney
CTU-Local 1
Chicago, IL

Maslow's heirarchy of needs is real and often overlooked. When students' basic needs are not met their ability to focus and learn is diminished. I teach in a credit recovery program where students at risk for not graduating are placed. There are physical issues such as vision and hearing, frequent illness which have been overlooked. Yet, it is my experience that emotional and social issues have a greater negative impact on learning. When home lives are inadequate learning suffers. My role is more than teacher, it is psychologist, social worker, parent, and cheerleader. I teach my students to believe they can succeed.

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Carla Case-Sweeney
Palm Beach County CTA
Lake Worth, FL

Our schools are seeing an increasing number of students that have health issues. It does affect their ability to stay in class and learn. They are unable to focus so that they do not get the necessary instruction to master the skills they need. If you are hungry. if you have a toothache, or if you have anger issues due to your home life you will not be able to participate in normal school activities. Students love to stay in my class during regular class time and participate because of the diverse way I teach. But when it comes to the required testing, they cannot focus, they act out physically, or the pressure causes them to fail.

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Deborah Davila
Texas Federation Of Teachers
Harlingen, TX

The United States needs a government run national health care program similar to the ones in Canada, England, France and the rest of the developed nations. Poor health and poor dental care adversely affect thousands of American students. We live in a country in which excellent health care is the province of the fortunate and wealthy few. Even with insurance many Americans have to defer preventative medical care due to high co-pays. In the words of the director of our local health department: "America does not have the best health system in the world, but it has the most expensive system." We need to change that.

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David Cooper
#6010
Louisville, KY

Students in pain because of dental issues don't focus or perform well. Students with eating disorders and vision problems can easily suffer from self esteem issues especially as they enter the middle school years, some suffering from withdrawal. Students with asthma can lose focus and pass out based on heating/cooling conditions in a school building. Ultimately, all of these isuues impact attendance, instruction, academic, social and emotional development. We must address all these issues if we are going to embrace teaching the "whole child". To continue to disregard these issues is to expect the mediocrity we now see in education.

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Marion Wallace
Chicago Teachers Union
Chgo, IL

Physical and mental disorders often become the primary reason students cannot perform well in school. When these issues are not addressed and supported, students are not able to focus and reach their their potential.

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Suzanne D'Andrea
Macomb, MI

Jr Hi students a few years ago revealed typical school schedule to me: Get up at about 5:30am. Breakfast usually hot chips, PopTart,& Coke. Go to school around 6:15am to catch bus. Arrive at school at 6:55am. Classes start at 7:20am. Struggle to stay awake; sneak chips/candy during the day (ignore rules to not eat in classrooms; bugs & pests often rampant). Go to lunch; ignore free/reduced lunches, eat chips, candy, & soda. School dismisses at 2:30pm/ Take bus home; arrive home at 3pm. Sleep until 9pm. Get up, eat snacks & talk on phone or on computers/computer games 'til 2am. Wake up at 5:30am. Repeat. Yes, academic performance affected.

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Julie Connor
AFT Kansas City, MO
Kansas City, MO

I had the opportunity to work with the physically disabled students and in the Title One program for 23 years. This was very challenging and rewarding for me and the student. When a student doesn't eat a good breakfast or has any type of physical or mental disability definitely effects their ability to learn that day. Their behavior becomes non-compliant and disables the students learning ability.

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Mary Stema
Lamphere District retired
New Baltimore, MI

Students with physical or mental issues drastically affects their academic performance! If children are hungry, hurting, struggling to see or hear, cannot eat because of bad teeth or are upset about something going on at home or on the way to school, they will not be able to concentrate on anything else accept survival! Survival and comfort have to and will come first before children of any age can learn new concepts! Just like when infants and young children go through growth spurts and/or developmental milestones some "piece" of their development goes on hold while the important growth is taking place. Basic needs MUST BE MET FIRST!

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Catherine Fox
Special Service Unit Federation of Teachers
Madison, IN

If a student has a toothache,they cannot learn. If a student is hungry or has a stomachache, they cannot learn. If a student cannot see or hear, they cannot learn. If a student cannot breathe, they cannot learn. In the hierarchy of needs, good health, including both physical and mental, is a priority and a full time school nurse must be an essential part of the educational team for the student.

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Starla Reichek
Houston Federation of Teachers
Dickinson, TX

All of these variable affects students' performance in school. Ideally, all students will have their physical needs working at the optimal level in order to cognitively absorb the knowledge they need to learn at each grade level. When there is a breakdown in any one of these areas, learning will come second to fixing their physical needs, thus resulting in a slower rate of progress.

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Amy Price
PFT
Phila, PA

It is very difficult for a student to concentrate on his/her academic requirements if there are physical and/or mental health issues.

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maxine mickens
Detroit Federation of Teachers
detroit, MI

Students of low income frequently do not do as well on standardized exams as students of households that are not low income. Many times this is attributed to the fact that students of low income do not have access to appropriate medical care such as getting glasses when they need them. They may not see a dentist or receive the appropriate assistance when struggling with respiratory problems. All of these medical conditions when left unaddressed can make it difficult for a student to pay attention in class. Schools servicing low income students should provide medical screening so their pupils can do their best work.

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Claire Scesney-Lundahl
New York , NY

Yes I know for a fact that healt is a huge issue.I had sever asthma,and poor eye sight as a child.The effect was I fell behind in school and never caught up with the rest of the kids I went to school with.

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Daniel Roberts
Lamar, CO

It disrupts or fundamentally halts a student's progress. If it is a physical health issue, these students generally have poor attendance. Their families generally have weak or ineffective relationships with the medical community. Mental health is a powerful overload-students who need a medical intervention end up with an IEP...and the individual's true needs are not taken care of and teachers are blamed when these students do not achieve. Communities must step up to care for the health and mental health needs of students. It is inappropriate to dump these needs on school settings where teachers and support staff do not have the expertise

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Denise Androvette
Syracuse Teachers Assos.
Syracuse, NY

Students need to have vision to see and read. Student have to eat healthly to perform well in class.

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Reginald Phillips
Fort Bend Employees
Houston, TX

No child can succeed when they are hungry, abused, or suffering from other social ills. Teachers cannot and should be expected to solve all of these problems. In addition, for years we were warned that drug babies were coming to our schools, but when the cities filled with them no one felt the need to address this.

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Marilyn morgan
hIGHLAND BEACH, FL

The performance of students at an urban community college is seriously compromised by physical and mental problems. A harsh economony forcing many to take night jobs and neighborhoods riddled with conflict deprive most of adquate sleep, eroding their ability to stay alert in class. Lack of high-quality food markets in their neighborhoods forces them to survive on cheap processed food, whose high-sugar content and low Omega-3 levels compound the depression and irritability that many are struggling with. Few have any inkling of how their diets can affect their moods; it is urgently incumbent on US to teach them!

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Dianne Perkins
Local 2026
Philadelphia, PA

I have taught special ed for 20 years. My students are very much affected by things happening in the home. Parents (partners) argueing and or fighting all hours of the night take their toll on my students. They are so sleepy and tired (if they can stay awake) they cannot comprehend what is going on in the classroom. Some parents certainly haven't thought about feeding their children. I have kept sandwiches (most of the time, bologna) for students that I know aren't being fed, and they are glad to have it. They can't think of anything but how can I get some food. These issues (and more) have to be considered.

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Patricia Patterson
Wewahitchka, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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