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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

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

If students' physical and/or mental issues are not addressed it will clearly have a negative impact on their availabilty to learn. Until physical and mental health needs are treated children will flounder and make very little, if any, measurable progress.

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Margaret Ann Schwerdtman
UFT
Brooklyn, NY

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

but they sense the anxiety and tenseness of the home situation. Children need to be reassured. Parents need to know what their children know and don't know. They need to discuss it with them and quiet their fears. Parents also need to know their children well enough to detect mental problems. If the child had hepatitis, he would be immediately given medical treatment. If something is wrong with his mind, there is usually denial on the part of the parents and a reluctance to get the child the professional mental care he needs. Until we change are ways, we will not change our outcomes.

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doris morazan
MCC
edison, NJ

Research bears out that all of the factors of physical or mental health issues affect students' academic performance. That is why I feel strongly that more counseling psychologists and school psychologists need to be recruited and highly trained for the k-12 school systems and the post-secondary schools (including higher education) in the USA. I'm especially appalled at the lack of counseling staff in our Florida schools and I bet it's no different in the rest of the country.

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Myra Suzanne Brown
UFF-UF
Gainesville, FL

Despite NCLB's desire to discount these issues, they do play an enormous part in a student's ability to learn. For example, I had a student last year whose parents refused to purchase her a new pair of eye glasses because she broke the pair they bought her. Under the health insurance policy the parents had, they could only obtain one pair per year. The child struggled all year long being unable to read anything unless it was held near her face. The Social Worker's hands were tied since the parents had insurance. In May, well after testing, the student got her eye glasses and her grades increased significantly.

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Susan Pignato
BTU 1975
Coral Springs, FL

I teach ESL and when my students come to class with health, social or mental issues such as homelessness, hunger, tooth aches they are often not able to pay attention or participate in a meaningful way. Many of their issues, rightly,take precedence over their educational needs. I have seen students flurish academically soon after their other immidiate and important needs are addressed.

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ronnie moshi
NORTA
tarrytown, NY

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

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

If a student has mental and/or health issues their academic performance suffers. Their self confidence in their abilities is always challenged by these issues. They do not feel like their "normal" counterparts and therefore do not feel fully capable as doing as well in school.

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Linda LaRocca
Staten Island, NY

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

It is virtually impossible for the brain to be receptive to active learning while physical or emotional issues are present. As the phrase goes, the cup needs to be emptied before it is filled again. The brain is only one small part of the whole being of the child and all aspects need to be taken into regard.That is why frequent movement is important, teaching to different modalities in learning and nurturing of the whole child is so important. A teachers perception is of paramount importance with regard to optimum learning.

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kayla meadows
MCOE Local 4245/Charter School
Willits, CA

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

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

If a child has a mental condition and is not taking his/her meds on the prescribed time and dosage, it could lead to the child acting up in the classroom, which in turn will disrupt the studies taking place at that given time. So for parents with children who have mental conditions, please be vigilant and ensure that your child/ren are taking their meds on time.

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Gil Duenas
Guam Federation of Teachers
Mangilao, GU

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

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

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

I work with students who have reading difficulties, ages 6 through 12. Their academic success is severely undermined as they struggle with physical and emotional challenges. Some students need glasses. Many have severe allergies and have missed many school days. A majority of students have a history of ear infections that have resulted in some hearing loss as preschoolders. Some have lead poisoning, sleep apnea, or very poor nutrition. These issues are accompanied by home lives that include parents on drugs, physical abuse, violent neighborhoods, and sometimes homelessness. These issues need to be addressed if students are to succeed.

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Carol McMahan
Cincinnati, OH

Any of the above can adversely affect a student's academic performance which is why some students are referred for school based support services( school social worker, psychologist or school nurse)or an outside referral is suggested to parents. If services are already initiated by parents, the school based personnel consults and collaborates in order to develop strategies which will maximize the student's chances for success within the academic setting.

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ruby kelly
ctu
chicago, IL

Sick students (depressed, too) do not attend school regularly. Consequently, they fall behind and never have the opportunities to achieve along with their peers.

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Kathleen Greenawalt
WSTU 571
Burr Ridge, IL

I am a second grade teacher, and I notice on a daily basis that my students have health problems. My students can not focus on their academics if they are too tired, hungry or have dental problems. I communicate with the parents and for whatever reason their response is not accepetable to me. I provide food at times, and we have Cleveland State dental students to provide free dental work. I am thankful for that but in reality I feel sorry for my students. This goes without saying that our students have health problems that need consistent attention parents are not able to take care of their children.

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Gina Foster
ctu279
Cleveland, OH

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

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

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

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