Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Making sure school isn't a roadblock for a homeless child

Studies tell us that the academic performance of a homeless child is hindered both by poor cognitive and non-cognitive development and by the negative circumstances of being homeless. 

Homeless children are 4 times as likely to suffer from a developmental delay as other housed children.

By age 4, the average child in poverty might have heard 13 million fewer words than the average child in a working class family.

Constant mobility paired with chronic illnesses leads to extreme absenteeism. As a result, 75% of homeless children perform below grade level in reading, 72% below grade level in spelling, and 54% below grade level in math.

Homeless children who experience academic difficulties are more likely to drop out of high school.

Although homeless students are more likely to need special education services only 38 percent of students with learning disabilities receive assistance for their disabilities compared to 75 percent of housed children with learning disabilities.

These ongoing issues are noticeable when you consider that homeless children are twice as likely to be held back a year in school compared to other children.

So, what can we do to help in a short period of time?

Our Children’s Program Director teaches us that there are several things we can do to help kids academically. They boil down to (1) helping the parents navigate schools and services so that they learn to help their children and (2) teaching the students life skills to equip them to manage themselves at school.      
Lessons and skills taught in the Children’s Program are designed to be practiced in schools.
a.            Anger management
b.            Perseverance
c.            Goal setting
d.            Learned optimism – to have an open mind and a positive attitude towards school.

He goes on to share, “Students have difficulty thinking about the future and how their actions now are having an impact on their lives later in their life.  I have seen how goal setting lessons help students to think about the big picture.”

“In one lesson students make a road map with graduation at the end. Students determine their own personal roadblocks.”

“A 7th grader named Janelle had roadblocks like getting pregnant, doing drugs, skipping school, and fighting at school. Her roadmap was covered with encouraging words to herself.”

“The next lesson was based around where student saw themselves in 10 years. She wrote on her poster “I see myself in 10 years as a respectful, responsible young lady. I want to be in college or out of college. I want my mom and dad and family to be proud of my outcomes. But most of all I want to be proud of myself. I want to be happy.”

Next month, more about breaking the cycle of generational and situational poverty for children.