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Pediatr Rev. 1989 Apr;10(10):301-12.

School failure.


Numerous factors may contribute to a child's failure to learn. Certain causes of school failure, such as specific learning disabilities, mental retardation, sensory impairment, and chronic illness may be regarded as intrinsic characteristics of the child. Other causes, such as family dysfunction, social problems, and ineffective schooling, are characteristics of the child's environment. Still other influences on school performance, such as temperamental dysfunction, attention deficits, and emotional illness, may be viewed as the consequence of the interaction between the child and his or her environment. The reasons for a child's school failure must not be considered in isolation but rather within the context of social and environmental circumstances. Evaluation must consider the myriad of reasons for a child's school failure and attempt to identify "clusters" of adverse influences on school performance. Detailed information must be sought from the student, parents, and school system through the history and physical examination. Questionnaires are useful in data gathering. Ancillary methods of assessment that may be of value include neurodevelopmental screening and laboratory studies. Further investigations and referrals, particularly psychoeducational evaluation, are of major importance. Traditional roles of the pediatrician in school failure include the treatment of underlying medical conditions, counseling, the coordination of further investigations and referrals, and the facilitation of communication with community services and resources. Participation with other disciplines in the development of a child's educational plan is feasible and useful.

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