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First Grader Talking in Class

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Our seven-year-old first grader is having a problem with talking in class. We have been working with his teacher in resolving this problem all year. Some weeks we see good results, while other weeks he is unable to complete his work because he is too busy talking. Our pediatrician suggested that we have him tested for hyperactivity, however the soonest that we could get an appointment is in August. HIs teacher doesn't feel that he is hyperactive, just too social for his own good. He is also very bright, but is not classified as being gifted because he didn't score high enough on the gifted test. Do you have any behavior modification techniques that might help us to get through this year??

A: So here we have a bright boy who has a great deal of difficulty not being a social dynamo. I bet he's no shrinking violet at home either. Unfortunately, his talking is causing him an academic downside- he's missing out on completing (and maybe comprehending as fully as needed) his classwork.

Let's not forget that this is first grade and that kids who are naturally more gregarious have a difficult time restraining themselves from all the social contact available. You are fortunate to have a teacher who sees this situation being caused by your son's personality needs and not by some clinical problem he should be medicated for (your pediatrician's advice concerns me, given hyperactivity should be one of the last things investigated when a child presents as your son).

I would work with this teacher in attempting to find acceptable daily social outlets for your son. Perhaps he could be the one who recites the instructions to certain daily assignments to the class. Maybe he could assist her at recess by thinking of interesting ways the kids could line up every day- alphabetical order, hair color, ascending numbers of their street addresses, etc.. Perhaps he could be part of a small group of kids who performs a little skit every day that has some relationship to a lesson. He may be able to take some pride in these assignments while channeling some of his need to be social, outgoing and connected more often to other kids. That's the route I'd go. As an afterthought, make sure his talking is not an escape from doing work that he is finding too difficult. For instance, many kids (especially boys) in first grade have problems with the fine motor control needed to hold and/or use a pencil. They can't work fast enough to keep up with written work, stop trying, talk in class or claim they are bored.

Good luck brainstorming with the teacher and thanks for writing.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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