Dr. Gerald Shiener of Birmingham recalls how angry he'd get when his teenage son failed to turn in homework even though he'd completed the assignments.

"You'd find the finished papers at the bottom of the backpack," Shiener says, echoing the frustration of bewildered parents everywhere who encounter such behavior.

But as a psychiatrist, assistant Wayne State University professor and chief of consultation psychiatry at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, Shiener knows that many boys often have a harder time "keeping it together" than girls because they lag behind at various developmental stages — anywhere from 6 to 18 months, he says — and don't catch up until their 20s.

"Adolescent boys developmentally are less organized, less self-disciplined and less able to plan for the future than girls," Shiener says. "It's really a question of being disorganized and lacking the ability to be self-directed at that age. They're in a different zone."

Yet while academic problems may flare up in middle school with multiple teachers, confusing schedules and mounds of paperwork, the seeds are planted long before then, says Bob Sornson, founder of Early Learning Foundation, a Brighton-based business that develops models for childhood success.

"Boys are at risk in American schools today more than at any other time," says Sornson, the former longtime director of Northville Schools' special education program. He cites significantly higher high school dropout rates for boys and higher test scores and college graduation rates in most major disciplines (other than engineering) for girls.

"Part of the issue is that we're putting greater pressure on teachers to teach more content to kids at younger and younger ages when not all children are prepared for the challenge," Sornson says.

"Boys in particular come into school about 1 to 1 1/2 years developmentally behind little girls in language skills, social skills and fine visual and motor skills. So essentially they come in more immature and school is harder."

Given such pressure, many boys fall into a pattern of early learning failure that sets the stage for future struggles not only in academics but in life, he says.

"We need to create classrooms that allow kids to work at the levels that they're capable of handling with a degree of success."

For starters, boys on average need more movement, and they're not as good at listening as are little girls, Sornson says.

"Little boys have difficulty hearing fast speech and processing speech at fast rates of speed," he explains. "At the same time, their capacity for sound discrimination is not well-developed at that age."

Combine that with the fact that most elementary teachers are female, with high-frequency voices, Sornson says, "and little boys are struggling simply to understand the words."


Source: The Detroit News – http://tinyurl.com/npuz83