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My son had a very difficult time in fifth grade. He did poorly in math and science, formerly strong subjects, and his writing skills are definitely below grade level. Although he scores high in word usage and his grammar skills are quite good, his spelling and writing skills are poor. His reading is on or slightly above grade level. He has a difficult time retaining information unless he hears it more than once. His attention span is not very long, although all three of his teachers have agreed that there seems to be no learning disability and his intelligence is quite high.

I am considering having him repeat fifth grade. He may need another year developmentally, and a review of the material can only help. Certainly, I can't send him to sixth grade without asking for trouble. Please advise.

Your son does not need another year in fifth grade. Repeating will not provide him with the developmental growth you are looking for or even begin to give him the help he needs to do well in school. Furthermore, it could be very damaging to him emotionally. Instead of considering retention as a solution to his problems, have him professionally assessed to pinpoint why he has difficulties in the areas that you mentioned.

You should request now that your son be placed on his school's list for assessment testing to determine why he is having problems. If the school won't be able to test your child promptly when school resumes, you may want to investigate testing by a private counselor.

We realize that three teachers have said that your son does not have a learning disability. They well may be right, as most children with learning disabilities are identified by third grade. Some, however, are not identified until the upper-elementary grades or even high school, because a problem does not become evident until the demands of school exceed the child's skill in coping with his or her disability. Also, we want you to be aware of the fact that gifted children can be learning disabled.

Regardless of the assessment results, your son will still need help this year in handling his schoolwork. The school may be able to provide this help. If not, you may need to find it through a tutor or learning center.

In the meantime, be sure to remind your son of the solid strengths that he has demonstrated in reading, word usage, and grammar. These are very important skills that all children need to succeed in school and can be used to improve his weaknesses.

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