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A high risk child is any child who is experiencing social, academic, emotional, medical, language, perceptual, or environmental turmoil that prevents him/her from performing up to his/her ability in school. As a result of this intense turmoil, many symptoms are generated in a dynamic attempt to alleviate the anxiety or feelings of inadequacy. This part of the Assessment in Special Education Series looks at the symptoms exhibited by high risk children and provides a frame of reference so that these children can be identified as quickly as possible.

The determination of who will receive a comprehensive assessment for a suspected disability is a process that normally begins with the local school. In most states, each school will have a committee called the Child Study Team (Pupil Personnel Team, School Based Support Team etc.) which reviews children who are considered high risk. High-risk children may exhibit many different behavior patterns. Some of the more common ones that can be exhibited by either elementary or secondary students while in school are:
• A history of adequate or high first quarter grades followed by a downward trend leading to failures in the final quarter.
• A history of excessive absences.
• A history of excessive lateness.
• Frequently cannot separate from parent at the start of the school day. While this can be normal behavior in very young children, it becomes a more serious symptom after age 6 or 7.
• High achievement scores and high school abilities index with a history of low academic performance.
• Consistent failure in two or more quarters of at least two subjects.
• A history of parent “coverage” for inappropriate behavior, poor work performance, poor attitude, failures, or absences.
• Students wandering the halls after school with no direction or purpose.
• A history of constant projection onto others as a reason for a lack of performance, handing in work, failures, or cutting.
• A history of feeling powerless in the student’s approach to problems.
• Recent stress related experiences i.e. divorce, separation, death of a parent or parent’s loss of employment.
• A history of constant visits to the nurse.
• Social withdrawal from peers with an emphasis on developing relationships with adult

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