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Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Troubled Student

This is a checklist of observable, objective behaviors that may be exhibited by a child/adolescent at school and/or at home. Changes in patterns of behavior warrant recognition and appropriate action to determine the cause. These behavior changes usually indicate that the child/adolescent is experiencing some form of negative impact on his/her life, possible chemical abuse, dependence or addiction. At the very least, the warning signs and symptoms tell parents and educators and helping professionals that the child/adolescent is in trouble and may need intervention and support. (Student Assistance Journal, January/February)


General Behavior Changes

  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Temper outbursts
  • Inappropriate giggling/laughter
  • Dramatic attention-getting behavior
  • Obscene language and gestures
  • Increased irritability
  • Hyperactivity
  • Bizarre and uncontrollable actions
  • Extreme apathy
  • Loss of interest in sports
  • Erratic behavior
  • Hypersensitivity Legal Problems
  • Time and place disorientation
  • Inappropriate verbal responses
  • Depression
  • Defensiveness about alcohol/drug use
  • Talk about suicide Physical Warning Signs
  • Suicide attempt

 School Attendance
  • Classroom tardiness by staggering, stumbling
  • First-hour tardiness
  • Skipping of classes before and/or after lunch
  • All-day truancy
  • Frequent requests to leave the room

 Academic Performance
  • Drop in grades vague
  • Change in classroom participation
  • Inconsistent test grades
  • Change in penmanship
  • Shortened attention span
  • Decreased ability to think and solve problems
  • Cheating

Behaviors At Home
  • Missing money or objects that could be easily converted into cash
  • House supply of liquor or prescription drugs dwindling for no apparent reason
  • Increased time spent alone in room
  • Possession of bottles of liquor or drug paraphernalia

Social Problems
  • Deterioration in family relationships and
  • Running away from home
  • Decreased job performance and attendance
  • Changing group of friends
  • Frequent visits to school counselor or
  • Loss of eligibility in sports
  • Deterioration of rapport with teachers
  • Loss of interest and involvement in sports extra-curricular activities

 Physical Warning Signs
  • Frequent visits to the school nurse
  • Sleeping in class
  • Loss of gross motor coordination, evidenced by staggering, stumbling
  • Loss of fine motor coordination, as in holding a glass
  • Vomiting, flushed complexion
  • White or pale face
  • Puffiness or redness around eyes
  • Excessive nervousness
  • Rapid speech
  • Excessive sniffing
  • Unusual sores around the nostrils
  • Physical injuries
  • Slurred speech