Chronic Absenteeism is Real and Could Affect You

We are about 9 weeks (give or take) into the school year so far. My babies are JUNIORS in high school. I am not even sure how that is possible, honestly. They are doing adult-y things like driving, and dates, and jobs. But they are still my babies. And while I am big on making them do things for themselves, as a parent, it is still my responsibility to make sure they get to school, get good grades, and become functioning members of society.

Chronic Absenteeism

In the last 9-10 weeks, my son has missed nearly 9 days of school. That is really bad. Unfortunately, it was unavoidable. He was sick, the school made him stay home – so they were excused. But it really doesn’t matter. Even excused abscenes can take their toll on a student. Thankfully, I have the resources at my disposal and thought to email his teachers daily and not only let them know what was going on with him, but also ask for anything he could do from home to keep from getting behind on his work. We took measures beyond that by seeking medical attention too, so that hopefully it doesn’t not happen again.

It is so unfortunate to think about the millions of kids that are missing school each year leading to chronic absenteeism. We are very lucky and very blessed to have the wherewithal and tools at our disposal to ensure he did not fall behind from missing so many days at once. But MILLIONS of kids in the U.S. are just not that lucky. There are many reasons why students miss school when they don’t have to. Some are struggling in the classroom, while others may be having trouble with bullies, or dealing with challenges at home.

Chronic Absenteeism

Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade. Students who cannot read at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

To combat chronic absenteeism, the U.S. Department of Education, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Ad Council have partnered to create the public service campaign Absences Add Up. Absences Add Up is part of the My Brother’s Keeper Every Student, Every Day initiative, a broad effort to combat chronic absenteeism led by the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice.

Chronic Absenteeism

Key Takeaways for Parents 

  • Every absence matters.
  • Absences matter as early as elementary school.
  • Absences matter whether they are excused or unexcused.
  • Students who miss just two days of school each month, or 18 days in a year, are more likely to fall behind in reading, writing and math and less likely to graduate from high school.

The Absences Add Up campaign directs parents and community members to, where they can find information about the importance of school attendance and resources to learn how to help children who are struggling in school, being bullied, managing chronic illness, or addressing mental health challenges. The site also provides parents with resources to assist with caregiving, housing and food challenges. For teachers, community leaders, after school programs, and mentoring partners, there is information about how to encourage school attendance and resources to help address issues like poor grades, bullying, and family challenges that cause children to miss school when they don’t have to.

Chronic Absenteeism

Support the campaign on social media.

  • 12 family emergency days + 6 vacation days = risk of not making it to graduation day. Visit today. #AbsencesAddUp
  • 2 absences per month = less likely to read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade. #AbsencesAddUp
  • The best way to ensure success for our kids? Get them to school every day. Visit for tips #AbsencesAddUp
  • Did you know that missing 2 days of school each month makes it less likely a child will graduate from high school? #AbsencesAddUp
  • Every day in class = 1 day closer to graduation. Learn more about ensuring our kids’ success at #AbsencesAddUp

We Can’t Keep Ignoring Learning Disorders

If more of us actually knew the signs of learning and attention disorders, I do not think that so many children would go un-diagnosed every single year. It is so sad that we as a community are so uneducated about what those signs are. One in five children struggles with issues related to reading, math, writing, focus, organization and behavioral issues, yet many children with learning and attention issues do not have a diagnosis.

If you are a parent, a friend or family member who thinks that a child might be going through learning and attention disorders, you are not alone in this. There are five learning and attention issues that are most common:

  • ADHD: More Than Moving Fast
  • Dyslexia: The Best-Known Learning Issue
  • Dyscalculia: More Than Math Anxiety
  • Dysgraphia: Wrestling With Writing
  • Dyspraxia: Trouble With Motor Skills Learning and Attention Issues

With the right diagnosis, parents and teachers are better able to understand what their children are going through. This leads to a better understanding of the help that they need in order to be successful. When a child is able to fully understand and overcome whatever struggles they are facing, they will finally feel normal.

The #BeUnderstood campaign was created support of Learning Disabilities (LD) Awareness Month in October, and to raise awareness about kids with learning and attention issues. These issues are a lot more common than most people think, and while learning and attention issues may not be as visible as other health issues, they’re just as real. Learning and Attention Issues

The goal of #BeUnderstood is to generate awareness about learning and attention issues and encourage people who are seeing or experiencing signs of learning and attention issues to visit, learn about these issues, and take that crucial first step in getting their kids the help they need to thrive in school, at home and in life.

I think that there is a stigma that goes along with a diagnosis too, so people are afraid to say that their child has a disorder of any kind. But I don’t think that is the right way to think about it. Getting a diagnosis means getting help; getting help means success for the child, period. And getting help could mean anything from simply being more educated on the resources and actions that you could take to help a child, to actually seeing a medical professional. Help has many definitions.

I have had lots of personal experience with attention and learning disorders. Both of my kids, my husband, and even my niece have ha
d issues with education and behavior due to learning and attention disorders. My husband suffered from dyslexia as a child and even now as an adult. He is 39 years old, so back when he was in school there really was no help for that – or it was so uncommon everyone simply dismissed it. Kids would get left behind, called lazy, and punished for something that just really wasn’t understood. This happens still today. Learning and Attention Issues

My son is incredibly smart but struggles with attention. For so many years he was the kid that would get in trouble in class for talking, moving in his seat, fidgeting or needing to get up and move around. When really, all of that was simply helping him learn. While most of us can really only focus easily on one thing at a time, kids like my son and my niece who have borderline or full-on ADD or ADHD have a hard time focusing on just one thing. It may seem like they aren’t listening or paying attention, but they probably are, much more than you might think. It is all about being educated and knowledgeable about what we can do to help them succeed, not punish them.

And when they get older, like my son, they tend to put a lot of stress and pressure on themselves. This can lead to anxiety and even depression. This is absolutely not something that any child should have to go through, ever. My daughter struggled for years to catch up after being left behind at home, and although she does well today, she has to work much harder than most kids her age to maintain her GPA.


Understood provides parents with clear explanations about learning and attention issues. It also offers practical advice for parents on everything from how to partner with their child’s teachers and help with homework to how to explain their child’s issues to friends and relatives and plan family gatherings that are less stressful and more fun for everyone. Here are some of the tools that you can utilize to discover what Understood has to offer:

  • Interactive Quizzes:  to determine what might be happening with your child
  • Through Your Child’s Eyes: A series of interactive simulations and videos that enable parents to experience firsthand how smart people can struggle with a seemingly simple task when they have reading, writing, math, organization or attention issues.
  • Tech Finder: Expert-approved apps and games searchable by a child’s grade and issues.
  • Just For You: An opt-in system that provides additional levels of personalized content recommendations. (Parents don’t need to sign in to start getting customized recommendations on Understood; all they need to do to hit the ground running is check the boxes about their child’s grade and issues.) Parents who choose to complete a secure, confidential profile will receive recommendations for each child in their profile as well as for topics they’ve expressed interest in, such as siblings, travel and communicating with family and friends.
  • Decision Guide: Key questions to help parents think through big topics, such as whether it’s time to request a formal evaluation, let a child start dating or decide which path to pursue after high school.

Encouragement and interaction can go a long way in helping all kids. As busy parents it is sometimes hard to come up with things to keep our kids from getting “brain drain” over the holiday breaks. There are lots of fun ways to encourage kids to keep learning, even while they’re not in class.

Learning and Attention Disorders

Maybe you are a parent of a struggling child, or even a friend or family member who is watching the struggle from afar. Understood has resources for everyone to learn how to help these kiddos face these challenges. The You & Your Family section helps families with practical solutions and advice for social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Having the gift of extra time with your child over the holidays means the opportunity to help them overcome whatever struggles they are facing.