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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Introduction This is a book about young children who are hard to understand, hard to help, or both. If you’re a teacher or child care provider, you know how stressful it can be to work with kids like this: they’re often the ones you focus on the most yet sense you’re reaching the least. You may feel relieved as you say good-bye to such youngsters at the end of a long day. But when you get home, you can’t stop thinking about them. You care about them, fret about them, and truly don’t know what to do about them. You see their gifts peeking out from behind their vulnerabilities but can’t seem to help those gifts shine more fully. When teachers feel this stumped, an early childhood consultant is sometimes called in to take a fresh look at what’s going on. I’ve been such a consultant for many years now. This book tells the stories of some chil- dren I’ve met along the way and the caring adults who worked to help them. Through those stories, it offers a picture of how we can understand chil- dren’s difficulties without losing sight of their strengths. It looks at how to generate step-by-step goals for growth. And it provides many practical and child-friendly ways to foster that growth for a range of challenges. Just who are the kids I’m describing as hard to help? What do they do? Some of them make the lives of everyone around them exceedingly difficult. Perhaps they respond to little problems in big ways—sobbing or punching, hurling insults or toys, and upsetting the children around them over and over again. Perhaps they wiggle and cruise their way through each part of the school day, annoying their buddies during circle time and mak- ing it difficult to get out to the playground without mishaps along the way. Maybe they refuse to listen—or listen but can’t make use of what they hear. Maybe they do a lot of these things at once. Not all hard-to-help children are disruptive, however. Some have trou- ble communicating and, tired of trying to make themselves understood, quietly lose their zest for friendship and their passion for learning. Others react to the world of their classroom as if it’s terribly unsafe, hovering on COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL xvii