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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET the edges of play and clamming up in response to friendly overtures from classmates and teachers alike. Then there are the kids who respond to both people and activities with a kind of dazed disengagement. Such children can be gently propelled through their days in school and don’t make life difficult for others. But as easy as it is to have them in a classroom, they may be just as hard to reach as kids who lash out regularly. These descriptions capture only a few of the ways young children show us that they aren’t feeling comfortable in themselves and confident in their worlds—and aren’t developing the skills they’ll need to succeed as friends and learners in the years to come. Whatever the particulars, such difficul- ties often lead staff to ask a set of questions. If it hasn’t happened already, is it time for a child to undergo an assessment process? Might some outside services—or even a different school placement—be helpful? What about what’s going on at home? Should a referral for child or family therapy be made? These are good questions, and their answers often help us help kids. However, while assessments can offer valuable information, they don’t always capture the fullness of who a child is and how his difficulties are nested in the worlds of his family and classroom. They usually don’t clarify how teachers can support that child’s growth in a moment-to-moment way either. And while supplementary services can be very useful, most hard- to-help kids remain in their classrooms for many hours each day. All of this means that even after assessments are complete and extra supports are in place, teachers still have a big job: To use whatever infor- mation is at hand to understand the most worrisome children in their care. To come up with their best guesses as to what approaches will support growth, and to start using them as skillfully and compassionately as pos- sible. To keep a close eye on how those approaches are working, tweaking and revamping them as needed. And to partner with children’s parents whenever possible, so that the most important people in a child’s life are collaborating on how to move forward with hope. When Young Children Need Help delves deeply into the progression just described—one that goes from making meaning to making progress. It does this, however, without suggesting that if a child does this, then teachers should do that. As young children learn and grow, they’re supremely and uniquely themselves. That’s what can make working with them such an adventure and such a pleasure. Hard-to-help kids are no exception, and the approaches we use to assist them must be tailored to who they are. There’s another ingredient to add to the mix too: the strategies a teacher uses to xviii Introduction COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL