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Where Do I Start?

If you are worried about your child’s ability to learn and be successful in school, the first thing to do is to begin to look specifically at your child’s behaviors and learning patterns.  First separate what your child finds easy and interesting from things and situations that frustrate her or him.  Think about the following:
  • What activities does my child love to do?
  • What activities does my child struggle with?
  • What situations does my child thrive in and enjoy?
  • What situations does my child worry about or get in trouble in?
  • How well does my child handle transitions?  Are transitions always the same, or are some transitions easier than others?
  • Do other kids like my child?  What do other kids like about my child?  What frustrates other kids about my child?
  • How does my child respond around adults?
  • What gives my child most comfort?
  • What stresses out my child?
  • How does my child handle new situations?  Are some new situations easier or harder than others?
  • How is my child at different times of the day?  Is morning better than evening?
  • Does my child’s behavior, attitudes or frustration level change depending on what or when my child eats?
  • How do others affect my child?  Does my child find it easier to be alone, with one or two people, with lots of people?

The questions go on and on.  You want to be able to specify what situations are great for your child, and what frustrate your child.  This way you get closer and closer to pinpointing the issue(s).  Then you can go on to see how you can change bad situations into easier ones, or teach your child to cope with the bad ones.  Talk to your child’s teacher, doctor, and any other professional, friend or family member who may be able to help.

Important Note:

Please be thorough with whatever you look into for your child.  Symptoms of learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, sleep, auditory and vision issues can look similar and overlap which makes accurate diagnosis tricky.  You know your child best – trust yourself.  Some things to check and rule out are:

  • Hearing.   Many children with poor hearing (including those with many ear infections whose hearing comes in and out with the fluids in the ear) learn to lip read, thus parents do not realize there is a hearing problem.  Can your child hear you when you talk quietly while covering your mouth?  If you call your child quietly from behind, behind left and behind right does he or she answer?  When in any doubt, go to an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) and get it checked out!
    • Reading issues are also common in children who can hear fine when they are older, but had many ear infections which impaired hearing when they were younger.
  • Vision.  There are two issues here.  The simpler issue is whether your child’s vision 20/20.  The second issue is whether your child’s two eyes work together, are of equal strength, track well, are focusing efficiently, if your child uses her or his whole field of vision, etc.  An optometrist who is Board Certified in vision therapy can help you explore this.
  • Sleep disorders.  Does your child snore?  If so, he or she may have sleep apnea and thus not able to get quality sleep.  Does your child get 10 hours of sleep each night?  Without good quality sleep for a long enough time, children can struggle to learn and behave to their potential.  These kids are often labeled as hyper, distractible, lazy, ADHD etc.  There are many causes and symptoms for sleep issues so if in any doubt, ask your doctor or a sleep specialist.

Since there are many other ‘disorders’ (thyroid, mood) that can look like behavior or learning problems, take your list of concerns to your child’s Doctor first to rule out any physical causes.