I recently participated in a Facebook Live #AskAPediatrician event hosted by Understood.org and supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (Link to Archived post available by clicking here). I was honored to be a part of this event because as a behavioral pediatrician, I see many families affected by issues of learning and attention. It not only affects the child directly, in terms of how they do completing homework, learning new things or being able to stay on task, but it affects their relationships at school and can affect their self-esteem. Parents are also affected by their child’s struggles and may feel helpless and frustrated.
It is important to voice ANY concerns related to a child’s learning, attention or behavior to your child’s pediatrician and teacher. It is important to get everyone on the same page.
Learning disabilities affect approximately 1 in 5 children. These include:
- Dyslexia (reading difficulties)
- Dyscalculia (math difficulties)
- Dysgraphia (writing difficulties)
- Non-verbal LD (children have higher verbal skills but difficulties with motor, visual-spatial and social skills)
These can occur in isolation or in combination with each other or with other behavioral/mental health conditions, such as ADHD or anxiety.
Parents can help move the process along by the following:
- Keeping a binder of important papers and reports from the school, including samples of schoolwork and report cards, organized and bringing this to each clinic appointment or school meeting
- Help connect the teacher and pediatrician by voicing your consent to two-way communication. Sometimes schools will need parents to sign a consent form, allowing the teacher/school to freely discuss and share information with the child’s pediatrician.
- Use “I” statements when voicing your concerns and use neutral language: “I have concerns about how my child is doing because I see [provide specific example] at home. I would love your advice on what can be done to help him/her.”
- Make sure you know the key players on your child’s team. At a minimum, it should include the child’s teacher and pediatrician, the parent(s) and child. Other individuals who may be on the team include school counselors, therapists, or other specialists involved in your child’s care.
- Know where to find reputable information online such as Understood.org and HealthyChildren.org to understand and share information about specific learning and attention issues. When you read something on the Internet that seems shocking or questionable, take note of it and talk about it with the pediatrician.
- Sometimes it is helpful to get support from others who have shared similar experiences. Local chapters of national organizations such as CHADD (National Resource for ADHD), National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), The Dyslexia Foundation, and Family Voices (a national nonprofit, family-led organization for families of children with special health care needs) can be valuable resources for peer-to-peer, mentoring or advocacy support.
Parents will want to request a case conference to discuss their concerns and can bring along pertinent information from the child’s doctor if there are already known associated conditions that can impact how a child learns. After that, the parent can advocate for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) which will describe how a school will put together a specific learning plan for the child in the least restrictive learning environment. In order to qualify for an IEP children must have one of 13 specific conditions. However, if children do not qualify for an IEP, a 504 can specify accommodations for a child to optimize their learning.
It can feel isolating and helpless when your child struggles in school. You don’t have to suffer alone. Remember to reach out and know that your child’s pediatrician or medical provider is just as interested in learning and attention issues, as much as their physical health and overall development.
RELATED BLOG POSTS AND HANDOUTS can be found here by clicking links below:
Navigating Learning Disabilities and the Cost for Treatment from The Simple Dollar.com