When you feel your child is struggling in school, at home, or with friends, it can be an incredibly isolating experience. You feel burdened with the fear of not knowing whether your child will succeed. This isolated feeling, coupled with being overwhelmed, can lead to parents overlooking or misinterpreting certain behavioral signs. Some behaviors could mean your child has potential learning and thinking differences or specific learning difficulties.
Many parents are surprised by behavioral signs of learning and thinking differences, including not being able to focus, having meltdowns, trouble with sleeping, or struggling to manage emotions.
The first step is knowing you are not alone – at least 15 million children in the U.S. have learning and thinking differences like dyslexia and ADHD.
Ultimately, advocating for your child is one of your top priorities as a parent. So if you feel something isn’t quite right, trust your gut and use all available resources to help your child succeed in school and in life.
Take Control with Take N.O.T.E.
Over the past decade, incredible resources have been developed to assist families dealing with learning differences. This fall, I’m excited to partner with Understood to introduce Take N.O.T.E, an initiative which includes the first memory device designed to help families spot signs of possible learning disabilities and ADHD in children.
Understood has served millions of families with kids who learn and think differently since 2014!
Understood created Take N.O.T.E., launched in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, to help families figure out if the struggles they see in their child are potentially signs of a learning and thinking difference.
The Take N.O.T.E. initiative is centered on a simple, four-part memory device that helps parents:
- Notice if anything out of the ordinary is going on with their child.
- Observe and keep track of patterns in their child’s behavior.
- Talk to their child, teachers, aides, and other caregivers about observations.
- Engage with trusted professionals, like pediatricians and school specialists.
Finding the people who will be champions for you and your child is one of the most important steps in the beginning, which is why I want to discuss the “Talk” and “Engage” steps in a bit more detail today.
How to Seek Support for Your Child’s Specific Learning Difficulties
Reaching out to the right people can open new doors and provide you with the tools you need to take control and seek the help your child needs for learning differences.
As a pediatrician, I suggest gathering as much information as you can from the following three sources to help you determine your next steps.
1. Your Child’s Teacher
When you notice your child struggling, reach out to your child’s teacher. Together, write down the patterns you observe and possible triggers for your child’s behaviors.
There are many different types of learning disabilities. So pinpointing your child’s specific learning difficulties is key, whether they struggle with reading, math, paying attention, or even making and keeping friends. Open communication with your teacher is imperative in trying to help your child through these struggles. Many times, you can identify and eliminate a stressor, which can significantly help your child thrive.
Outside of a child’s immediate family, teachers will spend the most dedicated one-on-one time with your child. Many times, it is a teacher who will notice and help identify that your child is having trouble with aspects of learning. Parents are often nervous to discuss their concerns, as they feel it might put a spotlight on their child. However, your child’s teacher is an incredible resource to help navigate a learning difference.
Questions to Ask Your Child’s Teacher if You Suspect Struggles in School
- Have you noticed any unusual behaviors? If so, what is concerning to you?
- Does my child seem happy at school? If they are struggling, what seems to be their biggest obstacle?
- Is my child participating in class discussions and activities?
- How are my child’s social skills?
- What are some examples of my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
2. Your Child’s Pediatrician
Many times your pediatrician is not the first person you think about if your child has a learning difference. However, they can be a great resource to help guide you during this uncertain time.
Pediatricians are experts in child development and milestones. They can help determine whether something needs further evaluation and help coordinate care with specialists.
Sometimes a child’s mental health can be related to their physical health. So it is important to get your child’s pediatrician involved as early as possible. They may want to perform labs or even do imaging early on in the process.
Most importantly, your child’s pediatrician will be one of their biggest advocates. They have watched them grow and taken care of them through childhood milestones, and working through struggles is another part of that journey for them.
Questions Your Pediatrician Will Ask About Your Child’s Potential Learning Difference
- What are the exact concerns or behavioral patterns you have noticed?
- Are these behavioral patterns being observed at home as well as at school?
- How is your child’s overall health? Are there any other associated symptoms your child is experiencing?
- Your pediatrician will also ask about your child’s specific developmental milestones and developmental history.
3. Yourself and Other Parents/Guardians
The journey of tackling your child’s learning difference will always start and end with you. You are your child’s biggest advocate, coach, cheerleader, and teacher.
I have always felt that having a learning difference as a child is what ultimately provided me with the tools and attributes I would need to become a doctor.
As parents, we can use our own challenges to teach our children the importance of perseverance, dedication, and embracing our differences. Our children will turn to us in the hardest times and in their greatest accomplishments. It is our role to not fix their problems but help them navigate through these difficulties to develop the skills they will need to succeed in school and life.
Many times, the process of having your child tested and creating a learning plan can take months and even years. As a pediatrician, I always advise my parents to take their child’s healthcare into their own hands. There are many resources out there to help start your journey before seeing a specialist.
Research, research, research and then advocate for your child like no one else can!
Final Thoughts on Seeking Support for Specific Learning Difficulties
Although you may feel like this situation is only happening to you, I can assure you that many other families have traveled down the same road. Once you open the door and start educating yourself, dealing with specific learning difficulties becomes less intimidating and more empowering.
By following Understood’s “Take N.O.T.E.” steps and reaching out to teachers and healthcare providers, you’ll help set your child up for success throughout their life!