As I encounter motherhood for the first time, I am feeling a bit more protective over everyone’s kids. Something about new mom hormones just brings out the mommy watch-dog in me! What’s been weighing on my mind lately is the thought of parents who go to their children’s teachers with concerns only to hear something like, “It’s too soon to tell if there’s a real problem,” or “It’s just developmental.” Not only are these comments dismissive and invalidating of parents’ concerns, but they also tend to overshadow what might be a real problem getting in the way of a child reaching his or her full potential.
For parents hearing feedback from authority figures at their children’s school that dismisses their concerns, it is first and foremost an insult to the mother’s deeper knowledge of her child. As parents, you have deep understanding of your children that extends beyond the realm of logic and reason. Through my pregnancy I learned that maternal brains actually make a shift from the left-brain’s logic and language sequential processing to the right-brain’s emotional and intuitive capabilities. This is what we know of as “pregnancy brain” when it becomes more difficult to retrieve specific words or compute simple math equations (i.e. when I would stare blankly at a check receipt without a clue how to calculate a tip!). Yet, the other side of this is “mother’s intuition” – that other-worldly sense of knowing what is up with your children before they can even express it.
What’s even more devastating about dismissive responses to parents’ concerns about their child’s performance in school is the fact that so often parents are right about there being something wrong. I’ve had many encounters with parents in my office with children in middle school or high school who have been hearing these kinds of comments for years – only to find out through private testing that indeed their child does have a learning disorder. The sad fact is that by middle or high school it is usually an emotional or psychological issue that brings parents to the breaking point to seek outside help. These children face depression and anxiety after going so long without help for their quiet struggles in school.
The truth is that early intervention is the most effective way to resolve a learning disorder and prevent the later psychological and emotional damage so many kids with these challenges face later on. Research in learning disabilities draws upon the neuroplasticity of the brain – the brain’s ability to adapt and change – to explain the efficacy of interventions while children are at their more formative stages. Just like learning to speak a foreign language comes more naturally for young children, so does learning other skills. For instance, reading interventions for dyslexia are most effective when delivered by third grade due to the plasticity of the brain’s language processing centers.
So, what can you do when your child’s teacher gives you a “wait and see” response to your concerns about performance in reading, writing, math or any other fundamental skill? Be aware of common signs of learning disorders. Reading disorders are the most common type of learning challenge, and they too often go unidentified in schools. Download our Reading Skills Quick Assessment to see if your child shows common signs of a reading disorder. Bring this information to your child’s teacher so you can share specific feedback on the challenges you observe.
Knowing that parents need documentation to back up their concerns, we offer academic skills assessments to take a deeper look and gather data to explain why a child shows lower performance than expected for him or her. Our evaluations provide irrefutable numbers to illuminate what’s getting in the way of a child reaching his or her fullest potential. Our data also helps us see when there are signs of a challenge that should be examined more carefully for a possible learning disorder. In those cases, we make referrals for further assessment by the school or private psychologist. We value proactive and honest communication, so we don’t hold back when we see a problem.
The bottom line is that it’s imperative for parents to trust their guts! You know your child and you can sense when there is something out of alignment. Don’t let the window close on early intervention or let your child suffer in silence when there are ample resources available for help.
About the Author:
Megan Cohen Trezza, M.Ed., is the founder of La Jolla LearningWorks, where she helps customize educational therapy programs for students facing learning challenges. Connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LaJollaLearningWorks, or via email at megan@LJLearningWorks.com