Are you wondering if learning and attention issues are causing your child’s challenges in school or at home? If so, you wouldn’t be alone. One in five kids have learning and attention issues. And with the right support, they can thrive in school and in life.
Here are steps you can take to determine if your child has learning and attention issues, and where to go from there.
1 Know the skills learning and attention issues can affect.
The term “learning and attention issues” covers a wide range of challenges kids may face in school, at home and in the community. These lifelong, brain-based difficulties can cause trouble with reading, writing, math, organization, concentration, listening comprehension, social skills or motor skills.
They’re not just “kids being lazy.” And having these issues doesn’t mean a child isn’t intelligent. Read about what learning and attention issues are and what they aren’t.
2 Learn about typical developmental milestones.
It can be hard to know whether you’re seeing signs of learning and attention issues in your child if you’re not sure what skills are typical for his age. Learn what to expect developmentally from preschoolers, grade-schoolers, middle-schoolers and high-schoolers. This can help you get a better sense of where your child’s skills fall. You may also want to explore the academic skills kids usually learn in different grades.
3 Take note of your concerns.
Observe your child and take notes about the things that concern you. This will help you find patterns that can lead to solutions. For instance, if you notice that your child tends to get frustrated about reading, you can learn about what causes trouble with reading and how to help. You can do the same if you notice your child struggling with focus, writing, math, organization, listening comprehension, social skills or motor skills.
As you observe what’s difficult for your child, take note of his strengths, too. Knowing your child’s strengths can make it easier to help him work through challenges.
4 Find out what’s been happening at school.
Speak with your child’s teacher to see what she has noticed. Is your child having trouble with recognizing letters or with rhyming? Is reading, writing or math a challenge? Is your child more distractible or less focused than other kids his age? Does he have trouble making friends?
If your child is older, ask him how school is going. You may also want to see if he’s having trouble keeping up with multiple teachers, classes and expectations.
5 Talk to your child’s doctor.
Set up an appointment to discuss your concerns. You may want to find a time to speak when your child isn’t there. Before the appointment, learn about different terms you may hear from doctors. Bring your notes to the appointment, and be sure to mention the teacher’s concerns as well.
6 Discuss a free evaluation through school or early intervention.
Depending on your child’s age, different kinds of help are available. You can ask for a free early intervention evaluation for very young kids. And your local school district can do a free educational evaluation for kids ages 3 through high school. That evaluation gives information that can identify issues your child may be having and help guide the type of support your child gets at home or in school.
Keep in mind that the school may talk about learning and attention issues in a different way from your child’s doctor. See examples of the various ways professionals may refer to your child’s challenges.
7 Consider consulting with a specialist.
Ask your pediatrician about a possible referral to specialists who can evaluate for or rule out learning and attention issues. You may have to pay for the evaluation. So if you have insurance, check to see if it’s covered. You may also want to find out where to get a free or low-cost evaluation outside of school.
8 Meet with the school or early intervention agency.
Sit down with the school or early intervention team to discuss the results of the evaluation. It can help to provide results from any outside evaluations you’ve had done. You can all determine if your child is eligible for an Individualized Education Program(IEP), an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or a 504 plan.
9 Get next steps based on your child’s specific learning and attention issues.
After following these steps, you may have a better idea of what’s causing your child’s trouble—but you still may not be sure. Find out what to do if you’re concerned your child might have a specific issue, such as dyslexia or ADHD. Or you can find out what to do if your child was recently diagnosed with a learning or attention issue.
10 Hear from and connect with other parents.
Read personal stories from parents of kids with learning and attention issues. Find out what they wish they’d known sooner. And consider connecting with other parents in our community. They can share experiences and tips that can help clear up confusion and make your journey easier.