As parents, we sometimes have a hard time with others’ objective opinions on our kids, and that’s often warranted. That nosy lady on the playground who says your kids are too loud? You can ignore her. The mail carrier who walks by your toy-filled garage and laughs that your kids must be spoiled? Yes, you can turn and roll your eyes at him.
But, if someone who has the best interest of your child in mind – like your child’s teacher – brings something up, it’s definitely worth considering seriously. Teachers are trained in educational philosophies and pedagogy, but also in child development. Seeing so many students year after year gives them a good gauge on age-appropriate behavior, and sometimes, they can spot warning signs way before anyone else.
Parents and teachers are often seen at opposing ends, but that perspective is largely media-driven, and in reality, the best parents and teachers work hard, hand-in-hand, to provide best for the children in their care. It takes a village, and your child’s educators are going to be a major part of that village. Collaboration, open communication, and trust are key.
No, neither party will always be right, and yes, at the end of the day, you do know your child best. But knowing that your child’s teacher is trying to do the right thing for your kid is extremely important. As parents, we know our babies are perfect just the way they are. Their teachers do too, but teachers also have the added advantage of being able to see our children objectively and understand how to support their differences. Teachers are truly the real MVPs, and it will serve us well to listen before making the best decision for our kids.
These are five common learning differences, special needs, and mental health concerns that your child’s teacher might see before you do.
There are three types of ADHD: inattention (can’t focus and is easily distracted), hyperactivity/impulsivity (lots of fidgeting and cannot sit still), and combination (signs of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity).
ADHD is not considered a learning disorder, but studies show that many (up to 50 percent) of kids who have ADHD also have a learning disorder alongside that can contribute to any visible symptoms. ADHD is one of the more commonly seen special needs in classrooms, but it’s also one of the most over-diagnosed, so multiple opinions are very necessary before deciding on next steps.
It’s also important to know age-appropriate expectations and whether or not your child’s school and classroom are aligned with those. For example, children 5-6 years old should be able to attend to one activity that is of interest to them for about 15 minutes.
Autism can affect three areas of development and symptoms can be seen as early as 18 months (though many parents say in retrospect that there were earlier warning signs). The three areas of development most largely impacted are language, social skills, and behavior. Children with autism may have:
- A language delay, or have a lot of language (a large vocabulary and abilities to memorize books, shows, and movies) but not be able to use language to communicate at age-appropriate levels.
- A lack of age-typical social skills (lack of eye contact, interaction, typical social behaviors, etc.) is common.
- Many times, repetitive self-stimulating behaviors (like spinning, hand flapping, lining up toys) are also seen.
It’s important to note that autism is a spectrum disorder, so one child’s symptoms and behaviors may not look like another’s.
Kids with speech or language delays may have trouble producing certain sounds, using spoken language to communicate or have trouble understanding what others say. Speech therapists often categorize language delays as either affecting a child’s expressive language, receptive language, or both.
Speech and language delays are commonly seen in young children, and with the right support and services, they are often largely caught up by age 5. With delays, it’s best to start therapy when young as their development moves so fast at that age. The older they get without the right support, the longer it can take to get to an age-appropriate level.
A young child with social/emotional difficulties might have trouble building trust and attachment, difficulty in forming or maintaining friendships, and may show some inappropriate play skills for their age.
Anxiety disorders can also sometimes be seen in young children – children might be uneasy, distressed, or frightened at a level that doesn’t match the cause, intense separation anxiety, social concerns, behavior issues (like defiance or overly aggressive behavior), and difficulty transitioning.
Learning disabilities are not usually diagnosed until children are in grade-school – this allows them time to develop at their own pace and for issues to work out on their own. Kids with learning disabilities typically:
- Have trouble performing specific types of skills (like reading or writing)
- Slowly learn new skills
- Rely on memorization
- Avoid tasks that may seem difficult
- Struggle or express frustration with learning over an extended period of time
Learning disorders tend to run in families, so if you or your partner have one, there’s a chance your child might, too. Symptoms of learning disabilities vary greatly from child to child in accordance with each specific disability.