“My child is showing signs of physical, intellectual and/or emotional problems. Other children the same age seem to be able to do things that my child is not able to do? What can I do?”
Is your child showing signs of physical problems (such as having difficulty climbing stairs, bending over or having stiff arms or legs)? If so, it may be time to take a closer look.
You may want to call and discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. Most likely you will be asked to have your child seen in the office, where the pediatrician will discuss your concerns with you. Your pediatrician may conduct initial screening(s), order additional tests and/or continue to monitor your child. Jot down your questions and concerns before the appointment so that you remember everything you want to bring up. Depending on what the pediatrician discovers on the initial visit, he or she might advise you to take your child to a specialist for further evaluation. Ask your doctor to refer you to an appropriate professional he or she trusts.
Is your child having intellectual difficulties (having trouble learning or completing classwork and homework?) If so, you might want to share your concerns with your child’s teacher.
Consider jotting down your questions and concerns before talking with the teacher so that you will remember everything you want to discuss. If you feel that your child’s teacher does not share your concerns and/or that your child’s issues are not being properly addressed or are becoming more intense, you may want to consider meeting with your child's principal about your concerns and requesting that an educational evaluation be completed for your child.
You have the option and right, at any time, to ask the school district to complete an evaluation for your child to determine what grade level is educationally and socially appropriate and what extra services might be helpful.
You should discuss the results of the evaluation with your pediatrician. Depending on the results, the pediatrician may request further medical testing. Also consider taking a video of your child for the pediatrician so they can see firsthand the issues you are referring to. Video is a great tool, especially if autism is suspected. If you do not agree with the evaluation results from your school district, you have the option of requesting that an independent evaluation be done at the school district’s expense.
Is your child showing signs of emotional problems, (exhibiting extreme behavior for their age, acting withdrawn, experiencing sleep issues, lacking an appetite)? Does your child struggle and seem uncomfortable in social situations?
If so, a first step could be to contact the school district and speak with your child’s teacher, the school psychologist, social worker or nurse to determine if they are observing the same issues.
If school staff are also concerned about your child, the psychologist or social worker may suggest, or you can request, that they do some preliminary evaluations for your child. Your local Office of Mental Health can also provide you with contact information for evaluators in your area.
In addition to the professional contacts mentioned above, you can also look in your area for a parent advocate or speak with your friends, colleagues and other parents. Below are a few links that may also be helpful.