Parents are told time and time again not to compare their children with others, as each child develops at their own pace, but parents still struggle not to compare their child to other children, particularly when kids start and continue school. Questions creep in; “Is my child behind?” “Is their development just delayed?” or “Does my child have a learning disorder?”
At Alzein Pediatrics, we know most parents question their child’s development journey but there are other factors that can affect your child’s learning and progression. Before you start Googling the wide variety of learning disabilities (and really freaking out), Alzein Pediatrics wants to look at a much larger picture. Often, physical difficulties can be a barrier to your child’s academic success.
How Does Your Child Perceive the World?
If your child has been experiencing a vision problem or hearing problem since birth or the toddler years, they likely won’t complain about it because they don’t actually know their eyesight and hearing could be better.
At a pediatric eye doctor appointment, the doctor will perform a standard eye exam as well as check for colorblindness. If your child’s world is blurry, they don’t have a clear understanding of what is around them; they can’t complete school work or properly see demonstrations, schoolwork, or screens. The same can be said about colorblindness. When a child cannot see the difference between colors that others easily recognize, they become frustrated and impatient, delaying learning.
Parents may joke about “selective hearing”, but hearing problems in children are serious. When your child does not react to loud noises, cannot hear people talking to them unless they are standing in front of them, or you must get their attention first to be heard, ask for a hearing screening. When your child cannot hear, interactions and expectations may need adjustments in order to foster a productive and supportive learning environment.
Is your child getting quality sleep? When you notice your child always seems tired, your child’s development and ability to focus will be affected. It can also impair their emotional regulation. Your Alzein provider may recommend a visit to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist (ENT), who may recommend a pediatric sleep study to screen for sleep apnea and discuss ways it can be relieved. As sleep-deprived parents will attest, a good night’s sleep can make all the difference in the world.
How Does Physical Coordination Affect Learning?
Coordination is different for every child, just like any other element of development.
When physical coordination is a challenge, you might notice your child dropping items, running into things, not being able to hold a spoon or a crayon, or not being able to do the hand motions for Itsy-Bitsy Spider. If this is the case, talk to us about an OT evaluation to explore Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). This disorder is more than just being “clumsy,” it’s a disconnect between the brain and the body and can be mitigated with occupational therapy.
Emotional Distress Can Affect Children’s Learning
You’ve explored physical impairments and possible coordination issues, and specialists tell you there is nothing physically wrong with your child. Your child’s struggle still might not be a learning disability – it might be emotional distress. Children feel emotional distress, such as anxiety or depression, as intensely as adults but they often don’t have the vocabulary to communicate those feelings. These big emotions take up a lot of brain power, causing distractions from learning and concentrating. Major life events that can spark anxiety could include:
- The death of a loved one, pet, or friend, even the death of a neighbor that they don’t speak to every day but are aware of
- Divorce, either in their own family or with couples they are emotionally close to
- Joyous events, such as a new baby, can upset routine and cause uncertainty.
If nothing new has happened at home, explore your child’s school day by repeatedly asking questions or contacting school staff directly. If your child is experiencing bullying, your child may not want to answer questions in class for fear or resist completing homework because it’s associated with the school day. Make an appointment with your Alzein provider to discuss behavioral therapy. Therapy will help your child identify their emotions and struggles, and give your child the words to express those emotions and the tools to deal with struggles in a positive way.
Academic success can be difficult if your child is encountering physical or emotional obstacles. Resolving these barriers can put your student on a path to happiness and satisfaction in school.