Regardless of your child's age, the occasional school struggle is normal. But when that struggle becomes a pattern, it often raises concern―from parents and/or teachers.
If you suspect something isn't quite right, trust your instincts and speak up!
Talk with Your Pediatrician
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
recommends talking with your child's pediatrician about any school struggles. A child's lack of academic progress is often a symptom of more complex issues such as various types and combinations of behavioral, psychological, and learning difficulties. Social stress, illness, and chronic medical problems may also play a role.
Not sure when to bring up concerns?
Your child's yearly checkup is a good time.
Pediatricians track your child's growth and development at yearly checkups ―this includes academic growth since your last visit. To prepare for these checkups, make a list of topics you want to talk about such as
school readiness, behavior problems, sleep issues, eating troubles, or mental health concerns. Bring them up with your pediatrician at the start of the visit.
Dig deeper for clues.
Learn about specialty referrals and evaluations.
Your pediatrician may refer your child for psychological and educational evaluations to explore possible neurodevelopmental and language disorders, learning and intellectual disabilities, emotional health issues, and sources of stress. Don't be alarmed if you receive a referral!
These in-depth evaluations can be done by professionals such as
child neurologists, child psychiatrists, child psychologists, as well as speech and language pathologists, pediatric occupational therapists, and pediatric physical therapists.
Results from these evaluations can help determine why your child struggles in school, help you understand what your child needs, and offer strategies that could help and support your child.
Get Support at School
After an evaluation, pediatricians can help families request and advocate for the best
Individualized Education Program (IEP) or
504 plan at the child's school. The IEP spells out your child's academic goals and outlines the exact education, services, and extra support the school district will provide.
Helping your child get back on track takes teamwork.
When a child is falling behind in school, a
team-based approach between the family, the school, and the child's healthcare providers is important. You and your child are the center of that team.
Great teams are built on effective communication. And parents are often the ones whose shoulders it falls on to make sure all information is shared between everyone on your child's healthcare team.
Get tips for communicating effectively with all team members here.
Be Patient with the Process
Resolving these kinds of complex issues can be a long and difficult process. As your child's best advocate, you may need to consider test results, reflect on available choices, and work with your child's healthcare team to make a plan that allows your child to reach his or her fullest potential. It may take time, and patience is key to keeping stress under control.
(And don't forget to
involve your child in any decision-making processes, if he or she is old enough; this can help build-up any self-esteem lost from falling behind in school).
Specific learning disabilities
Difficulty in understanding or using language, causing struggles with listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, and/or doing math.
Heart, blood & circulatory system
Attention, affective/mood, autism, and related disorders
Speech and language
Receptive expressive language and speech disorders
Learning English as a second language
Social communication disorder