When young children struggle in school, many parents experience a great deal of anxiety. This is perfectly normal and understandable. Beyond the obvious reasons for concern, one of the underlying sources of anxiety is the often-ambiguous nature of the difficulties children display. Parents struggle to “figure out” what is happening for their children. This causes anxiety because, as we all know, children are complex little creatures who are not always aware of or able to effectively articulate what is happening for them.
Unfortunately the overwhelming volume of “diagnostic” information that can be gathered with a quick Google search often exacerbates this anxiety. Parents (and I am perfectly guilty of this) often start reading online and the information available is vast, hard to comprehend, and often inconclusive. People and professionals have many opinions, there is an increasingly complex world of jargon and terminology, and, as we noted earlier, kids (and adults) are complicated beings.
Over the years I have worked with and counseled hundreds of families whose children struggle at times during their elementary years. These challenges span the developmental continuum and include reading, writing, math, organization skills, social skills, motor skills, communication skills, etc. In most situations these struggles are perfectly normal and with a little support they pass. These experiences ultimately serve as great learning opportunities for students (and parents). The situations in which we experienced the greatest success were those that began with communication between the home and school as opposed to the home and Google.
When a parent has a concern about their child/children, my first piece of advice is to take a deep breath and remember that there is a high probability that this difficulty is normal and will resolve itself with time or a little extra support from home and school. My second piece of advice is to get in touch with the classroom teacher immediately. Teachers are trained diagnosticians who understand development and learning and, most importantly, know the child. They are great sources of information and guidance and in most instances can support parents in developing plans to coach their children through tough spots.
Teachers also know the limits of their knowledge and expertise. Fortunately when they reach that boundary they have a team of professionals and specialists that they can access for guidance, diagnostic support, and advice. At Ben-Hem, we call these professionals and specialists the Child Study Team (CST). This is an amazing resource for families that, unfortunately, many do not know about.
The CST is a comprehensive team of professionals who operate as a support network for students, teachers, and families. The team includes building administrators, classroom teachers, special education teachers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, school psychologists, reading specialists, and behavioral analysts. The primary role of the CST is to look diagnostically at the difficulties students display, develop a clear picture of what is causing the student to struggle, and to craft recommendations and accommodations that will support the teacher and family in coaching the child through the tough spot.
If your child is experiencing any kind of difficulty in school, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your child’s teacher. If you are interested in finding out more about child study, please feel free to get in touch with me at 508.647.6580 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.