By Dr. Jan Hittelman

We all learn differently and we all have strengths and weaknesses in terms of our learning processes. There are also many different explanations for why students do not achieve at a level that is expected. For some students it’s about motivation. For other students it can also be a function of difficulties with speech, language processing, auditory and visual processing, written expression, emotional/behavioral factors, as well as overall intelligence.

The earlier these learning challenges are identified, the sooner children can receive help to improve and/or compensate for these difficulties. When early identification does not occur, these problems tend to get worse as does the child’s attitude towards school. In some cases, these challenges are identified in preschool and, through proper remediation, addressed. In many cases these challenges become more apparent in elementary school. For the child’s academic success as well as positive sense of self, it is important to identify and attempt remediate these difficulties as early as possible. Children spend most of their waking hours in school and if they experience a high degree of failure, the damage to their self-esteem can be significant. This is why early intervention is key.

If you suspect that your child is having difficulties in school, the right place to start is with their classroom teacher. Request an opportunity to meet with the teacher and discuss your concerns and get their feedback as well. In addition, the teacher may recommend additional services within the school. In some cases additional evaluations by school specialists may be necessary. A private evaluation by a licensed psychologist is another option. Through the use of psychological, academic, speech/language and learning processing testing, it is possible to get a more detailed and clear picture of a child’s strengths and weakness relative to other children of the same age. Depending on the severity of the areas of weakness additional services at the school may be available.

If your gut tells you that your child is not learning as he or she should be, seek out the guidance of school staff and make your concerns known. The longer you wait the more difficult it will be for your child to get back on track.