Are you wondering if your child has special learning needs?
Carol’s daughter, Kylie, is four years old. From birth to age two, she had recurrent, severe ear infections. Without a doubt, it was challenging.
At age four, the pendulum swung back the other way. Kylie became argumentative and disobedient. She would fight over the most miniscule request by her mother. Prepared to wage World War Three over her choice of shoes to wear on a cold day, Kylie was a force to be reckoned with!
Along with increased disagreeability, Carol noticed Kylie had trouble staying on any task for very long. She would drift from activity-to-activity during playtime. When Carol tried to focus her on coloring, drawing or any kind of table work, Kylie would attend for a few moments, then drift away to another activity. If Carol insisted that she sit still to complete a task, Kylie would brace for battle and Carol would reluctantly allow her to go off to play. She was concerned because Kylie was approaching kindergarten age and she worried she would not be able to teach her the skills she needed.
Arthur, the oldest of three children, was fourteen. He had been homeschooled for life. Although very bright and artistic, he was disorganized and forgetful. His mother was the opposite. She wanted the schoolwork done HER way with HER timing. Arthur usually got everything done, but generally waited until the last minute to pull it off. While his work was hardly stellar or brilliant, it was correct and adequate. He had his mom continually butted heads due to his seeming lack of motivation. “He is doing OK, but he could be doing so much better,” his mom reported.
Which of these families has a legitimate concern about special learning needs? One or the other, both, or neither?
A legitimate concern about your child’s performance or behavior is any concern that is on your heart and mind. Sorting out whether it requires patience and maturity, or professionals and medications, is the tricky part.
I can recall many kids who were “different” in my own schooling. Rather than “learning disabled,” they were referred to as perhaps just “slow kids.” A little extra attention and tutoring and they generally did OK. Still others were thought of as quiet and introverted (the loners) and were left to their own thoughts rather than being psychoanalyzed. Hyper kids were considered normal and energetic. Given sufficient outlets for their energy, they did just fine.
Today we are much quicker to assign a label or a disability. Our increasingly professionalized and compartmentalized society doesn’t know what to do with a child who is different.
The questions for the parent remains: How do I sort out whether I have a real problem? Despite the impressive array of professionals and paraprofessionals available to help you, you are still the premier expert on your child. While we must not be in denial, we ultimately choose how we will deal with these precious creatures entrusted to our care.
Begin with prayer, knowledge and observation. Ask God to help you to truly see what you are dealing with. Ask Him for His wisdom – and then listen! Most healthy, well-balanced parents know in their heart when something is seriously wrong. Listen to that still voice of God as you set about unraveling your challenging child.
Next to your “inside work” with God, your next external task is to educate yourself. Armed with the knowledge in this book and other materials referenced herein, you will be in a better position to pinpoint what, if any, action is required. There is no more helpless feeling that being uninformed and at the mercy of the array of professionals that have the potential to become involved in your child’s life. With even a broad brush of knowledge you will be in a better position to make decisions on behalf of your child.
Finally, your own observations will be the most valuable part of this process. It might be helpful to begin documenting behavior and responses. But I am going to ask you to look at your child through God’s eyes. Sometimes we tired parents are caught in patterns of seeing and responding that keep us from seeing what is really happening. When you can separate yourself from your perhaps painful history with this child, you can see him through God’s eyes. This perspective will give you wisdom and encouragement. God created this child for a purpose. It may take some digging and prayer to uncover it, but you will both grow in the process.