Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Should Parents Do if Their Child’s Teacher Thinks Their Child may Need Special Services

Since I began teaching 13 years ago, great progress has been made in identifying potential learning and socialization issues at a very young age. Today, educators and parents can seek early intervention for children needing special help. In just the last five years, our school has taught preschoolers with delays in speech and hearing, children who have been diagnosed with processing and other cognitive deficiencies, and kids who have been identified as having Asberger's Disorder, or have fallen somewhere on the Autism scale. I have also taught students who were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and other learning and behavioral issues. Some students have exhibited problems in socialization, including a child who bit others and a student who refused to speak.

A teacher’s job is to recognize that there is a delay, deficiency, or other issue. However, most of us are not qualified to say exactly what is wrong or to provide an appropriate educational plan that would be best suited for that child. It is wonderful when qualified professionals are able to intervene early on, to diagnose and then carry out a plan that will help that student learn and interact successfully.

For many parents, accepting that their child may have an issue can be devastating. The first step is to listen, even if you don’t agree. Teachers take their time when presenting potentially bad news to parents, it isn’t something we take lightly. In understanding the importance of early intervention, we recognize the need to tackle a problem as early as possible.

I advise parents to take the next step, and follow through with whatever testing your child’s teacher recommends. Oftentimes this is done free of charge through the Child Study Team at the public school system. Other times, the teacher may suggest that you have a child psychologist or educational specialist evaluate your child, and these people typically charge fees, which vary. Get recommendations from the school and neighbors. Solicit and accept feedback and be honest about the information being presented. You can address any issue once you have expert advice.

Also, understand that you are not alone. I have taught many children who needed some extra help, and I have learned that the sooner that help is given, the quicker the child can get on track. Fortunately, once most parents get over the initial surprise and disappointment, they are eager to seek the help their children need.

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