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Author Bio: Nancy Weinstein is the founder and CEO of Mindprint Learning, an educational technology company based in Princeton, NJ. Mindprint offers families the first valid at-home cognitive assessment supported with next-step learning strategies for academic and cognitive growth. Nancy has an MBA from Harvard Business School with first year honors and a BS/BSE summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton School of Management and Technology Program, Bioengineering and Finance. As a mother of two, Nancy recognizes the challenges parents face today, from helping with homework to navigating the ever-changing pace of education and technology.
When you think your child is having a real problem in school, trust your instincts. I’m not talking about the occasional difficulty with homework. I mean nights of tears, fights and frustration.
Regardless, parents need to be proactive.
First, call your child’s teacher. Don’t wait hoping things will improve. Let the teacher know your child resists homework every night or that it’s taking far longer than the suggested time to complete.
Even the best teachers can miss the warning signs. They will be glad you’re telling them. (This is very different from complaining about the amount and type of homework assigned, which teachers may or may not appreciate.)
Teachers realize that some kids are able to hide their struggles during an eight hour school day but are a volcano waiting to erupt by the time they get home. Once there is recognition of the problem, work out a plan with your teacher to move ahead. Make sure it includes regular check-ins. Don’t expect an overnight miracle, but as long as you are seeing positive progress you are in good shape.
If your teacher insists there’s not a problem or you don’t see improvements, trust your gut. The Center for Disease Control estimates that parents are the first to identify 70% of learning problems. And missed identification of learning problems is clearly an issue. It results in nearly twice as many 7th graders needing special services as 2nd graders. That delay gives time for some minor problems to morph into bigger issues in the long-term. In short, don’t panic, but don’t delay.
Once you’ve decided to move ahead, and kudos for doing so, you’ve got some options to consider based on your specific family needs.
Consider a tutor if the problem seems subject specific. Your child might be having a harder time in one class or with one teacher. A little bit of one-on-one instruction might go a long way.
If the problem seems to be in multiple classes, you might need a broader approach. Pay a visit to your school psychologist or counselor. Every school has one, and this person should be specifically trained to identify learning difficulties. In fact, by law, the school is required to help you investigate the underlying problem. Here’s a link [http://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/your-childs-rights] that explains your legal rights.
If you are reluctant to alert the school to a potential problem, an alternative is to call your pediatrician. Pediatricians can often identify an attention problem or a more obvious learning delay. Don’t expect them to identify a learning difference per se (ADHD and related disorders are not considered learning problems) but they may be able to recommend next steps based on their personal knowledge of your family and your community resources.
Finally, consider having an outside psychological evaluation of your child’s learning strengths and needs. This is the most reliable path to find the root cause of your child’s struggle. These evaluations can also identify social or emotional issues that your child may not be sharing. This process, however, can also be time consuming and expensive.
Mindprint [link to http://MindprintLearning.com] will be launching in November 2014 with resources to make this process a whole lot easier and faster. Meanwhile, move ahead. Call that teacher. You’ll be so glad you did.