The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new report on how pediatricians can help kids who are struggling in school. One of the central points of the report is that trouble in school is a complex issue. While struggling in school may be considered a symptom, and you will certainly want to talk with your pediatrician if your child is having trouble keeping up in class, there are many possible causes of the problem.
A child who has trouble keeping up in class may have physical obstacles to success. Checking your child’s hearing and vision should be one of the first steps you consider if your child has trouble in school. However, there are other physical issues that can show up in the classroom.
A child with asthma, diabetes, or other illness may have less energy and find it harder to concentrate in the classroom.
Your pediatrician may also be able to help you identify lifestyle changes that could affect your child’s success in school. Getting enough sleep, eating right, and being physically active can add up to more energy and greater focus.
Substance abuse can also lead to academic problems. Your pediatrician can help you eliminate this possibility.
Children may have trouble focusing on school work if they are hyperactive, aggressive, or sad. Anxiety or an acute cause of stress like a death in the family or bullying can also interfere with academic success.
For many children, worries that their teacher doesn’t like them or a feeling of social isolation can be enough to make school harder than it should be.
Your pediatrician can help identify the specific problems and refer you to a counselor. There may also be accommodations in the classroom that can help.
About 20% of children who struggle in school, according to the report, suffer from language-based learning disabilities. Your pediatrician will check on your child’s language development in baby and preschool well child visits. If your child is not meeting milestones before starting school, you should discuss these concerns with your pediatrician.
Sometimes learning disabilities show up in a failure to meet physical milestones like learning to use writing utensils or being able to ride a tricycle. If your child has a history of being slow to reach motion coordination milestones of this kind, be sure to share that information when you talk with your child’s doctor about classroom challenges.
Your pediatrician may ask for family history as well. If learning disabilities show up in parents or siblings, that can be important information to share.
If you child has learning disabilities, your pediatrician can help you work with your child’s teacher and other school team members to create a plan (Individualized Educational Program or IEP) for your child.