Every child has strengths and weaknesses. We expect to see some children who prefer reading to math or science to writing. Many children appear to struggle with certain skills or avoid some academic tasks. Parents and tutors can intervene by providing support, extra practice or new techniques for problem solving, yet some children will continue to struggle. Consider psychoeducational/neuropsychological testing for learning problems if you see any of the following signs:
- Difficulty memorizing or recognizing symbols such as numbers or letter
- Limited ability to apply phonemic decoding skills (i.e. sounding out, stretching the word)
- Lack of understanding of how to solve a problem or apply basic skills.
- Obvious frustration, avoidance, or statements that they are less capable than peers
- Limited progress despite interventions
- A ‘gut instinct’ as a parent that something is really wrong
Do not wait for the school or pediatrician to express concern about your child’s learning as they often have limited time to observe the subtle signs of learning problems and may not realize how hard your child is struggling.
Difficulty with attention and executive functioning (which are the skills that help people organize and plan behavior and thinking) are also caused by many different mental health and learning problems. Symptoms that seem like ADHD are common among children with autistic spectrum disorders, anxiety, depression or learning disorders. Medical difficulties such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and other disorders also cause difficulty with attention.
Therefore, scoring high on a checklist may not tell you much about what is causing the problems. A comprehensive evaluation of your child’s learning, attention and emotional functioning is preferable as it provides a roadmap for intervention and helps you rule-out other causes for the attention problems.
You should never accept a diagnosis based on checklists alone if your child has certain characteristics. Testing should be conducted for all children with a history of anxiety or mood problems. Emotional stress can reduce a child’s energy level, disrupt their sleep, and cause distracting negative thoughts. In addition, children who engage in repetitive behaviors, become excessively focus on certain topics, have difficulty reading social cues or who experienced early language delays should participate in a thorough evaluation to determine whether the executive functioning difficulties are related to a Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
If you believe your child may have a learning, developmental, or emotional issue, contact MindWell Psychology today to schedule a consultation at our Northern Virginia office.