It’s going to happen to approximately 40 percent of parents: someone says that that their child should be “tested.” It could be that a teacher has observed that the child is over-active, or not active enough. Maybe a friend suggests that the child doesn’t communicate clearly. Or maybe the pediatrician advises testing because she suspects that the child is developing differently.
Chances are that parents will not be full of gratitude for the recommendation. In fact, for most parents, the initial reaction is denial and then anger. “There is nothing wrong with my child.” “He is only difficult when other kids hype him up.” “My child is just shy.” “How dare they?” “Their kids aren’t so smart.” And then, deep down, fear comes along because the parent has noticed the same thing.
The idea that there may be something wrong’ with one’s child is the worst possible nightmare. Not so much because we want them to be perfect or a credit to our parenting, but because we want our children to be healthy, happy, and have a fairly easy life. We know that developmental challenges and differences will interfere with our dream for them.
In addition, many parents worry about the effect of having their child labeled or having their child put on medication. We’ve all seen cases of where that has gone wrong. But by their very nature, when labeling and medication have gone right, we don’t see it. A child must be diagnosed by a doctor in order to receive some of the needed professional services. Others are identified by “Child Find” (free through your school district), and, if qualified, will then receive free services, usually in a pre-school setting.
Through diagnoses or discovery, treatment and/or training becomes available to address a child’s specific needs. These may include services in speech and language, coordination, cognitive delays, sensory issues and some attention and behavior issues. For conditions such as ADHD medication is not, and in most cases should never be, the first line of defense. Parental and teacher understanding of the issues, diet, proper sleep, and routines are usually put in place and given time to work prior to any medication.
It has been proven over and over that early intervention can improve the trajectory of a child’s life. In many cases, early intervention eliminates the need for services by kindergarten. In others, it has reduced the amount of services needed or made the difference between a special classroom and a regular classroom. If you have fears regarding your child’s development or behavior address them now. Get to the root cause and advocate for all the help you need. Sooner really is better.
Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed.
P.S. Stressed about how to celebrate, or not celebrate, Halloween? Read this and relax: http://www.dearpreschoolparents.com/to-halloween-or-not/