Public school teachers and many private and preschool teachers are forbidden from coming right out and telling a parent that they think a child may have a medical or developmental delay or disorder. Even those with a teaching credential and advanced degrees are technically not “qualified” to dole out medical advice pertaining to a child, even though, after working with hundreds of children, she may easily spot a medical or developmental condition impacting a child’s academic performance. As parents, it’s tough to come to terms with our children being anything less than perfect, but the not-so-secret language a teacher uses can be a key to what may be holding a child back. When a teacher provides a long list of unflattering observations of a student, she is likely not doing this to be hurtful, but to provide a list of symptoms she is seeing that may all add up to a specific diagnosis that she simply cannot come right out and say. If the teacher has gone to the trouble to type out these concerns, she hasn’t done it just to be nice; she wants you to do something with the information out of concern for your child. Take anything written by your child’s teacher or anecdotal notes taken during conversations with the teacher to your child’s pediatrician and discuss if perhaps the teacher is hinting at a larger problem.
Don’t be afraid to probe deeper and ask the teacher questions. If you have your own suspicions about your child’s academic, social or medical issues and think the teacher may be able to provide insight, be direct with your concerns and let her know that you consider her part of the child’s care team and value her opinion and years of experience. Some teachers may be willing to bend the rules and tell you their real opinion or be able to provide valuable advice on how to go forward getting the child help.
When a teacher says a child is having trouble seeing in class, a trip to the local optometrist may not be enough. Vision problems can be very difficult to detect in young children, and if the problem persists a pediatric ophthalmologist many be what it takes to unlock a child’s vision problems, even when you may have already been told his vision is just fine.
If a teacher asks you to come observe your child in the classroom, she has something she really wants you to see. This is not a request teacher takes lightly, and she likely wants you to see first-hand how your child compares academically or socially with his peers. If you do observe your child in class, request a follow-up meeting with the teacher to discuss what you observed, so that you can make a plan moving forward.