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Kids with Learning Disabilities

Getting Help from your Pediatrician


Updated July 26, 2003

Who do you turn to when your kids are struggling in school?

Your child's teacher, school counselor, or principle?

What about your Pediatrician?

While many people do look to their Pediatrician for help when their kids are having problems at school, I think that there is also the perception among many parents that if you ask your doctor about school problems, you are likely to be offered a prescription for Ritalin. But your Pediatrician should be able to offer much more than that and can be a good resource for your children that aren't doing well at school.

It is true that Pediatrician's usually don't do testing for learning disabilities or dyslexia, however, there are many other medical conditions that can affect your child's ability to learn, concentrate and succeed in school. This includes ADHD, but can also include depression, behavior problems, allergies, drug abuse, sleep disturbances (especially obstructive sleep apnea), lead poisoning, and hearing and vision problems. Your Pediatrician can help to screen your child for these disorders and direct additional testing or evaluations as needed.

Keep in mind that not all Pediatricians like to deal with or have experience evaluating kids with school problems. If your Pediatrician doesn't, you might ask for a referral to a child psychologist, etc. for more help.

You should also understand that not everyone has experience recognizing, diagnosing and treating kids with school performance problems, especially learning disabilities. In fact, learning disabilities are often called a 'hidden handicap'. If you are told something, especially that your child doesn't need any testing, and he continues to struggle in school, get a second opinion and more help.

Other things to consider:

  • Learning disabilities are common, affecting about 5% of school age children.
  • Many kids with ADHD also have learning disabilities, so if your child's ADHD are under control with treatment and he continues to struggle in school, you might consider asking if your child might also have a learning disability.
  • Learning disabilities can affect your child's ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention.

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