Does Your Child Have a Behavioral Disorder or a Learning Disability?

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You’re embarrassed when your children’s teachers mention behavioral issues in the classroom. You want your kids to behave in class and think their lack of attention reflects poorly on you. While some behavioral problems result from a lack of parental discipline, that isn’t true in every case. If your children are struggling at school, consider having them tested for one of these conditions.

Does Your Child Have a Behavioral Disorder or a Learning Disability? 1

Sensory Processing Disorders

Children with sensory processing disorder have trouble reacting to stimuli acceptably. For example, a child cries from the sound’s pain rather than fear when a fire alarm goes off. Similarly, a child rejects touch, finding even parents’ affection repulsive. Other symptoms of sensory processing disorder include the following:

• Covering ears or eyes

• Displaying hyperactivity

• Refusing to eat

• Having a low pain tolerance

If your children display these symptoms, do not panic. Sensory processing disorder is treatable, but you must begin as soon as possible to avoid amplifying your children’s feelings of isolation. Have a specialist administer the Sensory Processing Measure, Second Edition, or the SPM-2, to assess whether your children’s responses fall outside the neurotypical range. Then, work with the specialist and your children’s teachers to find solutions. Remember, different children are averse to other senses, so do not expect to treat multiple causes of a sensory processing disorder similarly. Your priority must be advancing your child’s development and emotional well-being.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Some of the symptoms of sensory processing disorder also relate to autism spectrum disorder. ASD looks different in every person, but there are some common behaviors:

• Reluctance to make eye contact

• Unusual body positions

• Lower than average language skills

• Difficulty with social interactions

• Fixation on a few topics

• Trouble with behavior in school

As the name suggests, not every person with ASD displays all these symptoms, and sometimes people’s symptoms are so mild that they are never diagnosed. However, if you suspect your child has ASD, have him or her examined by a specialist as soon as possible. Once diagnosed, children receive access to learning aids that help them adjust to school life.

Dyslexia and Dysgraphia

Other times, children struggle to learn because of learning disabilities rather than behavioral issues. Dyslexia and dysgraphia are the most common learning disabilities and may occur simultaneously. A child who has dyslexia struggles to read because the sound of words and the shape of letters do not make sense together. Dysgraphia involves a disconnect between a child’s thoughts and handwriting. Some children with dysgraphia simply have poor handwriting, while others cannot write their thoughts. If your children are reluctant to read or write and have trouble at school in these areas, have a child psychologist test them for these learning disabilities.

Once you realize your child may have a learning or behavioral disorder, have him or her tested immediately? That way, you can help your child learn to succeed and feel safe regardless of the condition.

See more sensory processing and ASD assessments at WPS, a leading independent publisher of evaluations worldwide.

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