It is easy to place a label on something based simply on what we see. A four-year-old boy who is rambunctious and disruptive in class might be called a “troublemaker.” A child who has issues reading what her teacher wrote on the board, she is a “slow learner.” Endless energy and unable to sit still, we call him “hyperactive,” or even worse, “ADHD.”
But what if we take a closer look at these kids? What if the “troublemaker” actually has trouble hearing in class and does not know he’s interrupting? What if the “slow learner” can’t see the board clearly? Hyperactivity is sometimes a result of poor sleep; what if the student has undiagnosed sleep apnea? These are the types of questions we want to ask – and help to answer – before anyone gets labelled, misdiagnosed, or worse.
It can be simpler to label a child as difficult instead of investigating whether there is a medical condition contributing to their behavior. As a teacher, you have the unique ability to monitor a child’s development in relation to their peers. If you are vigilant, you may be the first to recognize a child who is functioning above or below their age group and be able to offer services to support the child.
It can be difficult to have a conversation with parents about potential red flags in their child’s development. When a teacher can establish a caring relationship, parents are more likely to trust and listen to concerns that arise. Regular check-ins about their child’s development can help parents not be so alarmed when something is amiss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides free milestone checklists by age that can be used to track a child’s development.
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