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A newly released report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages pediatricians to work with families whose children are having difficulties at school. Doctors should take academic struggles just as seriously as any mental or physical health problem, the academy says.
There are many reasons your child might be struggling academically. These include:
- Learning difficulties such as dyslexia
- Hearing or vision problems
- Emotional troubles such as anxiety or depression
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Stress at home, or strained relationships with parents or teachers
- Physical illness
- Attention problems
It's common for kids to have trouble at school. According to one of the report's lead authors, Dr. Arthur Lavin, 1 in every 6 American kids is struggling severely with academics. These difficulties can make kids feel bad about themselves, act up at school or at home, or become socially withdrawn. Some parents might mistakenly think that their child is being lazy or willfully badly behaved, not realizing there's an underlying cause such as a learning disability.
Your child's pediatrician should be able to help identify what's holding your child back, figure out what interventions are needed, and assist your family in communicating your child's needs to the school. Schools are required by law to offer learning supports for children with academic, developmental, and emotional difficulties. Ideally, your pediatrician should be able to help make sure your child is getting the right support.
It's not always easy to figure out what's wrong, and some children may have multiple problems. Your doctor may need to spend time talking with you in detail about your child's behavior and routines, going over your family's history and circumstances, looking at past medical records, and screening for possible developmental delays and mental health issues.
The doctor might also refer your child for further screening or to a specialist, such as a child psychologist, speech or occupational therapist, developmental-behavioral pediatrician, or child psychiatrist.
Once you have a diagnosis and treatment plan, the AAP says doctors can assist in making sure your child gets the appropriate help at school or in the community, and that the help he's getting is working.
Speaking to the New York Times, Dr. Lavin recommended the following if your child is struggling: "Make an appointment, sit down with your pediatrician, say, ‘I need your help, I hear from the A.A.P. that you’re the person I should ask for help on this.’”
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