When and Where to Get Help

By Chyrl Mullins, MAT Sp.Ed.1

“My four year old is reading beginning readers, but she is not able to put her socks on her feet, cut with scissors, or work puzzles. Should I be concerned?”

“My seven year old still does not correctly identify sounds of different letters. Should I be concerned?”

“My eight year old still does not correctly make the /r/ and /l/ sounds. Where do I go for help?”

“My son is never still—is his constant motion just part of being a boy?”

“My daughter can’t remember information; each day it is like she is seeing the material for the first time.”

As a homeschool mom of two kids with special needs, I wrestled with these questions. Now, as a special needs teacher and an educational consultant, these are the types of questions I frequently receive. When and where can parents get help?

Developmental Concerns

Well-baby checkups and using a developmental checklist help a parent know what to expect and whether their child is reaching developmental milestones. The Mid-State Early Childhood Direction Center has published Developmental Checklists Birth to Five a good tool to use to monitor development.

If your child is exhibiting “Developmental Red Flags,” you should consult your pediatrician or a developmental pediatrician soon. If you are working where you do not have access to this kind of help, put it in your plan for home leave. The sooner you get a diagnosis and treatment, the more likely your child will be able to overcome the problems.

If your child has not reached some of the developmental milestones, try to provide them with opportunity to explore those areas. The PBS Parents Learn and Grow is a treasure chest of valuable information for parents of children up through the age of 8. Besides giving valuable developmental information, there are multiple opportunities for developmentally appropriate activities, books, and PBS Kids videos.

Language Development

Talking Child is a great website to check out if you are concerned about your child’s language development. Talking Child offers products for speech development and helpful charts to determine if your child’s speech development is falling within the normal range. If your child is not within the range on the speech chart or is not able to be understood by age 3 or 4, please contact a licensed speech pathologist soon. The earlier problems can be identified and treated the more likely that the problem can be overcome.

If your child is multilingual, I highly recommend Raising a Bilingual Child by Barbara Zurer Pearson, which is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Struggling Readers

If your preschooler struggles with mispronouncing words like “psgetti” instead of “spaghetti,” has trouble calling things by the right name, or struggles with rhymes and can’t seem to follow directions, you need to pay attention. If there is a history of family members or older siblings who have exhibited reading problems, there is a greater risk for reading difficulties for other children of the family. Children whose home language is not primarily English are likely to struggle with reading English, particularly if the English reading instruction begins before they are proficient in spoken English. If your child is struggling with reading, you need to get help. You can contact your educational consultant for your OU or Area.

Try to determine if they are receiving adequate instruction. Do they have an environment that encourages literacy? Reading Rockets.org is a treasure chest of valuable information for parents, teachers, and students. For a quick overview there is a “Target the Problem!” activity, which provides quick definitions of the different areas of reading. Below the Target the Problem! activity are in-depth links that provide information on what the difficulty may look like from the perspectives of the child, the parent, and the teacher. There is a very useful handout version in the form of a chart that can be downloaded and printed out. After you have “targeted the problem,” and have determined that there is a problem, get testing from a diagnostician or licensed school psychologist.

  1. Chyrl Mullins has a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Before earning that, she homeschooled both of her children who happened to have multiple learning disabilities, ADHD, and high-functioning autism.