Dear Dr. Beasleys,
Our six year old son will be in the first grade this year. Previous school experiences have been disastrous. He has difficulties with his A-B-Cs, colors, learning his home address, and sometimes going to school was a battle of the wills. Physically, he is clumsy and we have to use a beach ball to play catch. His pediatrician says he is “slightly” delayed but his previous teachers say they don’t see anything wrong with him and that he will catch up when he is ready. Is there anything we should do?
Dr. Stewart: A child’s developmental history is an important predictor of future success or failure in many facets of life including school. Unfortunately, developmental history isn’t a straight and unwavering path; sometimes children vary slightly, or significantly, from the norm. You have noted some important concerns and it’s frustrating to get mixed messages when you question what is happening with your child.
Dr. Lori: Start with your child’s pediatrician. The doctor can explain to you the normal developmental milestones and how they apply in your child’s case. Most pediatricians and developmentalists believe more in developmental “indicators” rather than milestones since milestones sound as if they are fixed and absolute. You may also want to contact your county health department to make an appointment with a Child Development Specialist, who can
screen for developmental issues and advise you on how to work with your young child.
Dr. Stewart: Remember that each child learns differently. Your son may respond to more individual learning time with you and his father. Working with him on recognizing and naming colors can be a fun activity and there are many games you can improvise to teach him. Songs, memory games, and home searches for objects that are “green” or “start with the letter t” are examples.
Dr. Lori: Family domino games, card games like UNO or go fish, are creative ways to promote learning while also
having fun. Louise Bates Ames has a series of easy-to-read books for parents that describe development year by year. Your Six-Year-Old might interest you now! Another book is When Your Child is 6 to 12, by John M. Drescher.
Dr. Stewart: Even though you have discussed your concerns with your son’s teachers and they prefer a “wait and see” approach, you have the right to petition the public school he attends and ask for an in-depth evaluation by a school psychologist or school psychometrist. However, it can take weeks or months to get the evaluation. Another option is to get him evaluated by a private clinician or agency such as a licensed psychologist, licensed psychometrist, or a teaching/training agency such as the Child Study Center in the Department of Pediatrics at the OU College of Medicine, or the Special School Services unit in the Department of Psychology at the University of Central Oklahoma. Because the latter are training institutions, they often charge less for their full evaluations.
Dr. Lori: Federal laws can be invoked to govern how public institutions address learning issues in children. Federal law guarantees special adjustments and concessions be made to facilitate a developmentally delayed child’s learning. An individual education plan (IEP) addressing any and all delays can be tailored to each of the child’s needs. A team approach is used to create a plan integral members of the team.
Dr. Stewart: We hope you find these comments helpful. As you know, parents are the major advocates for their children and we encourage you to continue your quest for answers to your questions.
Lori Beasley, EdD is Asst. Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of Family Life Education at the University of Central Oklahoma. Stewart R. Beasley, PhD is a licensed psychologist who practices in Edmond and Oklahoma City and is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
Do you have a question about early childhood issues for the Beasleys? E-mail it to SRB@DRStewartBeasley.com.