Several times per week, I go over results of my evaluations of children with learning and/or behavior challenges. Many of these parents come in originally because of frustration at their efforts to change their child. The majority have used “discipline” to try to force their child to comply or succeed. They voice frustration about the child being disrespectful, lazy, or a liar. The ages range from 2 to 20 years.
As I go over the temperament profile, to describe how their child is wired to react or respond to their environment, they begin to feel ashamed or embarrassed at how they have treated their child. Over 90% of the children I evaluate have temperament profiles that have little natural ability to adapt to different environments. This leads to anxiousness, confusion, and frustration on their part. In return they receive the negative responses of their parents and teachers, seeing everything from the view of intentional noncompliance to show disrespect, not a response out of fear or confusion. The discipline escalates as the child is not able to modify his response.
After going over the temperament profile, I then go over the results of language, visual motor and visual spatial, and if appropriate educational testing. Just about every one of these children are barely average or definitely below average to significantly below average in one or more areas. If there are delays in sensory processing, such as auditory, visual, touch/pressure/ position sense, the child struggles to function in his environment. Words may not make sense. He may not be able to process sequences of information. He may struggle with movement in space and manipulation of objects in his hands.
By the time I am done explaining who their child is, almost all of the parents say “If I had only known I wouldn’t have responded or treated him that way.” Only rarely do I get a parent who says “But he has to learn to do it the right way.” These are the children I worry about the most, since their parents can’t distinguish between disability and disrespect. The other families may need a lot of work to learn how to respond differently and how to advocate for the needs of their children, but they will do it. They now understand.
This is why I speak around the country to parents and professionals. I want to help them all learn to look more closely at a child who they feel is a challenge. I want them to ask “why” is this child finding it hard to stay within the boundaries, to socially fit in, to learn the way I feel they are capable of. I want them to begin to develop positive plans of support and intervention that will lead the child to feelings of competence.