5 steps to work with your pediatrician when your child is struggling

You’ve seen signs that your child is struggling with reading, writing, math, or behavior, and have picked up on patterns. But you’re not sure what’s going on. One good resource is your child’s pediatrician or another health professional who works with kids.

Parents and caregivers don’t always reach out to doctors about learning or behavior challenges. There are many reasons for that.

They might not realize their pediatrician can help with a problem that doesn’t seem medical. Or they may not feel comfortable talking about their child’s challenges. Some parents hold back because they’re not sure if what they’re seeing is even a problem.

But that’s exactly why it’s important to reach out. Pediatricians and other health professionals can help you make sense of your child’s behaviors and struggles and recommend next steps.

Here are five steps for engaging with your child’s pediatrician on the signs and behaviors you’re seeing.

1. Reach out early.

If you don’t know what your child’s signs and patterns mean, you might wonder if they’re “serious enough” to bring up. Pediatricians are experts in child development and know what’s typical for kids your child’s age. So, call your pediatrician right away — don’t wait until your regular visit to bring it up. The sooner you start getting answers, the sooner you’ll know how to help your child.

2. Find a way to connect that works for both of you.

Pediatrician offices can work with families and caregivers to find the best way to connect. Many pediatricians connect with families in person, by phone, and through video.

3. Be ready to talk about what’s happening at school or childcare.

Your pediatrician will want to know what’s happening with your child in school or childcare, as well as at home. If you haven’t already talked with your child’s teacher about your concerns, see if you can do that first. Gather any schoolwork, tests, notes from teachers on their observations, or report cards that might give the doctor a better sense of what your child is struggling with.

4. Give details and examples of what you’re seeing.

When you talk to any professional about your observations, it’s important to be specific. What do your child’s outbursts look like? What part of homework is hardest? Share examples of what you’re seeing. These might include notes you’ve taken, notes from teachers, or samples of homework. Also pass along any insights you’ve gotten from talking to other people who spend time with your child.

If you’ve picked up on patterns, explain what they are. If you used the tracker and pattern finder, you can share a copy. These all provide valuable clues as to what’s happening and how to help.

5. Ask if there are other professionals you might need to speak with.

Your child’s doctor or other health professional can be a valuable partner in getting answers. But that may mean referring you to other professionals who work with kids, either in school or outside of school. The goal is to get your child the best help from the right people.

Reviewed by

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.


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