With many families spending more time together during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and caregivers might notice things about their children’s behavior that they don’t fully understand. Some of these things could be signs of learning differences.
A survey by Understood, an organization dedicated to empowering individuals with learning and thinking differences, found parents are more aware of children’s learning challenges but unlikely to seek help. Conducted in July and August, the survey included more than 2,000 parents of 5- to 17-year-olds. Around 69% of parents reported becoming more aware of the challenges their child faces in school than before the pandemic. More than a third (37%) reported noticing changes in their child’s behavior. However, fewer than 1 in 3 parents who noticed behavioral changes in their kids sought guidance from a health care provider.
This month, the organization, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, launched a free digital tool to help families spot early signs of learning differences and ADHD. This initiative centers on the memory device “Take N.O.T.E.”
- Notice if anything is out of the ordinary.
- Observe behaviors to determine patterns.
- Talk to a teacher, social worker or caregiver to validate.
- Engage with trusted resources, such as pediatricians.
The initiative — at u.org/takenote — includes free, digital-first resources in English and Spanish for families to use when they notice their child struggling with behavior changes or are concerned about developmental delays.
Learning and thinking differences are variations in how the brain processes information and can affect reading, writing, math, focus and following directions. Common examples include dyslexia and ADHD. Signs of learning and thinking differences are often overlooked or misinterpreted by families. Lack of awareness, misinformation, stigma and other barriers such as cost can stand in the way of children getting the support they need. The survey also found that 57% of parents of children diagnosed with a learning and thinking difference report that it took a long time for their child to be diagnosed. And among these same parents, 62% wish they’d had a tool or resource to help them track changes in their child’s behavior before the diagnosis.
“The signs of learning and thinking differences aren’t always clear, and not knowing what they mean or how to help can feel stressful and overwhelming,” says Fred Poses, president and CEO of Understood. “With children returning to an uncertain school environment, families need a tool to help notice whether their children are struggling. By providing free, easy-to-use resources, our goal with Take N.O.T.E. is to help caregivers take control, spot the signs, and engage with trusted experts to get the guidance they need.”
“With the increased use of virtual learning this year in many school districts, pediatricians may see more questions from parents because children and teens are not physically in school. For parents who are concerned their child may be struggling, the Take N.O.T.E. campaign offers a helpful guide to getting help,” says AAP President Sally Goza, MD, FAAP. “We want parents to know that pediatricians are ready to help, and can be a resource when a child is not making expected progress in school.”
Families can go to u.org/takenote to learn about developmental milestones, learning and thinking differences, common signs, and what to look for while observing their child.