Recognizing when a child needs extra help
By Amanda Nanan
As a parent, it can be very difficult to recognize when your child is not quite developing at the
same pace as other children of his or her age. As a teacher it can be pretty obvious at times,
but almost impossible to approach a parent to inform them of the observations you have
made. Meanwhile a child is growing and getting older and still not receiving the extra help
they may need. More and more children are “slipping through the cracks” every year as
parents and educators wait for the right time or opportunity to address these difficulties that
children are facing. I have been in this situation a few times already, as a parent, and as a
teacher. I know from experience it is not an easy topic to address but it is necessary for the
well-being of the child.
As I was teaching my pre-K class back in 2008, I had a fellow teacher approach me very
hesitantly and I could tell right away what she had to say was important and yet very difficult.
“Amanda, I’m not sure how to tell you this, but I think your son is a little different from the
other children in my class.” This is not something parents want to hear about their precious
two year old child. My son was acting very different from the other children though. He was
very “active”, he would run into walls, throw himself on the floor, and put everything in his
mouth. Many parents look at those things as normal “boy” behaviors, especially for a two year
old. Parents can go straight into denial at this point or they can accept it and take some time
to process it. It stunned me a little at first, but as I thought more about it, and let it sink in, I
started to notice strange behaviors too. It helped a little that I had an older child I could
compare him to. I know they say not to compare your children to each other, but you really
can’t help it. I could see how my daughter developed and could tell my son just wasn’t
developing the way she did. I was very young when I had my children and was always second
guessing myself but I did finally decide to seek out a behavioral therapist for my son.
After a few weeks working with the behavioral therapist she noticed the same behaviors that
both his teacher and I had noticed as well. She told me the next step would be an occupational
therapist. I was very persistent with my son and truly wanted to know what was wrong with
him and how I could “fix” it. After going through testing with the occupational therapist and
later on more testing with a psychiatrist I finally had all the answers I was looking for. I finally
knew what was wrong with my son and there really was no way to “fix” him. My son was
diagnosed with Sensory integration disorder, Pervasive developmental disorder, and also
Attention deficit hyperactive disorder. My son is on the Autistic Spectrum. Now that I had the
diagnosis and we had a treatment plan I finally felt my son was on his way to getting better.
It has been many years since I went through all of this with my son. I have come to the
realization that I will never be able to “fix” my son but it’s ok. He was made special and unique
and I love him just the way he is. I know that if I had not fought so hard for him, then he would
have been one those children that fall through the cracks in the education system. I fought to
get him the different types of therapy he needed and a psychiatrist, all of which I had to fight
to get my insurance to cover. I had to fight to get him an IEP (An IEP is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction.) when he got into elementary
school, and make sure accommodations were made to assist him. All of the fighting was truly worth it to see my son succeeding in school.
Everything I went through with my son was not easy but it has opened my eyes to see the
challenges children face every day. It has given me the confidence to approach my students’
parents and talk to them about things that I may see in the classroom that they may not even
be aware of. I have also shared my story about my son with a few parents hoping they will be
able to see what is going on with their own child more easily. By sharing my story with them I
want them to know they do not need to go through this journey alone, that there are other
parents who have gone through this already and can serve as a sounding board. Parents do
not need to feel ashamed, scared, or embarrassed if their child needs a little help. It does not
make you a bad parent if your child has a diagnosis. In fact I think it makes you an even better
parent because you are getting your child the extra help they need. Every child needs a parent
who loves them so much that they are willing to advocate for them and get them all the help
they need to succeed not only in school but also in life.
Author bio: Amanda Nanan is the Assistant Director at the Mattisyn School and has been working in Childcare for over ten years. She is a thirty one year old mother of five beautiful children. married, living in Loxahatchee Fl.