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Get a Doctor's Opinion if You Suspect Learning Disabilities

Ask the Experts by Lori J. Warner, Ph.D.

Q: Our 21-month-old daughter does not respond to her name and when we tell her "no," she doesn't stop what she is doing. Is it OK to take a "wait and see" approach or should we be concerned?

A: Parents often worry about behaviors that are part of typical development, but some behaviors are "red flags," indicating the need for a closer look. Always share your concerns with your child's doctor.  For more information about what milestones to watch for as your child grows, visit http://www.cdc.gov/actearly or the American Academy of Pediatrics at http://www.aap.org/.

Q: Our 6-year-old son's behavior has become unmanageable. He bites and hits us and his sister; he is defiant; and yesterday he hit another child in his kindergarten class. What can we do?

A. Often, behavior changes are the result of learning or developmental struggles that overwhelm a child's ability to cope. The way we respond to undesirable behavior also affects how likely it is to be repeated. A behavior analyst or child psychologist can help families and teachers get to the "why" of problematic behavior and develop effective strategies to decrease these issues.

Q: How can I tell if my child has an autism spectrum disorder?

A. Experts look for three core areas of impairment: delayed communication; impaired social interactions; and restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior. Children with autism have trouble communicating, playing appropriately and engaging with other people. For an excellent "video glossary" see http://www.autismspeaks.org.

Q: Our daughter is really struggling with reading, and writes a lot of her letters and numbers backwards. Could she have a learning disability?

A. It is possible that your daughter has a learning disability, such as dyslexia, although specialized testing is needed to determine this disorder. Dyslexia affects the ability to interpret language. It is not a vision problem, although it affects one's ability to recognize written words or separate sounds that make up words. It often leads to challenges in writing numbers and letters and in rhyming tasks. Dyslexia does not affect overall intelligence and individuals with dyslexia may even have higher-than-average intelligence. 

The John A. and Marlene L. Boll Center for Human Development, opening soon at the new Neighborhood Club Recreation and Wellness Center in Grosse Pointe, will offer diagnostic and therapeutic services for a wide range of childhood topics such as learning or developmental concerns; toileting or feeding issues; social skills training; and general behavior management. The Boll Center for Human Development will also provide access to other pediatric specialists such as speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.

Lori Warner, Ph.D., director, Center for Human Development, Beaumont Children's Hospital, is a licensed psychologist. Dr. Warner can be reached at 248-691-4774. Visit Beaumont Children's Hospital website at http://www.beaumont.edu/hope. The Center for Human Development is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals. Dr. Warner serves on the Advisory Council of The Family Center.  

Photo caption: Diane Latimer, early child educator, Beaumont Children's Hospital, Center for Human Development, works with Erin Kiernan Gilson, 11, from Berkley. 

Enriched Communities Through Strong Families
The Family Center serves as the community's hub for information, resources and referral for both families and professionals. The Family Center is a non-profit organization founded to promote a deeper understanding of the role of parents and others in supporting our youth to become competent, caring and responsible community members.

All gifts are tax-deductible.
To volunteer or contribute, visit www.familycenterweb.org, call (313) 432.3832.
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or write to: The Family Center
20090 Morningside Drive, Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236.