If your child is struggling, it can be hard to know if those struggles are common or typical, or if they might be the signs of a learning or thinking difference. Learning and thinking differences, like ADHD or dyslexia, affect 1 in 5 Americans, though misinformation, stigma, lack of awareness and other barriers such as cost, can stand in the way of children getting the support they need.
This is why Understood, a lifelong guide for those who learn and think differently, developed Take N.O.T.E.: a web-based interactive experience to help parents identify the signs of learning and thinking differences in children and use that understanding to take the necessary next steps to better support them. If your child is struggling, here’s how to Take N.O.T.E. and take control.
First Off, What Does N.O.T.E. Stand For?
And how can it help your child?
Notice if there’s something going on with your child that’s out of the ordinary.
Do you have questions about something you’re seeing in your child? Maybe you wonder if it’s typical or why it’s happening. Noticing behavior is the first step to getting answers. Maybe your child is acting out or struggling with certain tasks, or you notice signs like messy backpacks or difficulties with homework or test-taking. Find a few words that explain what’s worrying you. And remember to trust your instincts, as no one knows your child better than you do. So listen to the voice inside you that’s asking, “Why does my child…?”
Here are some key phrases that may help you better explain the changes you’re noticing in your child.
Observe and keep track of patterns.
Observing the behavior you’ve noticed can help you pick up on patterns. Pay close attention while it’s happening and jot down what you see. The key steps of observing include: 1. focusing on the behavior you’ve named, but being aware of anything else going on; 2. taking notes about what happens, when it happens and where it happens; and 3. only taking notes about what you see and hear. Don’t try to guess why it’s happening. You don’t need to make sense of it yet — just keep track of it for two weeks.
Need some help tracking? Try this free observation tracker from Understood.
Talk with other people who can help support your child, like pediatricians, teachers and other caregivers.
Once you have a better idea of your child’s challenges, it’s time to turn to people who can support you, like pediatricians and teachers. For pediatricians, give detailed examples of what you’ve observed — patterns you’ve noticed and how things are going at school. That gives the doctor a fuller picture of what’s happening. For teachers, describe your child’s behavior in detail and ask what the teacher is seeing. Say you’d like help in understanding your child’s behavior. Having conversations about challenges your child is facing can be understandably tough for any parent but it’s important to be an advocate for your kid –– having open conversations with professionals and other people who care about them is part of that.
If you need some tips on how to start these conversations, here’s a more in-depth guide from Understood.
Engage your child to get information and explore options for what to do next.
Now that you know more, try to engage your child in conversation. It can be hard to talk about challenges. But it’s also a relief for many kids and helps them build self-awareness. Find a good time and place to have this conversation when your child is emotionally ready, and make sure they feel comfortable and know they haven’t done anything wrong. Call out their strengths before you get to your concerns, then be sure to allow your child plenty of space and time to open up to you. It may also help to provide them with different options for sharing their thoughts, like writing or drawing. Be sure to thank your child for sharing and make it clear that you’re always there to listen.
Here are some scripts you can follow to help you start this conversation with your kid.
By using Take N.O.T.E. with your child, you are taking control of the future. It’s designed to empower you to gather the information you need and seek support from pediatricians, teachers and caregivers to help your child thrive.
Figuring out what’s going on can feel overwhelming. It’s true the world isn’t always perfectly designed for those who learn and think differently, but the right resources and support can open up opportunities to thrive.
In the past year, Understood has helped more than 20 million people discover their potential, find community and stay on a positive path along each stage of life’s journey. Developed in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, Take N.O.T.E. lives on Understood.org, along with a toolbox of tips and practical advice to help you and your child take control of the future.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.