More parents concerned about learning disabilities in their children

Expert says anxiety, depression could be to blame

Parents are noticing more than ever how their children struggle through school work.

ROYAL OAK, Mich.Learning at home has been hard.

Parents, who are now more deeply involved in their child’s learning, are increasingly raising concerns about their child’s inability to pay attention or complete tasks. Many are particularly concerned about attention disorders like ADHD.

But the underlying reason may not be what it appears, cautioned Lea Ann Raymo, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist at Beaumont Children’s Center For Human Development.

“I do encourage parents to remember this -- this is not necessarily what your child is like in the classroom. It’s so much more difficult to gauge a student’s level of engagement when instruction happens virtually,” said Raymo.

She stresses, if there were not any concerns about your child’s attention or learning before the pandemic, other factors are likely to blame.

“I think some parents are maybe surprised at some of the skills that their students haven’t mastered yet. There’s a difference though between students who have a true learning disability and students who are performing poorly right now, really performing poorly anytime, due to these other what we call noncognitive factors. So instructional factors, environment, social emotional factors,” said Raymo.

One simple but often overlooked explanation is lack of exercise.

“I think we cannot underestimate the impact of this almost immediate reduction of physical activity that our kids have had,” said Raymo. “We see significant increases in restlessness, hyperactivity. It also disrupts their sleep pattern and then we know that the disrupted sleep pattern causes them to be inattentive.”

The pandemic has also left many children and teenagers struggling with their mental health.

“I’m seeing a lot of kids with depression, anxiety who are not showing those classic outward symptoms and whose parents didn’t realize how much they were struggling. We know that anxiety and depression can cause significant impairment on focus and concentration,” said Raymo.

“The major red flags, you know, if we see any significant changes in behavior. Obviously if your child was talking about suicide or self harm. If they appear to have lost interest in activities that they always enjoyed, and even if you see significant changes in sleep or appetite, that that’s a red flag too,” said Raymo.

If you have any concerns about mental health or learning disabilities, talk to your child’s pediatrician. They can help determine the next best step to find out what’s really going on.