When Rachel Frishberg’s family moved from New York to Palm Beach County, Frishberg’s nagging concerns about her daughter’s reading skills were confirmed. That’s when her daughter’s second-grade teacher told Frishberg that Erica’s struggles could be caused by dyslexia.
“She now has the tools to sound out longer words, but it’s hard,” Frishberg says.
Frishberg and other local parents have since formed the Dyslexia Learning and Support Group to help others get the guidance they’re looking for. But as in Frishberg’s situation, how do parents know whether their child might have a learning disability or developmental delay, since all children develop at their own pace?
First, it helps to know what your child should be doing at each stage of life.
Ages & Stages: 5-8
For example, by age 5, children can copy patterns, print some letters, cut with safety scissors, recall parts of a story, want to please their friends, and sing and dance around.
By ages 6 through 8, children’s vocabulary can increase to about 2,000 words or more, according to About Kids Health website. They’ll learn their left and right, begin to reason (and argue) using words like “why” and “because.” They’ll develop a longer attention span, understand fractions and the concept of space, understand money and learn how to tell time. They can also enjoy reading books on their own.
If you notice your child isn’t doing things other children his or her age are doing, trust your judgement and alert your child’s doctor as soon as possible.
You can also take action on your own. Observe your child. If you notice over time that you’re child is consistently not keeping up with their friends, you can reach out for help in the community.
“People often think it’s bad behavior or bad parenting,” says Sharon Alexander of Unicorn Children’s Foundation in Boca Raton. “There are programs for children from birth, with no costs to the family. I’m always telling families to err on the side of caution.”
If there is a delay, early intervention can often help a child catch up to his or her peers.
Local organizations can help
For example, you can call the free 211 HelpLine and ask for Help Me Grow or the Special Needs Hotline. The 211 specialist will ask you questions and usually can find you help within 24 hours. The 211 specialist also will call you back in a few weeks to check on you.
“We don’t just give them a phone number and say, ‘Have a nice life,’ ” says Randee Gabriel, children and family services manager of 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. “We call them up. One of the main reasons parents don’t come to an appointment is that they don’t know why it’s important. They may be thinking, ‘I make $7.50 an hour and if I miss five hours of work, I don’t get to buy groceries this week.’ So we tell them why it’s important to go. They know they have a support person.”
Families often have several problems to solve, in fact. The 211 specialists start by helping them keep a roof over their heads, find food pantries and secure help paying the electric bill, if needed. They also ask every caller if they have young children and if they are having any problems at school or home.
“I say to them, we’re free, we’re confidential, and there may be resources out there that we can help them tap into,” says Jennifer Harris, a special needs advocate for 211.
The Palm Beach County School District also offers help for children. Start with your child’s teacher and your school’s guidance counselor. If you need additional information or still have concerns, you can reach out to the district’s Exceptional Student Education department.
Whatever your concern as a parent, don’t panic. Palm Beach County has resources that can help.SOURCES:
- Mary Ellen Quinn-Lunny, director, Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities
- Randee Gabriel, Children and Family Services manager, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast
- Jennifer Harris, special needs advocate, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast
- Rachel Frishberg, parent, Dyslexia Learning and Support Group
- Kevin McCormick, director of Exceptional Student Education, School District of Palm Beach County
- Sharon Alexander, executive director, Unicorn Children’s Foundation
- About Kids Health