My 6-year-old daughter hates school and always has. She is by far my “quirkiest” kid. For all of preschool, her teacher and I felt she was messing with us by not showing us what she knew. She couldn’t always recall her letters. It took her forever to count. She was terrible at letter sounds. We figured out at the beginning of kindergarten that she has a significant eyesight issue. We were all hopeful school stuff would click after correction of her eyes, and we’ve seen major improvements. But, a year later and something is still off.

She scores terribly on standardized tests, she’s behind in reading, she throws tantrums at home over homework, and she constantly writes number and letters backward. We’ve asked multiple educators if she could be dyslexic and they tell us no, that she’d be father behind if she was. I feel that like her big sisters, she likely has a high IQ and, therefore, she’s savvy enough to compensate. She’s constantly frustrated with herself. She seems mad she can’t do what her brain thinks she is able to. I just want to help her, but the resources seem hard to find. Can you possibly help us know where to turn for help? I just want my daughter to learn, grow, and be confident! I hate watching her struggle. My mom gut believes I’m right and no one has taken me seriously.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I am sorry that your daughter is struggling in school. Unfortunately, I hear this story too often from parents of children who were fun, inquisitive, engaging preschoolers, and then that behavior changes when they hit formal schooling. Often, that change is due to a reading disorder, many times, dyslexia. Your daughter needs a good comprehensive assessment of her spoken and written language skills. Spoken language undergirds learning to read, spell, and write. And, she needs it sooner than later.

It is also not unusual to see changes in behavior due to the frustration at not being successful in school. If she is dyslexic, this is what intervention entails.

You will want her evaluated by someone who has experience assessing a 6-year-old. It is very important that we look beyond test scores, with all kids, but especially with the younger ones who have not yet had much formal schooling. Many people still believe that we do not diagnose a learning disability until after a student has had formal reading instruction. We can identify those children who are at risk as early as 4 years of age - family history is a key ‘red flag.’ And, early intervention is backward -- not only in teaching the necessary skills, but also to mitigate the frustration and preserve self-esteem.

Last, it has been my experience that parents know when something is up with their child, even when the "professional" says to "wait." Here is a piece I wrote that might ring true for you.

I hope this helps steer you in the right direction. The bottom line is that a good comprehensive assessment of her spoken and written language skills is the first step.