Friday, September 14, 2012


Dear Mr. Morton- my son, age 8, is repeating second grade due to learning problems. The school evaluation team recommended a thorough medical evaluation to rule out possible physical causes. What should I ask the doctor to look for?- Concerned Mother

Dear Concerned Mother- Before making an appointment with your physician, send the complete school evaluation team report to him or her, including the psychological and speech/language pathologist reports, teacher observations, etc. at least several days before the appointment. This will help the physician identify, via proper screening methods, any suspected physical problems which may be interfering with your son’s learning process.
(above photo- Dr. Ortiz with a young client at Northeast Valley Health Corporation)
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Your son can be given a thorough evaluation if you suspect a high fever, lead poisoning, etc., may have had a negative impact on his development. I encourage parents to gain knowledge of unseen childhood traumas.
Children with learning problems often squeak past routine physical exams with no explanations for their inability to keep up with the pace and demands of the regular classroom environment. Hopefully, your physician can determine if any hearing or vision defects exist, inspect for hard or soft neurological signs, or judge if a neuro-motor delay for development has occurred. Your self-report and the school’s evaluation team report will supply him with information on the history of pertinent diseases, injuries and traumas. He may recommend additional diagnoses with an
EEG (for example) or make a referral to other specialists.
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Through the years, I’ve witnessed thorough physical exams uncover inconspicuous causes of learning difficulties in children- a smart, young boy who lagged behind in reading because of seasonally-congested sinuses which hampered his ability to benefit from phonics instruction; a talkative and seemingly bright kindergarten girl who couldn’t learn the alphabet letters was diagnosed with a rare chromosomal abnormality usually allied with mild mental retardation; an adopted boy who was academically slow because of earlier nutritional deficiencies; a child who couldn’t stay alert because of irritating dental problems; etc.

Especially for learning disabled kids, we need to know their physical health is in the best condition possible, a necessity for effective learning to take place. A brightening new future in the diagnosis of learning disabilities has arrived with a focus on the
neuropsychological assessment of patients with learning disabilities and/or ADHD. In fact, the neuropsychological assessment of learning disabilities and ADHD has exploded in the last two decades, thanks in part to the numerous students seeking accommodations in college and for standardized exams such as the SAT.

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More and more clinical neuropsychologists are participating in the diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities. There are still diagnostic and treatment controversies to the proper diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD children. There should be a more agreed upon and uniform set of diagnostic criteria in both adults versus children. Also, more research is needed for prescription and accomodations, report writing, and practical, hands-on, interventions.

For those of you who are, indeed, suffering from ADHD and related learning problems, it helps to read about individuals who have fought the battle and won. Many of you have become champions! The millions of people who deal with adults and children who have difficulty in learning to read, to write, and to copy from a book know the pain involved in coping with ADHD and learning disorders.

Robert Morton, M.E., Ed.S, has retired from his positions of school psychologist for Fremont City Schools and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership and Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University, in Ohio. Ten percent of advertising revenue from this site is donated to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Contact him on the secure Bpath Mail Form.