Teachers and teaching assistants are in a position where they may observe the children and young people in their care. It is important that all teaching staff are trained to recognise and respond to concerns that a pupil is not following the expected pattern of development. If a concern is not responded to correctly, or ignored completely, this could have a detrimental effect on the child or young person’s future development. Furthermore, if a child is not following the expected pattern of development, this could be evidence of a hidden problem; for example learning difficulties, mental health problems or even abuse. It could also affect their learning. Each of the different developmental areas is linked, subsisting semi-dependently upon one another.
One example that should be recognised and responded to is dyslexia. This is a cognitive disability that affects the sufferer’s ability to read and comprehend texts fluently. Warning signs a teacher or teaching assistant may pick up on include delays in speech, letter reversal or mirror writing, difficulty knowing left and right directions, and being easily distracted by background noise. If these warning signs occur, concerns should rise and be responded to correctly. If not, other areas of the child’s development may be affected, such as delay in learning, increased frustration leading to behavioural problems, and problems involving communication.
Another example that should be responded to if concerns arise is a communication disorder, such as a speech impediment: for example a stutter. A child or young person with a stutter can often be subjected to bullying, affecting their emotional wellbeing. If concerns are responded to at a young age, speech therapy can be organised for the child and the stutter may improve or disappear completely with effective treatment.
Emotional wellbeing is a common area of concern in teenagers and young adults, and problems in this area can have a serious effect on a young person’s learning. Young people, especially those going through their GCSE’s and A-Levels, often feel under extreme pressure to perform well in their exams and coursework. This causes high levels of stress which can lead to depression. If a young person exhibits the warning signs of depression – for example withdrawal; noticeable changes in school performance and mood; unwillingness to participate; truancy; self harm etc. – concerns should be responded to immediately. Unless help is offered to the young person, minor depression can quickly develop into major depression and related disorders, such as anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder. Depression can also be an indicator to other problem areas (e.g. those stated above, or in some cases a sign of bullying or abuse in the school or home environment).
Concerns teachers may have often develop into nothing of serious concern. However, some cases can be of a serious nature, and unless all concerns are responded to effectively, ignored minor problems can develop into something much more serious if not dealt with at an early stage. For this reason, it is of high importance to recognise and respond to concerns about children and young people’s development quickly and efficiently.