I am a pre-school teacher and in my school I have a four and a half year old girl who has problems. Her fine and large motor skills needs attention. She is not very agile in the outside area, and she's afraid to use the swings and fears to run faster and somersault. She tends to play on her own, and often gets upset about little things and lands up crying and sometimes literally 'howling'.

Indoors she finds it difficult to keep busy. Most of the time, she's working with the same activities. Her drawings have no form, but just scribbles and coloring's, and she cannot draw herself or something of a human form. Most of the time she needs help in the toilet, and she finds it difficult to put her socks and shoes on. Her speech also is not very clear, and we also wonder sometimes if she understands what is being discussed at circle time. She doesn't show much confidence.

I've tried to talk to her parents about these problems, but they refuse to believe she has a problem.

How can I help this child?

  • Isn't there some inschool way to discuss this?
    – Barfieldmv
    Nov 24, 2011 at 7:44
  • Is she a first or only child? That might explain why she's a bit behind. Maybe if you couched your arguments (and thoughts) in terms of "slow developer", rather than "learning disability", they'd be more palatable?
    – Benjol
    Nov 28, 2011 at 12:21
  • Slow developer is probably going to be equally offensive to most parents. Nov 2, 2012 at 0:56

6 Answers 6


It is always difficult when parents refuse to see what seems obvious to a teacher. I would suggest that you document specific examples of issues where the child is not meeting benchmarks for her age over time. Once you have a log of repeated examples, along with suggestions of activities the parents can engage in to help the child improve in those areas, I would request a meeting with the parents. Particularly at the age of 4, it is hard to determine if the issues is simply lack of exposure, developmental delay that will catch up over time or something that is a bigger issue. Every time you approach the parents, I would come armed with suggestions of what they can be doing to help their child. No parent wants to hear their child is not doing well, but most parents want to do anything they can do to help their child!


As a former teacher myself, I can understand and relate to your frustration, but you are not speaking as though you have put yourself as "in the parents shoes".

In order to hear you and your concerns they need to understand you are on the same team with them in trying to figure out what is best for their child.

You are more likely to get further faster in your next conversation if you:

  1. Try to speak about this with them in a private setting where the distraction of children running around is not present and there is no risk of other parents walking in. You may need the support of your administrator so she can step in and take over your class at pick up or insist on a meeting with all of you to the parents.

Once you do get your meeting, talk about some of this little girl's strengths first. It builds rapport. You need to find something you feel is awesome about this little girl that is fairly specific to speak about.

  1. Stop talking as though it is already decided that she has a disability. Despite all your experience and expertise you are not a health care professional and it is possible there are other explanations for these concerns. Besides, it is off-putting to parents if you say their child has a disability of any kind, particularly without scholarly evidence. Perhaps she has nothing more than a simple muscular delay. Perhaps there is something super stressful and distracting for her going on at home that you do not know about. . . There really is no knowing exactly what is up until more information can be gathered by an expert.

  2. Have a record of "concerns". Say you are concerned about her academic, socio-emotional, or physical well-being as she moves into school. Try to have a few four's learning objectives she has met but feel free to list ones she has not. Have your list typed out as a checklist and fill it out for all your students. Don't show the parents the forms for the other students but this way you can have numbers like: 90% of these learning objectives have been met by the other four year olds in this program this year. Your daughter has only met 65%.

  3. Clarify that you think it would HELP their daughter to see a professional about it because a professional might be able to offer extra supports for her, as well as helpful suggestions for them and yourself as well as any future teacher that can help her catch up and fit in better in Kindergarten and beyond.

If you come across as truly just concerned for their daughter, rather than annoyed about the difficulty posed by this situation, they might even open up and offer up some concerns of their own too.

At the end of your meeting, hand them cards for 2-3 professional people you know others would recommend from which they can choose make it clear they can also find their own professional, you are just trying to help by making things as easy as possible. The recommendations can be given as a couple of people you know of because of your connections as a teacher. Then, unfortunately, at this age especially, you'll probably have to let it go. Four is early for many Special Ed diagnoses (not all, but many) and the parents may still wait. If that happens, you can know that even if they do, you are alerting them to concerns now, which will make it easier for her K teacher when she has to confront them down the road.

Good Luck

  • This is a great answer.
    – MAA
    Oct 29, 2017 at 21:08

Bear in mind that some parents will never acknowledge their child has a disability or even a medical problem. It's possible you may be up against that type of parent.

I have a friend whose son is 30 years old. The first time I saw a photo of him,as an adult, I blurted out "does he have some kind of syndrome?" I work with many people with disabilities and it was blatantly obvious to me, from the way he looks. The parent was very surprised and told me the name of the syndrome. It's a known fact in that family that this child, in spite of having extremely intelligent parents, is at best a C student,and always struggled in school. (A learning disability is a hallmark of the syndrome.) I discovered later that the parents had NEVER taken this child for a diagnosis; a relative who was in the medical professional (but not a doctor) suggested the diagnosis. Even the doctors, when the child was born, knew there was something wrong (however, the condition was not defined by the medical profession until this child was about 10 years old, so there was no clear diagnosis at birth.)

Now, 30 years on, this poor guy is living in his divorced mother's basement. He has never worked, except for one small, menial job. And yet the family is still waiting for him to "man up". Social immaturity is also a hallmark of the syndrome, so it's unlikely he'll be able to "man up" soon. My heart breaks for this young man. He would have stood a much better chance if someone had acknowledged his disability and worked with him. But to this day, his father (the parent I know) completely refuses to entertain the idea that there is any problem other than what the father considers "laziness". I have tried to talk to him and gotten nowhere. It pains me terribly. What if his parents dropped dead tomorrow?

  • This is also true with some religions. I work at an all-girls religious school and we have MANY students who have obvious learning disabilities, but their parents refuse to have them tested. I have one student who I am 99% certain has dyslexia, but I can't prove it and her parents refuse to have her tested. I have some students who have been diagnosed with various learning disabilities, but whose parents refuse to treat them or receive any form of modifications for their child for religious reasons. Sometimes, as a teacher, you just have to accept it and move on.
    – Meg Coates
    Feb 26, 2013 at 15:06

I think it's just the parents being stubborn. Seeing as she is still in pre-school, they will probably keep putting it off until she is in kindergarten and the teacher says she is not keeping up when it comes time for conferences. As a teacher, you are not legally allowed to tell parents that their child has a learning disability because you have not had medical education, and I know that can be difficult.

My son got diagnosed with ADHD about 3 weeks ago and he is in first grade now. He went through kindergarten being behind, and because the teacher couldn't tell me to get him checked out for ADHD, I just thought he was not willing to learn.

Now that he is on medication he does want to learn and has jumped from a reading level at the bottom to a 5. In only 3 weeks.

I didn't have a problem accepting that Jordan has a problem, but because the teacher couldn't be specific enough, I didn't know that all along she was implying that he needed to be treated.

You may just have to put the girl back into the 3's room where she can be with other children who are at the same level as her. Then you can explain to the parents that she can't keep up with the children in her classroom and it's an issue trying to get her to catch up.

If they do decide to get her checked out, the doctor will send you a form to fill out with a list of problematic behaviors. You score the child, the parents score the child on a separate form and the doctor compares them and tries to diagnose based on the results of both of your assessments.

Maybe you can schedule conferences for the children in your preschool class. That way you aren't just focusing on the one girl. It will give all the parents a chance to see how their child is doing and whether or not they will be ready for kindergarten.

  • Parents are rarely stubborn once they are confronted with what is wrong in an open and loving way. Parents generally want what is best for their kid, and dropping her into a three's class without a lot of documentation as to why and having the parents on board is likely to mean they remove their child from that school altogether. Jul 8, 2012 at 17:09
  • 1
    I am a parent so I was just explaining my prerogative. (Hence why I started my comment with "I think") I have seen this through the teacher's eyes since I taught preschool and I have seen this through my eyes as a parent. Trust me when I say that parents are stubborn. You should meet my sister. Please don't downvote because you don't like someone's answer. It says right on the button to downvote because the answer is not useful....
    – jlg
    Jul 9, 2012 at 20:38
  • 1
    I did not down vote simply because I disliked your answer. You speak mostly about your own situation (which was an opposite situation) and do not include helpful advice with the exception of trying to set up a conference. Additionally, You start out with a very negative and defeatist statement. Nov 12, 2012 at 3:54
  • I guess I didn't see it from that perspective. Thanks for the explanation. :)
    – jlg
    Nov 12, 2012 at 19:09

I agree with Erin's recommendations, however, I would also prepare a letter to send to the child's physician summarizing your concerns including appropriate documentation. Explain to the parents the value of having her physician assess her development and encourage them to personally deliver the information or sign a release for you send copies yourself. The parents may be more accepting of a physician's recommendations.


You should have a consultation route with the school head which can lead to direct consultation with a health professional.

As I understand it you should be provided with the support within the school/health system in order to cope with a 'high demand' child - however I am basing this on the UK system so that may not be relevant where you are. I would still suggest consulting with the school head to see if this support pathway exists, as you would want this before any direct conversations with parents.

  • Yes, this is also somewhat true of the US, but it is still generally up to parents to seek testing for disabilities or not. All a school can do is recommend unless there is A LOT of recorded data showing clear deficiences that prove the kid cannot function in school at all. It sounds like this child is more in the grey area for US. Nov 2, 2012 at 1:01

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