Child DecodedThis checklist covers eight areas of developmental concern (with a few more specific concerns thrown in), as well as some of the more significant nutrition and biomedical markers. Go through each section of the checklist and mark any items that pertain to your child. Once completed, count up the number of checks per domain and put that number in the key code at the bottom of the checklist. If you have checked off at least five items in a given category, you should read the chapter that corresponds to that category. If you have marked more than three items in a section, you may still find the chapter helpful. This is particularly true for Section 6, which covers a range of less common issues. Every chapter has additional checklists to further refine your thinking.

Just like kids themselves, child development can get messy. Symptoms do not always divide up neatly into exclusive domains. There are a number of symptoms that might indicate different issues. Therefore, some symptoms in the checklist refer to another section in parentheses. If this occurs, count that symptom for each section indicated.

Two subcategories, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) and Visual Processing Disorder (VPD), appear in acronym form after some symptoms. If you end up marking those symptoms, you may want to check those chapters as well. APD and VPD are lesser known, but increasingly common, issues. Both are often misdiagnosed as AD/HD, reading disorders, and other more well-known problems.

What should you do if your child’s results do not have three to five check marks in any one category? This doesn’t often happen when there is a true problem, but it can happen occasionally. Here are some ideas for you:


    Easily distracted (APD)Chronic daydreaming/mind seems to wander elsewhereDoes not follow through on tasks/chores/homeworkCareless mistakes in schoolworkOften off taskDisorganized with tasks, loses track of steps (VPD)Loses things/disorganized with thingsBlurts answers outTalks excessivelyImpulsive, interrupts others, intrudes on othersTypically fidgety and restless, squirmy, does not stay seatedActive, on the go, seems to be driven by a motorForgets to do homework, loses it, or fails to turn it inLoses track of conversation (Section 2, APD)Loses attention while reading (Section 3, VPD)Disruptive at school or group events (Section 8, Section 7)Has trouble concentrating (Section 9)

    Late talker –first words after 20 months (Section 4)Articulation problem (eg., only parent can understand child)Weak articulation (cannot make all speech sounds by age sevenDoesn’t follow directions (or more than one step of the directions)Misunderstands verbal directions (APD)Uses words incorrectly or can’t find the right word –“why come” instead of “how come” (after age three)Words out of order in sentence – (“Long time I’ve not been here”)Uses the wrong tense in sentencesCan’t express him//herself in everyday situations (can’t tell a story or explain a situation when he wants to)Dysfluent speech – stutters, starts over


    Poor sense of rhyme (thinks car rhymes with cat)Trouble matching letters and the sounds they make (VPD)Can sing ABC song, but does not say the alphabet (Section 2)Confuses visually similar letters (eg., b and d) (VPD, APD)Slow to learn to readReading weaker than expected for intelligence or educational levelDislikes readingSlow choppy reading, frequently guesses at wordsHas difficulty sounding out wordsSlow reading speed (VVPD)Poor comprehension of what is readPoor spelling (Section 6)


    Rigid about sticking with routines or schedulesDoes not make eye contact when being spoken toHas no or very limited friendships (Section 7)Prefers solitary play or activitiesPlay is repetitive (lines up cars, sorts toys, or only has one pretend play theme they will play)Has obscure obsessive interests (eg., water towers)Regresses in language skills (stops using the words they have) or loses social interests (these changes often occur when the child is a toddler)Limited language skillsHas good vocabulary, but poor communication skills (eg.., monologues instead of converses)Does not read nonverbal cues such as facial expressions or gesturesMisreads social cues, can’t take a hint, misses the jokeConcrete linear thinker, very black and whiteSleep disturbances, does not sleep well from infancy on


    History of concussionLoss of consciousnessSkull fractureSudden decrease in school performance (Section 7, Section 9)Sudden increase in irritability, anger, or anxiety

    Poor spelling (Section 3)Writing is labored and difficult to produce (VPD)Forgets punctuation, has grammar errorsDislikes writingPoor penmanship (Section 7, VPD)Poor coordination, clumsy, awkwardPoor fine motor (can’t tie shoes, immature drawing)Very verbal, but can’t write or draw wellWeak math concepts (can’t tell which is bigger, 68 or 86)Poor memory for math factsSpecific academic skills are weaker than expected for intelligence or other areas of learningCan’t organize thoughts when writing, lack of clarityPoor sense of math sequencing – can’t remember how to carry or regroupAppears gifted, but is underperforming at school (Section 1, Section 7)


    Early emotional disruption - adoption, loss of caregiver or sibling, experienced violence, other significant stressTraumatic medical history – child had surgery, severe illness or injury, chronic illnessDaily tantrums past toddlerhood (Section 4)Intense; prone to meltdowns or tantrums (Section 9)Fearful of typical childhood events (sleepovers, first day of school)Takes little interest or pleasure in typical activities or friendshipsHas tantrums or meltdowns that disrupt the classroom or householdCries often and without good reasonCannot control worriesComplains of being sick or in pain when faced with certain events (eg., tests, projects, field trips)Extremely short fuseLacks motivation or energy for most tasksHas panic reactionsWorries constantly or commonly seems anxious


    Over-- or under--sensitive to clothing tags and textures (hates clothing tags or getting goo on fingers, or doesn’t notice when covered with goo)Upset by unexpected light touchHigh tolerance for painChews on fingernails, shirt, pencil, or other objectsClumsy – falls or trips often,, seems unaware of body in spacePoor balance – fearful on bike or when climbingGets dizzy or car sick easily or, conversely, never gets dizzyPoor motor planning – can’t pump a swing, mount a bike, climb at playground in comparison to peersSensitive to noise – easily distracted or melts down in crowds, upset by smoke alarms, sirens, fireworks (APD)Can’t listen or concentrate with background noise (APD)Over-- or under--sensitive to smell – either easily bothered or doesn’t notice smells,Sensitive to oral textures – very fussy eater, refusing many foodsSensitive to taste or craves strong tastesSeeker of body input – rough play, crashes into things, hugs hard and often, jumps off of things, bull in a china shopSeeks vestibular input – swinging, spinning, being upside downSensitive to bright lights, sunshineAvoids playing with puzzlesCan’t catch a ball; does not have good hand/eye coordination


    Premature by at least three weeksChronic diarrhea or chronic constipationInfantile spasms (Section 6)Diagnosed as Failure to Thrive (Section 1, Section 7)Frequent stomach upset or stomachache (Section 7)Migraines or frequent headachesCraves sugar/carbohydratesLow energy/LethargyBloated or gassyEczemaDark circles under eyesHistory of frequent antibiotics use


    Only eats white food (pasta, bread, cereal)Skips breakfastEats a limited number of foods,, skips entire food groups (no vegetables or no meats)EczemaChicken skin on backs of armsPediatrician is concerned about child’s weightLow energyGets hyperactive or lethargic after eating

    Tally the scores from each section and enter those scores below. Additionally, tally the scores of all indicators marked as VPD or APD.

    Creating an Action Plan: Why Sequence Matters

    You’ve completed the checklist. Perhaps you’ve checked off more items, in more categories, than you expected. So many areas to address! What now – roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath and find practitioners for everything on the list?

    As tempting as it is to try to fix it all at once, that might not be your best choice. A child’s system can only integrate so much change at a time, even in its best state. There is still a lot to consider before you decide what steps to take, and in what order to take them. This diagram will help you understand what is a foundational issue and what is probably more of a symptom. The guiding question here is: which end are you looking at, the symptom or the root issue?

    Sometimes, a reading disorder is just a reading disorder. All you need to do is find a good specialist to help your child get up to speed. Sometimes, however, it is not that simple. Learning and behavior disorders can be like icebergs: The symptom that everyone notices is often just an indication of how skewed things are in the 90 percent of the system that you don’t really see. If you want issues to resolve all the way, without feeling like you are swimming upstream the whole way, you may have to have to dive deeper. One of the purposes of this book is to help you understand what that means.

    The following diagram shows that development is a hierarchy, with important foundations underlying many of the more complex skills on the surface. It can be short-sighted and unproductive to try to address only the skills. (Please keep in mind that this diagram represents an attempt to streamline and organize a very unstreamlined, complex process. The idea was to give you broad principles.)

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