Share article Parenting Children with Learning Disabilities: If your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability, you may i ...
If your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability, you may immediately begin thinking about school — homework, tests, projects —
and wondering how your kid will get through. How can you make sure your child has the best chance to reach his or her full potential? If you slow down for a moment, you may realize that while
academic success is important, what you really want for your child is a happy and fulfilling life. Your influence on your child outweighs that of any teacher, tutor, therapist or counselor. If
your child has a learning disability, your love, encouragement, and support can make all the difference, helping him or her emerge with a strong sense of self-confidence and the determination to
What Are Learning Disabilities?
Interestingly, there is no clear and widely accepted definition of "learning disabilities." Because of the multidisciplinary nature of the field, there is ongoing debate on the issue of definition, and there are currently at least 12 definitions that appear in the professional literature. These disparate definitions do agree on certain factors:
How prevalent are learning disabilities?
Experts estimate that 6 to 10 percent of the school-aged population in the United States is learning disabled. Nearly 40 percent of the children enrolled in the nation's special education classes suffer from a learning disability. The Foundation for Children With Learning Disabilities estimates that there are 6 million adults with learning disabilities as well.
What causes learning disabilities?
Little is currently known about the causes of learning disabilities. However, some general observations can be made:
What are the "early warning signs" of learning disabilities?
Children with learning disabilities exhibit a wide range of symptoms. These include problems with reading, mathematics, comprehension, writing, spoken language, or reasoning abilities. Hyperactivity, inattention and perceptual coordination may also be associated with learning disabilities but are not learning disabilities themselves. The primary characteristic of a learning disability is a significant difference between a child's achievement in some areas and his or her overall intelligence. Learning disabilities typically affect five general areas:
Among the symptoms commonly related to learning disabilities are:
When considering these symptoms, it is important to remain mindful of the following:
What should a parent do if it is suspected that a child has a learning disability?
The parent should contact the child's school and arrange for testing and evaluation. Federal law requires that public school districts provide special education and related services to children who need them. If these tests indicate that the child requires special educational services, the school evaluation team (planning and placement team) will meet to develop an individual educational plan (IEP) geared to the child's needs. The IEP describes in detail an educational plan designed to remediate and compensate for the child's difficulties.
Simultaneously, the parent should take the child to the family pediatrician for a complete physical examination. The child should be examined for correctable problems (e.g. poor vision or hearing loss) that may cause difficulty in school.
How does a learning disability affect the parents of the child?
Research indicates that parental reaction to the diagnosis of learning disability is more pronounced than in any other area of exceptionality. Consider: if a child is severely retarded or physically handicapped, the parent becomes aware of the problem in the first few weeks of the child's life. However, the pre-school development of the learning disabled child is often uneventful and the parent does not suspect that a problem exists. When informed of the problem by elementary school personnel, a parent's first reaction is generally to deny the existence of a disability. This denial is, of course, unproductive. The father tends to remain in this stage for a prolonged period because he is not exposed to the child's day-to-day frustrations and failures.
Research conducted by Eleanor Whitehead suggests that the parent of an LD child goes through a series of emotions before truly accepting the child and his problem. These "stages" are totally unpredictable. A parent may move from stage-to-stage in random. Some parents skip over stages while others remain in one stage for an extended period. These stages are as follows:
DENIAL: "There is really nothing wrong!" "That's the way I was as a child--not to worry!" "He'll grow out of it!"
BLAME: "You baby him!" "You expect too much of him." "It's not from my side of the family."
FEAR: "Maybe they're not telling me the real problem!" "Is it worse than they say?" "Will he ever marry? go to college? graduate?"
ENVY: "Why can't he be like his sister or his cousins?"
MOURNING: "He could have been such a success, if not for the learning disability!"
BARGAINING: "Wait 'till next year!" "Maybe the problem will improve if we move! (or he goes to camp, etc.)."
ANGER: "The teachers don't know anything." "I hate this neighborhood, this school...this teacher."
GUILT: "My mother was right; I should have used cloth diapers when he was a baby." "I shouldn't have worked during his first year." "I am being punished for something and my child is suffering as a result."
ISOLATION: "Nobody else knows or cares about my child." "You and I against the world. No one else understands."
FLIGHT: "Let's try this new therapy--Donahue says it works!" "We are going to go from clinic to clinic until somebody tells me what I want to hear.!"
Again, the pattern of these reactions is totally unpredictable. This situation is worsened by the fact that frequently the mother and father may be involved in
different and conflicting stages at the same time (e.g., blame vs. denial; anger vs. guilt). This can make communication very difficult.
The good news is that with proper help, most LD children can make excellent progress. There are many successful adults such as attorneys, business executives, physicians, teachers, etc. who had learning disabilities but overcame them and became successful. Now with special education and many special materials, LD children can be helped early.
Pointers for parents of children with learning disabilities:
The Survival Guide for Kids with LD*: *(Learning Differences)
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