How Do I Help My Child With A Learning Disability?
If you are a parent with a child with a learning disability (LD), you recognize there are many challenges to overcome. When you first suspect or learn your child has an LD, it can be overwhelming to identify how you can best support your child. There are numerous ways where you can assist your child. Remember that you are not alone and that there are professionals and resources that can help you. Below are some tips for parents of a child with an LD.
Assessment, Diagnosis and Research: Learn about your child’s learning disability.
First and foremost, if you suspect that your child has an LD, obtaining an assessment and diagnosis is key. Consult with your child’s doctor, psychologist, and teacher. Make sure they are on the same page, and onboard to ensure helping you and your child understand the extent of the LD and the consequences it has on your child’s diagnosis. Do research on your child’s disability and keep up to date with new LD programs, therapies and educational techniques.
Look at the bigger picture: Celebrating your child’s strengths.
Remember that their learning disability is only one aspect of your child’s life. When a child has a learning disability, we typically focus on what they struggle with. Whether they are having difficulties with reading, writing, speaking, listening or math. While it is important to address the LD, we must also celebrate their strengths. It is important for your child to know that we all have strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to celebrate their successes.
In fact, some children with LD can have demonstrated giftedness in aspects unrelated to their LD. Some children with LD have extremely high levels of intelligence and ability that is often left unrecognized. One study found that around 33% of children with LD demonstrated some kind of giftedness. These children are hard to identify as their LD can giftedness can mask each other, and result in them appearing average. Children who fall in these categories need individualized support as it can bring upon issues as the child develops.
Address their Education: How does your child learn best? What accommodations do they need?
Take an active role in your child’s education. Your child may have a unique learning style, different from their peers. Your child may be a visual learner, who learns better through reading and writing. They prefer information to be presented visually versus verbally.
Your child can be an auditory learner, preferring listening to instructions, and being tested orally. Your child can be a kinesthetic learner, preferring to learn by doing. They will fare better in hands-on activities, role-playing, or application of skills.
Most children with an LD will require an individualized program plan (IPP). In order to get an IPP, it is typically required that a psychoeducational or psychodiagnostic assessment is done, and a diagnosis is defined. By working with teachers, professionals and parents, IPP identifies goals and outcomes based on the child’s current needs and skills. Your child’s IPP is individualized and unique. There are four stages: gathering and sharing information, creating direction, developing and writing IEP, implementing and reviewing IEP.
IEP can be provided in the standard classroom setting, or in a special educational setting. Children with more severe learning difficulties are better suited to a teacher who has the specialized training, in a smaller class setting where they are able to receive more attention.
Thinking outside the classroom: Setting your child up for success in their life.
Children with an LD are more likely to be overwhelmed by academics. Ensure that your child has breaks in between school work to relax and refocus. Your child will often carry over frustrations from school into other aspects of their lives. Acknowledge their feelings and praise your child based on their efforts as opposed to outcomes. Let them know that you value how hard they work, and them trying their best.
Exercise, sleep and diet are important for everyone but even more so for a child with an LD. Creating balance and structure in these areas will allow your child to better focus, concentrate and work hard. Regular exercise improves mental clarity, mood and energy level. Sleep and rest allow for better learning. Children need much more sleep than adults. Younger children need 10-13 hours, while preteens/adolescents 8.5-10 hours. Make sure your child has a proper sleep schedule and bedtime routine. A well balanced, healthy diet is essential for your child’s development. Having nutritional dense meals can enhance mental focus, and balance energy levels.
Assessment and diagnosis are key starting points.
Work with your child’s doctor, psychologist and teachers
Learn what you can about your child’s LD
Recognize your child’s strengths
Encourage your child to celebrate successes.
Take an active role in your child's education
How they learn best - visually, auditory, or kinesthetic
Explore individual program plan (IPP)
Help your child in their life outside the classroom
Give your child a break from academics
Ensure your child has a good diet, enough exercise and sleep.
Having a child with an LD can present many difficulties for a parent. It is hard to decide what is best for your child, and how to set them up for success. Having a proper diagnosis and assessment is the first step. As well as having supports in place to help your child achieve their full potential.
Alberta - Instructional Support
LD Online - Gifted Children with Learning Disabilities: A Review of The Issues