Does your child hate school? Is every school day an uphill battle? Is doing homework, especially in a specific subject, problematic? This may indicate that your child has a learning disability.
Now before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s define learning disabilities.
“Learning disabilities” is a term encompassing a wide range of learning problems, but this is definitely not a reflection of a child’s intelligence or motivation level. A child with a “learning disabilities” brain is wired differently which affects how they receive and process information. This in turn leads to problems learning and processing new information, and learning how to use new skills taught at school.
However, there really is no reason why children with learning difficulties cannot succeed. These children just need to be taught in a way that best suits their learning style. The sooner the learning disability is identified, the sooner the pathway to success can be paved.
Unfortunately, identifying learning difficulties is normally no simple task. These difficulties could affect one or a number of areas including mathematics, reading, writing, reasoning, listening and/or speaking.
4 Important Things to Keep in Mind
When attempting to diagnose a learning disability, you must keep in mind:
- Never overlook your own role: you know your child. If you are worried, act on your gut.
- Remember it’s a process: you may have to approach more than one professional and this will take time and effort.
- Leave the diagnosis to the professional: as a parent you should concentrate on practical ways to address the symptoms.
- Work with the teacher to find a reputable specialist and be honest and thorough when required to complete paperwork.
Common Learning Disabilities
- Dyscalculia – difficulty with mathematics
- Dysgraphia – difficulty with writing (which includes handwriting, spelling, organising ideas)
- Dyslexia – difficulty reading (which includes writing, spelling, speaking)
- Dysphasia – difficulty with language (which includes understanding spoken language, poor reading comprehension)
- Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder) – difficulty with fine motor skills
- Auditory Processing Disorder – difficulty hearing differences between sounds (has a negative effect on reading, comprehension, language)
- Visual Processing Disorder – difficulty interpreting visual information (has a negative effect on reading, mathematics)
It is important to remember that difficulties at school aren’t always the result of learning disabilities. Other disorders that could come across as learning disabilities (as schoolwork is affected) include depression, conditions affecting concentration, emotional trauma and anxiety.
Over and above these challenges the conditions ADHD, autism and Asperger’s Syndrome sometimes co-occur or are confused with learning disabilities.
The real challenge comes when a diagnosis is made – where to from here? Professionals may be required to work on specific areas, the teacher may be asked to assist in various ways in the classroom, but coming back to what I said before, you mustn’t overlook your own role.
How can You Help?
Here are practical ways in which you as a parent can help your child.
- Commit to read and learn about your child’s learning disability. This includes finding out about treatments.
- Be open to suggestion and find the correct support system for your child.
- Find out what you can do at home to assist – don’t just leave it to the professionals. Ongoing practise will help improve the condition over time.
- Be there for your child – listen, nurture, guide.
- Create an environment where they feel safe and secure when doing homework – a work space created just for them which is organised and devoid of excessive stimuli.
- Create a routine with parameters. Predictability lessens anxiety.
- Be positive and patient and explain why some things are difficult for them and how this can be rectified.
- Motivate and help them to see what the goal is. Make them aware of what they are working towards.
- Focus on your child’s growth as a person empowering them with solid emotional and social skills.
- Very importantly, remember to focus on your child’s strengths which helps create a healthy self-esteem. This in turn will help them tackle their learning disability with a positive outlook. If you believe in your child, they will begin believing in themselves. Get them to see what they are capable of, little steps at a time.
Finding out your child has a learning disability comes as a shock to every parent, but it’s what we do with this information that is most important in the end. As parents, we are there to help mould our children’s lives as best we can – that is our responsibility. Sometimes this comes with a curve ball.
We need to take that curve ball and help it to create a new path that is beneficial to your child. A path that will help your child become the best he or she can be.