“I just found out my son has be diagnosed with dyslexia.” “We just found out our daughter has ADHD, and a non-verbal learning disability, and we do not know what to do.”
Over the past few weeks, these kinds of comments flooded my Facebook newsfeed. Many parents find themselves wondering what to do next, once they discover their child has a learning disability.
Discovering your child has a learning disability, can bring a lot of mixed emotions for parents. Many parents find themselves, wondering aimlessly seeking books, resources, information that can help them understand their child. Others parents may feel overwhelmed by the all the information that they do not know where to start.
Just as every child varies in their needs, so do learning disabilities. There is no one methods fits all in helping exceptional learners. Regardless, of a student’s exceptionality, there is a path that parents can take to help them support their child in their education, and give mom and dad piece of mind.
Mom and Dad, when you are unsure where to start, take these next steps:
1. Educate Yourself: There is a lot of literature in print and online about learning disability. (Even YouTube has videos) It does not matter what format you choose, you need to develop an understanding of the basic concept of a learning disability. It is important to go beyond just a text book definition and also work to understand your child’s specific learning disability. For example, Dyslexia is one form of a learning disability that impacts a person’s reading skill. For one student this could mean problems in decoding words, while another student may experience letter reversal. Know what a learning disability is and understand how it applies to your child.
2. Have The Talk: Next to the conversation about the birds and the bees, this is another talk that some parents struggle with. How do you explain a learning disability to your child? Although it can be hard, it is important that your child understands what a learning disability is and their own challenges. A student, should not be left in the dark, especially when it is something that is concerning them. Take the time to help your child understand their learning disability. Review the literature together you use to educate yourself, or YouTube videos. Here is an example to get you started.
3. Practice Mindfulness: As research continues to grow more and more studies are finding connections between learning disability and mental health issues. It is not uncommon for individuals to with a learning disability to experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, low self-concept etc. One way to combat this is to help youth practice mindful thinking from young. Many under estimate the power of our thoughts, but if we help children to practice positive self-talk when they make a mistake, or when trying to solve a tricky math problem this can have a tremendous impact on their overall well-being as an adult. No one is perfect, and we need to help our children realize it is not about the performance it is about progress.
4. Be proactive: The two common factors that delay students in getting support or accommodations is time and money. Every school is different in terms of the resources and support provided to students with an exceptionality. However, do not solely depend on the schools to help your child. Be proactive and seek support in the community. Qualified tutors that understand a learning disability and how to teach students effectively and efficiently, programs that help improve skills associated with learning. If your child, will be starting a new school or stepping on to campus for the first time, visit the new school talk to the teachers, or ensure your child is registered at the accessibility centre on campus. There is even community organizations, associations and parent groups that provide information and support for parents as well. It is important to prepare for what is to come.
5. Know Your Rights: In Canada, there are disability laws that protects people’s rights including your child’s. It is not an option, for a student to get the support and accommodations they are entitled to it. If you feel that your child’s rights are being violated do not be afraid to speak up. Also be aware, that once your child turns eighteen they need to start advocating for themselves. It is important, that as you advocate for your child you teach them how they can advocate for themselves as well too.
Finding out your child has a learning disability, is not the end of the world. In fact it is the start a whole new adventure. Individuals with learning disabilities, are able to achieve full academic success as their non-learning disabled peers. Do not be afraid to challenge your child, in fact challenging them will help them to grow and reach new limits. There are #NoLearningLimits to how far your child can go.