What Are Learning Disabilities?
Learning disabilities aren’t contagious, but they can be genetic. That means they can be passed down in families through the genes, like many other traits we get from our parents and grandparents. Someone with a learning difficulty probably has other family members who have had some learning troubles, too.
Children with learning problems are sometimes surprised to find out that one of their parents had similar troubles in school. But kids today have an advantage over their parents. Learning experts now know a lot more about the brain and how learning works — so it’s easier for kids to get the help they need.
Lets study a few of them:
Dyslexia, is a learning disability that means a child has a lot of trouble reading and writing. Kids who have trouble with maths may have dyscalculia. And people who have trouble forming letters when they write may have dysgraphia. Other kids may have language disorders, meaning they have trouble understanding language and understanding what they read.
It can be confusing, though. What qualifies as “a problem” enough to be diagnosed as a learning disability? Reading, doing maths, and writing letters may be tough for lots of kids at first. But when those early troubles don’t fade away, and it’s really difficult to make any progress, it’s possible the child has a learning disability.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is sometimes thought of as a learning disability but usually it’s not. Why? Because most children with ADHD can learn in school without special assistance, even though they may be easily distracted or have trouble sitting still in class. Although ADHD itself isn’t a learning disability, researchers believe kids with ADHD may be more likely to have learning problems.
How Do I Know if I Have a Learning Disability?
It’s very hard for a child to know if he or she has a learning disability. But kids don’t have to figure all this out on their own. What a child needs to do is to tell someone if they are struggling at school. Start with your teacher and your parents.
Even if you feel a little shy about it, tell them what kind of problems you’re having in school. Maybe you read a chapter for homework and then can’t remember anything you read. Or in class, maybe everyone else seems to follow along easily, but you get stuck and don’t know what page everyone is on. You might open your book to do an assignment and have no idea where to start.
Children with a learning problem also might answer “yes” to many of these questions:
- Do you struggle in school?
- Do you think you should be doing better than you are in school?
- Is reading harder for you than it should be?
- Does your head think one thing but your hand writes something else?
- Is writing slow and really hard for you?
- Do you make spelling and other errors when you write?
- Are you having trouble with maths and numbers?
- Is it hard for you to keep your notebooks and papers organised? Do you end up losing or forgetting them?
But even if you say “yes” to some of these questions, you won’t know for sure that there’s a problem until you visit a school psychologist or a learning specialist. They can give you some tests to spot any learning problems you might have. They’ll also be able to identify what your strengths are – in other words, what you’re good at! Once a psychologist or learning specialist figures out what your learning problem is, you both can start working on solutions.
A kid might work with a tutor or specialist or even go to a special class. But often, kids with learning disabilities can continue in their regular classrooms and there’s no reason they can’t do normal things, like participate in school activities and sports.
Though some kids might feel shy about having a learning problem, it can be a relief to finally know what’s going on. Then, the child doesn’t have to feel as worried and upset about school because he or she is learning how to learn in new ways. The psychologist or learning specialist might even give you a learning plan — then you can see what the strategy is for helping you learn. They can even offer help with organisational skills. If you’re not organised, it’s hard to get any schoolwork done.
What can Parents do…
All children need is love, encouragement, and support, and for kids with learning disabilities, such positive reinforcement can help ensure that they emerge with a strong sense of self-worth, confidence, and the determination to keep going even when things are tough.
In searching for ways to help children with learning difficulties, remember that you are looking for ways to help them help themselves. Your job as a parent is not to “cure” the learning disability, but to give your child the social and emotional tools he or she needs to work through challenges. In the long run, facing and overcoming a challenge such as a learning disability can help your child grow stronger and more resilient.
Always remember that the way you behave and respond to challenges has a big impact on your child. A good attitude won’t solve the problems associated with a learning disability, but it can give your child hope and confidence that things can improve and that he or she will eventually succeed.
Keep things in perspective. A learning disability isn’t insurmountable. Remind yourself that everyone faces obstacles. It’s up to you as a parent to teach your child how to deal with those obstacles without becoming discouraged or overwhelmed. Don’t let the tests, school bureaucracy, and endless paperwork distract you from what’s really important—giving your child plenty of emotional and moral support.
Become your own expert. Do your own research and keep abreast of new developments in learning disability programs, therapies, and educational techniques. You may be tempted to look to others – teachers, therapists, doctors for solutions, especially at first. But you’re the foremost expert on your child, so take charge when it comes to finding the tools he or she needs in order to learn.
Be an advocate for your child. You may have to speak up time and time again to get special help for your child. Embrace your role as a proactive parent and work on your communication skills. It may be frustrating at times, but by remaining calm and reasonable, yet firm, you can make a huge difference for your child.
Remember that your influence outweighs all others. Your child will follow your lead. If you approach learning challenges with optimism, hard work, and a sense of humour, your child is likely to embrace your perspective – or at least see the challenges as a speed bump, rather than a roadblock. Focus your energy on learning what works for your child and implementing it the best you can.
When you have a child with learning and attention issues, books can be a huge help. Check out these resources on building your child’s self-esteem, helping him learn, getting the services he needs and more.
This book will help diffuse these overwhelming feelings, empowering parents with the ability to provide the academic and personal support their children need to thrive.
The next book called: “Raising Resilient Children” can help you learn to focus on your child’s strengths in order to boost his sense of self-worth. It describes 10 essential parenting behaviors that can help build resilience. And it offers insight into the minds of kids and teens with learning and attention issues.
“The Dyslexic Advantage” focuses on the areas in which people with dyslexia often excel. These include things like creativity and spatial relations. It points to careers that people with dyslexia often do well at, such as law and engineering. The book also offers advice on how you can help your child use his learning strengths to his advantage.
“Making the System Work for Your Child With ADHD” can help you understand the role of teachers, doctors, schools and health-care plans. It can also help you troubleshoot problems that come up. The author writes from his experiences as a physician and researcher, but also as a parent advocate and the father of a son with ADHD.