Eight Tips for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities are lifelong conditions that can’t be outgrown or cured. However, the effects of learning disabilities can be minimized.
Tutoring, assistive technology, school-based interventions, working with a learning disabilities psychologist, study skills training and social skills development are interventions that can increase the chances of success for children with learning disabilities.
Here are eight parenting tips for helping children who face the challenges of learning disabilities.
1. Get a Proper Diagnosis
Many children are never properly diagnosed, and those who are diagnosed often struggle for years before they are ever tested for a learning disability. The assessment process is fairly simple but must be performed by a qualified clinician, such as a learning disabilities psychologist.
A learning disability assessment provides children with a diagnosis of a specific learning disability, which is necessary in order to receive full benefits under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
2. Become an Expert
You may be tempted to look to others for solutions to your child’s learning disability, but you know your child better than anyone. Take charge when it comes to finding the tools he or she needs in order to learn. Do your own research and keep abreast of new developments in learning disabilities research, therapies and techniques.
3. Be an Advocate for Your Child
Resources for children with learning disabilities are available, but you may need to seek them out. Embrace your role as a proactive parent and advocate for your child. Find those resources and fight for your child’s needs. It can be frustrating at times but persistence pays off.
4. Promote Self-Awareness and Confidence
Learning disabilities can cause children to doubt their abilities and question their strengths. You can help your child become more aware of his or her strengths and special talents by focusing on success and competency.
As a learning disabilities psychologist, I use communication as a technique for helping children focus on their strengths. I encourage them to explore the things they do well through talking, drawing, and role playing. Then, I gradually guide them to expand and broaden those activities for which they have natural aptitude and talent.
Building feelings of proficiency and adequacy are crucial in contending with the self-doubt that arises from learning disabilities.
5. Keep Things in Perspective
Everyone faces obstacles. Learning disabilities can be mastered. One of your jobs as a parent is to teach your child how to deal with those obstacles without becoming discouraged and giving up.
Don’t let homework assignments, meetings with teachers, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and tests prevent you from focusing on what’s important—giving your child support, guidance, and access to resources and hope.
6. Know How to Ask for Help
Successful people ask for help and reach out to others for support when they need it. You can help your child learn to ask for assistance from others. Model what it means to look for support. Share examples of people needing help. Demonstrate that relying on others who have something to offer is a good thing.
7. Emphasize a Healthy Lifestyle
Common sense says that learning involves the body as well as the brain. When children with learning disabilities eat healthy meals and get enough sleep and sufficient exercise, they are better able to focus, learn and work hard.
8. Take Care of Yourself
Sometimes the hardest part of parenting is looking out for your own well-being. It’s easy to get caught up in what your child needs while forgetting your own needs. In the end, if you don’t look after yourself, your child suffers.
Pay attention to your physical, emotional and social needs. You won’t be able to help your child if you’re stressed out, exhausted and emotionally depleted. A healthy, happy parent is more likely to have a healthy, happy child.
A Word of Support
Children are not defined by their learning disabilities. Focus on your child’s strengths, gifts and talents. Nurture activities in which he or she excels, and be sure to make time for them. Above all, remember what counts—the love and support your child gets. That is the real key to your child’s success.
Dr. Kenneth Roberson is a learning disabilities psychologist in San Francisco with over 25 years of experience. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 415-922-1122.