How to Parent a Child With a Learning Disability

Three Methods:Becoming More InformedSupporting Your Child’s DifficultiesCaring for Yourself

If you are the parent of a special needs child, no one has to tell you how difficult it can be. Like any parent, you simply want what’s best for your child. Fortunately, with advancing research, schools and organizations are becoming better equipped at serving children with learning disabilities (LDs). Learn how to be an informed and supportive parent while also making time to care for yourself.

Method 1
Becoming More Informed

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    Get educated about your child’s disability. When you first learn of your child’s learning disability, the problem may seem insurmountable. However, when you learn more facts about children with learning disabilities, especially those that grow up to be fully functioning, you can gain the confidence you need to make smart decisions and support your child.
    • Organizations like the Learning Disabilities Association of America have a host of resources accessible to parents who have recently had a child diagnosed.[1] Such organizations is a great place to start gaining more information.
    • You can also reach out to your child’s therapist, pediatrician, school counselor, and teachers to learn more. Call attention to your concerns by saying "I don't know much about this disability. Can we schedule a time when you can sit down with me one-on-one and answer some of my questions?"
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    Find out what programs and accommodations are available. Once you have gained more information about the specific type of learning disability your child has, you can look into different services that can offer assistance. Each learning disability will require specialized services to help your child function in school and at home. Search for programs regarding your child’s learning disability through national and local/regional organizations.[2]
    • For example, if your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia and you are struggling to make ends meet, the Dyslexia Services Foundation helps connect families with experienced professionals who can evaluate and treat children from low-income backgrounds.[3]
    • In American, every state has a Parent Training and Information (PTI) program designed to help parents learn about the legal rights associated with children with disabilities. These programs also give you access to special programs, services, and resources available in your area.[4]
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    Participate in support groups to learn from other parents. As a parent, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone in your journey of parenting a learning-disabled child. When you take part in parent groups, you are able to connect with other parents who understand what it’s like to raise a special needs child. In these groups, you can learn insider information about approaches that help and also learn about additional community resources from other parents.
    • The Parent to Parent Program exists to match parents of children with the same type of disability. In this group, you can participate in a one-on-one relationship with other parents who can share a wealth of information and experience with you.[5]
    • It may be nerve-racking to speak about your child's learning disability with a stranger, so be forthright about your uncertainty. Say: "I've never done anything like this before, but I want to help my child in any way I can. How does this work?"
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    Stay involved at your child’s school.[6] When your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, he or she is in dire need of an advocate to ensure that they are treated fairly and receive the same education as all other children. You are your child’s advocate, which is why being informed about your child’s LD is so important.
    • Work with your child’s school system to determine appropriate objective’s for your child, modify his or her Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and share new research of effective approaches.
    • Communicating with your child’s school may be stressful, but remember to maintain a goal-oriented focus and be persistent in getting your child’s needs met.

Method 2
Supporting Your Child’s Difficulties

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    Identify how to help your child thrive. Everyone has a learning style that is personal to them. This is the way that a person retains and comprehends information best. Figuring out how your child learns the best can help you and your child’s school maximize progress in the classroom and at home. Children can be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. [7]
    • Visual learners work best by seeing or reading information. They perform well when info is given visually through notes, charts, pictures, and directions.
    • Auditory learners work best by listening. They perform well in oral environments where they can hear info, such as in classroom discussion and study groups.
    • Kinesthetic learners work best by moving around in the environment. They perform well during hands-on activities, such as labs and field trips.
    • You can also learn more about your child's learning style by observing in the classroom and during other aspects of life. What's your child's personality? How does his/her shyness or gregariousness affect learning? When does he/she seem to be most engaged? Take time to watch your child and use your observations to inform teaching approaches.[8]
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    Set realistic goals for progress. Goal-setting is essential to success in all areas of life. It is equally important for children with disabilities. When you set realistic goals, your child has something to strive for, while still accounting for setbacks as well as the limitations of the LD.[9]
    • Sit down with your child and come up with a few short-term and long-term goals that he or she can work towards. Include various action steps under each for how to accomplish the goal. Set a reasonable deadline for achieving it. Come back often and evaluate your progress and modify goals as necessary.
    • For example, a child with dyscalculia has difficulty with math. You can set a goal for learning the amounts of different coins and bills. Then, you can progress to adding money and then subtracting.
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    Stick to a routine. Since your child has to devote an undue amount of focus and concentration on their deficits at school and at home, you can help them function in other ways by making sure they follow a regular schedule. Doing so can help your child learn in a natural and structured way while reducing confusion and overwhelm.[10]
    • A routine helps your child set realistic goals, adopt consistent behaviors, and improve in difficult tasks and subjects. For instance, waking and rising at the same time each day and completing chores/tasks in a set order can help your child feel more secure. When things are constantly changing, it can be hard for a learning-disabled child to catch on, causing a dive in his/her self-confidence.
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    Try to stay positive. A positive attitude is central to seeing progress in your learning-disabled child. It can be hard to look on the bright side when you are questioning why your child is the one who is struggling. Still, take things a day at a time and always remember that there is a positive side to everything. [11]
    • For instance, you may be distraught because your child is struggling in school due to an LD. However, you may want to express gratitude that your child is otherwise healthy.
    • Maintaining a positive outlook may be challenging, but it helps to look to your child's strengths. What are some things he/she is particularly good at? In what ways has he/she demonstrated progress? Pay attention to these things rather than what's not working or how far you still have to go.
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    Gather a network of supportive family and friends. Both you and your child will benefit from surrounding yourselves with positive people. Be sure to identify those who have been a help to you and your family and show appreciation. Don’t be afraid or too prideful to ask for help or comfort when you need it.[12]
    • In addition to building your own support network, encourage your child to develop strong friendships. Also, model to him or her how to ask for help when it’s needed. You can even practice by role-playing situations when your child may need assistance and teaching him or her how to ask for it.

Method 3
Caring for Yourself

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    Avoid falling into self-pity. Practice empathy instead. Pitying yourself or your child can be a detriment to positive change and progress. Feeling like a victim prevents you from taking the necessary steps to improve you and your child’s situations. Overcome the need for self-pity in you and your child by:[13]
    • Practicing empathy and compassion for yourself without viewing yourself as a victim
    • Looking to your strengths in difficult times
    • Recognizing every small victory or mark of progress
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    Confide in someone about your feelings.[14] Being isolated will only make you feel worse. And, when you’re not feeling great, you are not able to fully support and advocate for your child. Pay attention to how you are feeling and be willing to share these feelings with others who care about you.
    • For example, you may keep your thoughts and feelings inside about a financial strain never knowing that, if you only just spoke up about it, friends or family would be willing to help you take care of a bill or expense.
    • Confiding doesn’t just mean asking for help. It also means venting and releasing frustrations onto others so that you don’t feel so alone. You can reach out to a sibling by saying "I'm really stressed out after learning about Peter's diagnosis. It would be nice to have a listening ear. Can we have coffee and talk about it?"
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    Eat well and exercise regularly. It is particularly significant to support your body and mind during the stressful road ahead. Make an effort to eat 3 to 5 healthy, balanced meals daily. Incorporate some kind of physical activity into your schedule most days a week.
    • Make it a family affair and include your child, spouse, or other children in regular exercise.[15] Research shows that physical activity have been shown to increase physical fitness and self-esteem in children with learning disabilities.[16]
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    Practice stress-management. Find healthy ways to manage stress and negative feelings so that you are in tip-top shape for your child. It’s easy to get lost in caring for your child and forget to care for yourself. However, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Your child will be so much better off if you are rested and relaxed.[17]
    • Remember to take time out for yourself. Get enough sleep each night (and encourage your child to do the same). Engage in activities that you enjoy. Go on a date with your partner or spouse. Notice when you need a breather and have the courage to ask for it.

Article Info

Categories: Disability Issues