What parents can do to help children who have learning disabilities or differences:
Remind them of the things they're good at. Know a child's strengths, and build on their strengths. If a child is a good artist, but has trouble writing, have her draw a picture before getting started on the writing assignment.
Don't make your child feel bad if they struggle with reading or spelling. Keep in mind that they may not be able to do work that other's can do, but it's not an indication of their intelligence. Many people with learning disabilities are very smart. A learning disability just means that there is a discrepancy between how a person is performing and what they are capable of doing
Advocate for your child. You know your child better than the teachers, so set up times to discuss your child's work and needs. Ask for a Student Study Meeting or an assessment for learning disabilities. Put all of your requests in writing and keep a copy for the future. An IEP (Individual Education Plan) will provide your child with accommodations that will aid in learning. If you don't have one, ask the school what the steps are, or check with a local advocacy organization.
Seek out extra help from qualified professionals, tutors, and teachers. Ask your Pediatrician for resources if you're having trouble getting your child assessed at school.
Talk to other parents of children who have special needs. They can give you support and tips for how to help your child be sucessful and emotionally healthy. If a child feels frustrated on a regular basis, there is a good chance you will see behavioral or mood problems.
Have the school modify homework assignments as needed. Avoid homework battles every night. Help your child organize and prioritize their work.
Use "to-do" lists and post-its to help your child remember what is needed and expected.
Give frequent positive feedback. Your child may think he's not smart, and needs to hear from others that he is. Also praise kindness and other traits you value.
Remember that your child's brain works in a unique way. Help her get the tools she needs to thrive.
Enjoy your child and set aside time for fun.
Disability Rights and Education Fund, www.dredef.org
The International Dyslexia Association, www.interdys.org
Great Schools, www.greatschools.net
A successful talk show host has learning disabilities, and has developed a way to use her differences to benefit herself and others.
Because I had trouble learning to read, I became more perceptive and attuned to gathering information in different ways....watching, asking questions, doing things, making friends who would help me, and being friendly to my teachers! Other kids also have creative strengths like art and music and acting.
I didn't understand why other kids could read or spell and I couldn't...I just thought there was something wrong with me. Once I got to nursing school (at age 16 cause I skipped a grade for having a high IQ) I loved being able to learn by doing. I always worked hard, and stayed for hours after the other nurses to finish my charting. I also have attention problems, so trying to focus is also a challenge.
I want parents listening to really look at the way their child learns, and understand their strengths. Most kids don't do well in school, not because they are lazy, but because they have learning, social, or emotional problems that need attention. Most kids really want to do well, but we have to identify their struggles early and get them support, before they start to think they're dumb.
About Rona Renner:
Rona Renner, RN has been a nurse for over 40 years, and is temperament specialist and parent educator. She is the Executive Director of Interactive Parenting Media, and the host of Childhood Matters Radio show, Sundays at 9AM on 98.1 KISS FM. For more information, visit www.childhoodmatters.org