All children have academic strengths and weaknesses. It’s natural for a child to succeed at some topics and struggle with others. A child with learning disabilities may find every subject difficult, or can excel in many subjects and only fall behind in one.
If your child seems to be having trouble in school despite their best efforts, a learning challenge might be the problem. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help your child succeed in school despite learning differences. Child therapy, strong advocacy, and a positive perspective can do much to improve your child’s learning abilities and build their self-esteem.
Types of Learning Challenges
Learning challenges cannot be “cured.” Instead, managing your child’s differences by building their emotional and social toolbox is the goal. Helping a child with any type of challenge requires a multi-pronged approach.
Proper diagnosis is always the first step. You cannot provide effective support without fully understanding the scope of a child’s ability.
There are several types of learning challenges a child may experience, and it is not uncommon to be diagnosed with more than one learning disability at a time.
Before deciding how to help, take the time to have your child evaluated by an expert. Teachers, parents, and others can all provide valuable information, but an actual diagnosis requires an assessment from a qualified psychologist.
Dyslexia affects a child’s ability to read and write, and in some cases, it can also affect speech. It is classified as a language-based disability. Symptoms of dyslexia include:
- Mixing up numbers
- Spelling the same word in many different ways
- Slow reading
- Poor handwriting
- Difficulty remembering familiar words
- Poor spelling
Children with dyslexia might also have trouble following more than one direction at a time. For example, “Put your coat away and wash your hands for dinner.”
Dyscalculia is a disability that affects a child’s ability to learn math. Children with dyscalculia struggle with all types of counting, figures, calculations, and memorizing. They might confuse addition and subtraction or have trouble handling money. Concepts such as days of the week can also be a struggle.
Children who have trouble attaching or remembering the meaning of words may have a language-processing disorder (LPD). Other symptoms of LPD include:
- Poor writing and reading skills
- Frustration when trying to explain something
- Inability to remember the words needed to describe an object
Children with LPD might appear to have no sense of humor because they have difficulty understanding jokes or any play on words. This can be an obstacle to making friends and healthy socializing.
Children with auditory-processing disorder have a hard time understanding the differences between sounds in words. This can lead to misspellings or mispronunciations and makes it difficult to do any type of oral presentation.
Auditory-processing disorder can present as a hearing problem because children with this disability struggle to listen or are confused by complex sentences.
Tips for Helping a Child with Learning Disabilities
As a parent or guardian, you cannot control every aspect of a child’s education, but you can be active on their behalf.
Be an Advocate
Being an advocate isn’t easy, especially if you’re not certain what you are advocating for. To improve your ability to defend and support your child’s educational rights, ensure that you:
- Clarify and prioritize your goals
- Attend educational meetings with a clear understanding of your goals and where there is room for negotiation
- Listen to others, and ask for clarification when needed
- Offer solutions on your own rather than depending on the school administration
- Stay positive by keeping in mind that teachers and others do want to help — try not to view them as obstacles
Lastly, don’t give up. Just as your child is facing challenges, you will face challenges as an advocate.
Understand How Your Child Learns
Psychological testing provides information about your child’s unique learning style as well as reveals the strengths that will help them cope with learning disabilities.
Other valuable insights that can be gained from psychological testing include:
- Aspects of a child’s social and emotional functioning that contribute to their challenges
- Barriers to academic performance
- How the child perceives themselves, other people, and the world
The information gained through psychological testing does more than focus on the “problem.” It sheds light on solutions, providing clear steps to take.
Once an educational need has been established, schools must create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). An IEP will not meet all of your child’s needs but is designed to maximize their achievement.
Understanding the laws that guide special education will allow you to advocate for your child in the most productive way. Your child may be eligible for more services and accommodations than you — or the school — realizes.
Focus on the Big Picture
A child’s learning ability does not define them, and it does not have to limit their academic or life goals. In many cases, it takes only a few extra steps for a child to excel in school once their challenges have been identified. However, academic success is only one part of life.
Focusing on broad skills will help your child succeed in every aspect of their life no matter what challenges they face. Skills such as self-confidence, compassion, and perseverance will help children cope with all the ups and downs they may encounter.
Professional support can help the whole family learn how to be supportive without letting one child’s needs overtake everyone else’s.
There are many effective treatments available for helping a child with learning disabilities. Tutoring, therapy, medication, and classroom accommodations are only a few of the possibilities. Finding the right combination of treatments may take some time, but with perseverance and the right support, your child can learn to overcome their challenges.If you think you or a loved one is struggling with a learning disability, Blackhawk Family Development Center can help. Our team of clinicians uses an integrative and strength-based approach to diagnosis and treatment. Contact us today to learn more.