Help Your Child with Learning Differences
All parents want their kids to be successful, and kids want to be successful too. But what happens when your perfectly well adjusted happy and confident preschooler becomes the kid who puts his head under his blanket and refuses to get ready for school? Or your daughter who used to love to see her preschool friends will not get out of the car at elementary school because she has so much anxiety about what will be expected of her when she gets inside her classroom, faced with reading, writing or math.
Too often a bright child with a learning difference feels stupid, dumb, and anxious, because they learn differently from their classmates. Yet these children with learning differences are usually bright and often very intelligent. A learning difference is not a disorder, or a disability, it is just different. Learning differently is challenging for kids in school, for the teachers who are responsible for teaching them, and for parents, too.
Parents may intuitively know their child is bright. That is why it may become easy to say aloud, “Why don’t you try harder?” Your child doesn’t really need to try harder, what your child needs is to have others understand his/her learning style and create learning opportunities that teach to his/her strengths and not to his/her weaknesses.
Every day children with learning differences show up at school and try to do what is expected of them. Their self-esteem may suffer tremendously as they notice that their classmates may are learning information easier than they are. The magical ingredient for raising kids to be confident and happy is success.
Parents can build success, confidence and joy in kids with learning differences, especially when you Go to Bat for your child.
Get to know your child’s learning styles and areas of talents. Observe them. Speak to your child’s teacher. Determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Be OK with your child having a learning difference.
Open the door to opportunities away from school to jump-start your child’s success. Your child can experience joy and confidence as he realizes his natural gifts and talents in fun and engaging activities, i.e., the arts, sports, Kids Clubs, Service Clubs, etc. Give your child a chance to “shine.”
Take the time to seek professionals and tutors who have experience with kids with learning differences. They can assess your child, develop intervention plans for success, strengthen their skill weaknesses, and develop a strategic plan for building your child’s academic and emotional success.
Orientate yourself to know your parent rights. You can request your child be assessed, by presenting in writing a signed request stating your concerns. Bring it to the school office. Before having a meeting with your child’s assessment team, read about the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the 504 Accommodations. If your child isn’t found eligible for an Individual Educational Program IEP, and likely he won’t, be prepared to go the extra mile to ask to develop a school plan for your child using a 504 with accommodations. Examples of accommodations can include someone reading aloud test questions, giving your child additional time to complete an exam, or sitting on a large therapy ball during class time, instead of on a standard chair.
Build a stellar team to support you while working on goals for your child’s success. Invite on your team a friend whose child may also have a learning difference, who has navigated the “terrain” and/or caring professionals, who know medical or educational systems.
Advocate for your child. You know your child best. You know how your child struggles each day, and the impact on his happiness and self-esteem. Advocacy is an ongoing process. Keep focused on your goals. Assist others in understanding that confidence and joy are essential for all children’s overall well-being.
Take care of yourself, too. Making sure you take time to relax and re-energize is essential to you and to the well-being of your entire family.
All children deserve to experience confidence and joy. These practical strategies can lead your child to become a successful, confident and joy-filled learner, and you a joyful parent.
Drs. Swain and Schneider’s new book, Confidence & Joy: Success Strategies for Kids with Learning Differences (Crescendo Publishing,), provides parents and educators with tools to help children with learning differences realize lifelong success. confidencejoy.com.
By Dr. Deborah Ross-Swain &
Dr. Elaine Fogel Schneider
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