October 2012
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How to Get Help for Your Child with Learning Disabilities

If you have a child with learning disabilities, you’re probably worried about how they’ll cope with the educational process. All parents want what’s best for their children, but academic success is only part of the equation. With your encouragement and support, you can help your child build a sense of self-confidence that will carry them throughout life.

When looking to help your learning-disabled child, remember that the end goal is to get them to help themselves. It’s not your job to ‘cure’ the problem, but to give your child the tools with which to deal with issues. Remember, the way you react to obstacles has a huge influence on your child. Keeping a positive attitude won’t fix the problem, but it will give your child hope that things will get better. Here are some other tips on coping with a learning disability:

Keep it in perspective. Everyone has challenges; it’s your job to show your child how to deal with them. Don’t let paperwork and bureaucratic red tape keep you from giving your child the support they need.

Become a learning disability expert. Keep up-to-date on developing programs, techniques and therapies for managing learning disabilities. You might think you can just depend on doctors and teachers, but you’re the one who really knows most about your child.

Become your child’s advocate. As the parent of a learning-disabled child, you’ll occasionally have to ask for help. Sharpen your communication skills—it might be a frustrating process, but if you remain calm and reasonable you’ll help your child more.

Focus on Their Strengths

Your child is NOT their disability; that problem just represents a weakness among many strengths. Concentrate on your child’s talents; their life shouldn’t focus on their learning disability. Make room in your schedule for activities in which your child excels.

Control Their Education

As budget cuts harm schools, it’s more important than ever to take a proactive role in your child’s schooling. If your child shows a need, their school is legally required to develop an IEP (individual educational plan). The IEP is only required to deliver SOME benefit—not always enough to maximize their potential. Knowing local laws and your school’s guidelines will help you support your child in the best way possible. To communicate with your child’s teachers:
Be clear about your goals. Before any IEP meeting, list your goals in order of importance.

Listen well. Let educators explain their positions; if there’s something you don’t understand, ask for an explanation.


Offer your opinions.
As a parent, you’re outside the “system”, and you can approach problems in a new way.


Keep focused on your child.
Schools deal with thousands of children, and you’re only dealing with yours. Help all meetings focus on your child by mentioning their name often and staying away from generalizations.


Stay positive and calm.
Go into meetings assuming that the school wants to help. If you say something out of line, just apologize and refocus.


Refuse to give up.
If you aren’t happy with the response the school gives, ask again.


Realize the School’s Limitations

Some parents mistakenly invest all their effort and time into their child’s school as the sole solution to a learning problem. A far better approach is to realize that your child’s education will likely never be exactly as you want it to be; limited funding and excessive regulations mean that you won’t always be able to get the services you want for your child. Keep in mind that school is only part of the answer to a child’s learning issues; your attitude will have a far larger influence on your child’s progress.

This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Voyage who specialize in helping people with learning disabilities and their families.
Photo by: woodleywonderworks

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