Millions of students are diagnosed with learning differences of some sort. Millions more go undiagnosed. Either way, a student who learns differently than others has a difficult road to navigate and parents seem to have an even more difficult road.
And, I am constantly asked by parents what to do on this journey. They desperately need to know how to make sense of the heartbreak, tears, loneliness, and isolation that their children often suffer from.
I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly know that many of these answers are personal choices. What works for one student doesn’t necessarily work for another. Yet, through all of these years of helping parents and students navigate the course of a learning difference, I have come up with some basic advice.
1. Don’t just think that your child will outgrow a learning difference or disability. Each year that goes by without help, the academic gap widens and it takes that much longer to get the student caught up and succeeding, both in academics and in life.
2. Once you decide on an avenue of help, stay involved. Ask questions. Observe classes. Does your child enjoy the sessions for the most part, or is it another hour of torture?
3. Call for meetings at your child’s school if you feel that your child is not getting the attention he/she deserves. Have the school draw up a plan for success, such as lowering the homework load for your child.
4. Take the pressure off of your child if he/she is stressed and having outbursts. If a young child is frustrated, it is a long school day to sit through. Find a better school. Switch teachers. Have the school alter your child’s curriculum plan if necessary.
5. Go through proper protocol at your child’s school to get help. Ask the teacher first, then the principal. If you are not getting results, find an advocate for your child – a family member or friend can help. Read about laws that can support your child.
6. Be careful about extensive testing, especially with a young learner. These tests will follow your child throughout school, and a student is often labeled or pigeon holed just by these test results. Test results are not always indicative of a student’s actual academic performance.
7. Don’t sign any paper work at a school meeting. Take it home. Read through it. If your child is being recommended for an IEP (individualized education plan), understand that it is indeed special education and by signing the documents you are legally bound to what it in the paper work.
There is so much more to cover, and we will continue to discuss these important decisions that you are faced with. Until then, understand that loving your child and supporting him/her is the best and most important thing you can do.