So Your Child Has A Learning Disability
When a child is falling behind in their studies, hearing and eye tests come through within the ‘normal’ ranges, and there is no health issue creating memory challenges or focusing issues, parents owe it to their child to try to determine the nature of the learning problem.
Some parents are fearful of testing and having their child labeled, when the real issue is how one addresses whatever LD label is used. Some parents reject formalized testing, feeling that poor scores would be a reflection on themselves. Some parents may provide excuses for the child, thinking that the problem will simply go away in time.
It is in the child’s best interest for parents to determine exactly what the child’s learning package is, and initiate the recommended early intervention strategies asap. Whether testing is done or not, no one is fooling the student. They KNOW there is a problem! They can readily see the other children moving forward in their studies, catching on more quickly.
Parents must also realize that unless this challenge is properly identified and strategies set in place, the child will likely develop a range of secondary problems. These will involve the child’s particular coping techniques in responding to their learning challenges: self-esteem issues, poor attitudes, and avoidance behaviours which can, in time, become firmly established.
Sweeping learning challenges under the carpet or ignoring the test score results places a huge onus on the child to make it all right or to work harder to solve the problem. This is extremely unfair to any child.
Recommendations when a learning challenge is suspected:
1) Arrange for formal testing when concerns begin to appear. If you don’t wish to wait for the Board of Education’s psychologist, then consider having this done privately. Your local school can recommend independent psychologists or testing agencies for a quicker turnaround time.
2) Share the test results with your child’s teacher, and work together to implement the recommendations both at school AND at home.
3) Arrange to have regular tracking meetings with your child’s teacher to monitor school and home progress, and adjust approaches as needed.
4) Share the test results with your child so they can understand what the scores mean. Making the child a part of the solution helps him/her to understand the why’s of the various strategies, and he/she will be more willing to further improve their academic performance.
5) Share the report’s ‘good news’ with your child as well, as this knowledge is critical for their self-esteem. Often the report will indicate dual exceptionalities: a learning problem combined with very high scores in other areas. Note that a certain proportion of LD students also have a higher than average IQ level. Because of this, with a very bright student, the disparities and blocks in performance are perceived as being that much greater.
6) Depending on the student, inviting him/her to attend the parent teacher interviews can be very productive, as the child can provide their own input, as well as receive suitable praise and encouragement for progress made.
7) Few people appreciate how much harder it is for a child with any kind of learning or physical inability to achieve. They often have to put in 150% effort to meet their objectives. This needs to be recognized by providing for shorter working time frames or additional breaks.
8) The human brain requires 10% more oxygen than does the body, so it is important to work in a bright, sun -lit and well ventilated room for best results.
9) Ensuring a child has a stress free evening, a good night’s sleep, and receives healthy, organic, nutritious foods to fuel the body and the mind, are also important considerations.
Recent neuroscience research provides improved understanding for effective learning approaches and the development of stronger neuropathways. Many students in a typical classroom require some sort of accommodation, whether it is the very bright, the sensitive or the emotional child. The book The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge about neuroplasticity and the endless adaptability and potential of the human brain is truly enlightening.
Supporting a child with love and understanding and actively listening to their ideas and concerns is critical for a student’s academic successes and the development of a strong sense of self worth.
Linda Sweet M.S. Ed.
Founder and Director of Glenburnie School
Preschool to Grade 8
Providing a progressive and innovative educational approach