Back to School for the Child with Learning Disabilities

Back to School for the Child with Learning Disabilities

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Updated on Jun 6, 2013

Gearing up for a new school year can be challenging for students. After a few months of sleeping in, leisure activities, maybe even extra time with mom or dad, few kids are eager to wake up bright and early and spend the day in a classroom.

But this transition from summer to school can be particularly difficult for students with learning disabilities (LD). “Transitions can be exciting and also stressful,” says Sheldon Horowitz, Ph.D., Director of Professional Services for the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).

According to Horowitz, parents can help children with LD manage their expectations and feelings about transitions. “You can set up opportunities for sharing, for talking about the positive and negative feelings that go along with any transition,” Horowitz says. Part of this sharing, he says, has to do with parents articulating their own feelings about the transition and their expectations for the new routine.

Establishing and practicing a routine before school begins can be especially beneficial for students with LD. “Routines tend to fall apart during the summer,” Horowitz says. “I’m not suggesting that 3 weeks before the end of summer there’s a lockdown and everyone starts to go to bed early, but families can begin discussing how they will get ready for school.”

Joanne Meier, Ph.D., Research Director for LD Online, says parents can establish routines for homework and anything school related, but it’s also beneficial to establish and review routines in the home. “It’s important to have these routines in place so the children can successfully get themselves ready for school in the morning,” Meier says. “You might even post a three-item checklist by the front door, or post-its in that bathroom that remind them of what needs to be done—brush teeth, wash face, brush hair.” Meier explains that the simplicity or complexity of these notes and reminders will vary from child to child, depending on age and other factors.

Horowitz has seen the checklist method used successfully with 1st and 2nd graders and also with 10th graders. School schedules can become extremely complicated as students get older, and students need to bring different materials, shoes, books, etc., on different days. “You may have to work on a calendar together and post it in the kitchen,” he says. This can be helpful for both the child and the parent!

These last few weeks before school begins are a perfect time to prepare yourself and your child for the new school year. Here are a few more tips from the experts:

Make contact with your child’s teacher(s).

Marcelle White, Associate Director of Online Communications for NCLD, says it’s important to connect with your child’s teacher before school begins. You should let the teacher know about your child’s disability, but you should also share positive anecdotes about your child. “You don’t want the teacher to think of the child as only a LD child,” White says.

Meier agrees. “Parents who have kids with LD have already learned the importance and value of being an advocate for their child,” she says. “But with every new school year and new teacher, parents have a new opportunity to hone their advocacy skills.”

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