What Can I Do If I Suspect My Child Has a Learning Disability? (page 3)
With early recognition and targeted intervention, children with learning disabilities can be helped so that they can achieve as well as other youngsters do. If you suspect that your child has a learning disability, don’t despair. The following steps recommend some of the important things that parents can do to help. After finishing this article and reading the other sections of this web site, you will be on the way to helping your child, and educating yourself in the process.
Collect information about your child’s performance
Gathering and organizing information about your child’s academic and social development will help you to effectively monitor progress over time. Meet with your child’s teachers and other school personnel and develop a keen awareness of your child’s ability to study, do homework and finish the tasks that are assigned by teachers as well as those that are part of routines at home. In addition to keeping your own informal notes, be sure to maintain a file of all school-generated materials, including any standardized test results, report cards, progress reports and any descriptive summaries or notes from teachers. Also keep a record of your impressions at different points in your child’s school career as well as what kinds of discussions you have had with school personnel and other professionals. (Hint: making sure to date this information can be very valuable in planning for your child.)
Talk with your child's teacher
Share your concerns with your child's teacher and ask about her observations of your child's performance, interactions with his peers, etc. Together you may come up with strategies to try in the classroom and at home to support your child's learning and behavioral needs. Honest and open communication, together with some creative thinking and flexibility in planning, can go a long way toward discovering how best to address your child’s unique needs. Working hand in hand with you, your child's teacher can help you identify available school resources and, if needed, provide much-valued information should you choose to have your child undergo a comprehensive educational evaluation.
Have your child tested
If you determine that more information is needed to understand how best to meet your child’s needs, a comprehensive educational evaluation can be conducted. While there is no set protocol for these types of assessments, they almost always include: parent and child interviews, direct classroom observation, a review of your child’s educational and medical history, a series of tests that help to disclose your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and information gathering with professionals who work with your child. Either you or the school can request such an evaluation, but it can only be conducted with a parent’s written consent.
If the results of a comprehensive evaluation indicate that your child has a learning disability, she or he is eligible for special educational services. You will work with members of the school’s child study team (note: be sure to include your child’s teachers) to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a written document that summarizes your child’s educational performance, specifies annual and short-term educational goals, provides detail about instructional strategies and any needed accommodations or modifications, and indicates how (and how often) progress will be measured. You are a major player in this planning process so don’t be afraid to speak up. If your child does not qualify for special education, it is still important for you to work with your child’s teachers to ensure that the evaluation findings are used to enhance instruction in ways that help your child overcome barriers to learning.
Find ways to help
Changes can be made in classroom routines to help children with learning disabilities. Talk to your child’s teachers about these ideas: reading aloud, allowing extra time on exams, taping lessons and using assistive technology.
Talk with your child about the disability
Reassure your child that having a learning disability is OK and that it does not mean that they are stupid or lazy. Be honest and optimistic with your child, and impress upon them how important it is for them to share their ideas and suggestions. Helping your child to be an effective self advocate and to be able to articulate what he or she needs to succeed is one of the most important things you can do. Explain that, though learning may be a struggle, he or she can still succeed.
Know your child’s strengths
Children with learning disabilities, just like their non-disabled peers, are often leaders in some areas and followers in others. In contrast to their sometimes severe weaknesses in areas like reading and math, some children with LD are outstanding athletes, or excel in creative areas like music, painting or sculpture. And some children, despite their learning disabilities in reading and spelling, are extraordinary authors. Focus on your child’s strengths and help him or her overcome or circumvent difficulties. Participation in after-school activities and clubs are good ways for children develop their interests and talents, not to mention the social and emotional benefits they can reap from this stress-free time away from formal academics.
Work with your child at home
Help your child do homework by establishing a regular time and a specific place for it, and give lots of encouragement. Praise your child for work well done and help him or her practice good school behaviors at home.
Know your legal rights
Learn about your legal rights by requesting a copy of your state’s guidelines for special education services. Under the law, every child with a learning disability has the right to a “free and appropriate public education.”
Adapted from the work of Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities.
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Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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