Is Special Schooling Our Only Option?
Specialized schooling is not always your only option, but getting help for your child early is essential. Find a reputable agency to evaluate your child’s strengths and weaknesses and then advocate for your child. Here are some key elements to success:
Get help early
It is scary to admit that your child is struggling to learn. Research tells us that parents fear that their child may be “labeled for life” if he or she is identified as having a learning disability. Please know that you are not alone. Consider that at least 2.7 million children are receiving help in school because of a learning disability. The National Institutes of Health even estimate that one of every seven Americans (15 percent) has some degree of learning disability.
It is very important that you seek help as soon as you realize your child is having difficulty learning. Seeking help – and certainly recognizing the early signs of a learning disability – can mean the difference between success and failure for your child in school.
Most learning disabilities affect reading and language skills. In fact, a significant majority of students with a learning disability have problems with reading. If these children receive appropriate help in the early grades, most of them will become skilled, independent readers. When help is delayed, it becomes harder and harder for children to catch up.
Perhaps the most important reason to seek help early is to spare children the frustration and failure they experience when they don’t do well in school and don’t know why. You must help your child understand that he or she simply learns differently.
Why get help immediately:
- 80% of students with a learning disability have trouble reading.
- 90% percent will read normally if they receive help by the first grade.
- 75% percent of children who receive help after the age of nine will have some difficulty throughout life.
- Trust your intuition! No one knows your child better than you, so if you suspect a real problem, speak to teachers and other school personnel, seek information and expert opinions, and do not be afraid to have him or her evaluated right away.
- Meet with your child’s teacher and guidance counselor. They can tell you how well your child interacts with his or her peers, as well as help to arrange a full evaluation of how well your child is performing in school.
- Know your legal rights and responsibilities. Learn about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If you prefer to have information shared in a language other than English, be sure to ask for a summary of your rights and evaluations in your native language.
- Observe your child’s strengths and interests. Encourage him or her at school and at play, and reward your child for the many things he or she does well.
- Realize that you are not alone and that experienced people and groups have information and help for you right now.
- Learn as much as you can. The more you know about learning disabilities, the more you can help your child. Start with your school. Then contact one of the organizations listed below.