What Can a Parent Do?
Know your child’s strengths
Children with learning disabilities are often highly intelligent, possess leadership skills, or are superior in music, arts, sports, or other creative areas. Rather than focusing solely on your child’s deficiencies, emphasize and reward your child’s strengths. Encourage your child in areas of interest outside the classroom.
Collect information about your child’s performance
Meet with your child’s teachers, tutors, and school support personnel to understand performance levels, and attitude toward school. Observe your child’s ability to study, complete homework, and finish tasks that you assign at home.
Have Your Child Evaluated
Ask school authorities to provide a comprehensive educational evaluation including assessment tests. Tests for learning disabilities are referred to as assessment tests because they evaluate and measure areas of strengths and weaknesses. A comprehensive evaluation, however, includes a variety of procedures in addition to the assessment tests, such as interviews, direct observation, reviews of your child’s educational and medical history, and conferences with professionals who work with your child. Either you or the school can request this evaluation, but it is given only with your written permission.
Since you are one of the best observers of your child’s development, it is important that you be an active participant in the evaluation process. If you don’t understand the test results, ask questions!
Work as a team to help your child
If the evaluation shows that your child has a learning disability, your child is eligible for special education services. If eligible, you will work with a team of professionals, including your child’s teacher, to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is a written document summarizing your child’s current educational performance; annual goals and short-term objectives; nature and projected duration of your child’s special services; and methods for evaluating progress. For students 16 years and older, an IEP must include a transition plan to move the student from school to the “real world.”
If your child does not qualify for special education, it is still important for you to work with your child’s teacher to develop an informal program that meets your child’s learning needs. You are a vital part of your child’s education!
Talk to your child about learning disabilities
Children with learning disabilities must be assured that they are not dumb or lazy. They are intelligent people who have trouble learning because their minds process words or information differently. It is not easy to talk with your child about a disability that you do not fully understand. Be informed. It is important to be honest and optimistic-explain to your child that they struggle with learning, but that they can learn. Focus on your child’s talents and strengths. Tell them you are confident that with effort and the right help they will be able to meet the challenge and succeed!
Find accommodations that can help
Teachers can change classroom routines to help children with learning disabilities. Meet with your child’s teacher about these possibilities: reading written information aloud, allowing extra time on exams, taping lessons, and using technology. Have your decisions written into the IEP in public schools or in the 504 Plan in private schools.
Explore all educational options
Keep in mind, that accommodating is not the same thing as remediating. Remediation requires a prescriptive academic program using specialized instructional methods that address the student’s specific deficit areas. Remediation is critical to close the gap between a student’s ability and achievement levels.
There are a variety of options available that support students having learning disabilities. Consideration may be given to outside interventions such as individualized tutorial programs or specialized technology based programs designed to support students working below grade level. In addition, schools having specialized missions with faculty trained in the field of learning disabilities can be an effective recourse. Parents should research and investigate all possibilities to determine the best option for their child.