If your child has been struggling in school and falling behind, it can actually be a relief to find the root cause, because it means there are strategies available to intervene.
A learning disability is not a life sentence to a “special classroom.” There are plenty of very intelligent children and adults who have adapted to their disabilities and become very successful. Did you know that Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill are believed to have had dyslexia?
As a special educator, I do not diagnose. Instead, we have categories under which a student can become eligible for special services. For example, a student must fit the pattern of a child with a learning disability to receive services for a learning disability. If a student fits that pattern, then we already have a road map for his success. For every set of symptoms, I have tools to work with students with learning disabilities. Then special educators can now rally the team to make a specific plan that works for that kid. Let’s get planning, shall we?
If your child has already been identified as having a learning disability, this means that the hard part — the evaluation — is already over. It also means that you’ve just been handed a wealth of information about your child, and you are probably already overwhelmed.
It might be helpful to start out by doing the following:
- Take the time to ask questions about the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process or about what your child’s results mean — even if the meeting is already over.
- Read up on learning disabilities, and understand how it affects the way your child thinks and learns.
- Make sure you get a copy of your parental rights from the school (they are legally obligated to provide it), and give it a read.
- Keep all of the information and paperwork in a binder where you can access it when you need to. This makes a good tool to bring to meetings, and over time shows you how much progress your child has made!
Stay in Touch
As a key member of the team, it’s important for you to keep lines of communication open with the teachers. Find a way that works — occasional emails, weekly phone calls, notes in the backpack.
You and the teacher are allies, and will continue to provide important feedback to one another. Your observations will help inform the teacher and the other way around. Knowing that you and the teacher are on the same team also shows your child the importance of school.
Support Your Child
Your child isn’t her disability. Don’t let this define her or her school experience. Yes, she may need specific interventions to make progress, and there will be a period of adjustment, but if school becomes a miserable experience for her, it won’t matter much what interventions she is getting.
A student who has checked out entirely won’t make any progress. Help build up positive experiences with reading and writing for your child, and find something to keep her feeling connected and valued at school. Maybe reading class is tough, but she is great at math! Let her show off her new skills, if she is comfortable, and make a point of celebrating her strengths.