Did you know that October is National Learning Disabilities Awareness Month? One out of every five Americans has a learning disability, and almost three million children have some form of a learning disability that requires special education in school. This month, we want to give a shout out to each of these individuals and encourage them to keep up their hard work!
What Is a Learning Disability?
A learning disability is a neurological disorder. Contrary to popular belief, many children with this disorder are actually highly intelligent and are even smarter than many of their peers; however, they have difficulties when it comes to reading, writing, spelling, and memorization. This is not something that can be fixed or “cured,” but with the right intervention and the right support and education, these children can succeed in anything they put their minds to.
Different Kinds of Learning Disabilities
As is the case with any disability, there are many different types and degrees of learning disabilities. Here are a few.
- Dyslexia. An individual with dyslexia might have trouble understanding written words. This can also be referred to as reading disability or reading disorder.
- Dyscalculia. Someone who might struggle with mathematics and has a difficult time understanding and grasping the different math equations.
- Dysgraphia. Someone who has a writing disability and might find it very difficult writing letters in a defined space.
- Auditory & Visual Processing Disorder. Difficulty understanding the spoken word even though they have normal hearing and vision.
- ADHD. Someone who has difficulty staying focused and paying attention, which tends to cause difficulties when they try to control their behavior.
How Do I Know if my Child has a Learning disability?
Many parents are unaware of how to tell if their child has a learning disability; determining it can be a difficult process that should involve professional, medical help. It is very common for many children to have problems with the day-to-day tasks of reading, writing and performing learning-related tasks at some point. This could be related to numerous different reasons, from not wanting to be in a particular class or even just be at school in general, but this does not mean that they necessarily have a learning disability. A child or adult with one has a lot of the below signs that do not go away or get better over time. These signs vary from person to person, but there are some common signs.
- Problems reading and/or writing
- Problems with math
- Poor memory
- Problems paying attention
- Trouble following directions
- Trouble telling time
- Problems staying organized
How Are These Disabilities Diagnosed?
If you believe that your child has a learning disability, you should get them diagnosed by a medical professional. These disabilities are often not recognized until children reach school-age and usually a teacher or school counselor is able to pick up on the signs. The next steps are typically a process called “response to intervention,” which helps identify if and what learning disability they may have. Response to intervention usually involve some of the following:
- Monitoring all students’ progress closely to identify possible learning problems
- Providing children who are having problems with help on different levels, or tiers
- Moving children to tiers that provide increasing support if they do not show sufficient progress
How Can You Help Kids with a Disability?
Some ways that others can help those with a learning disability include looking at the bigger picture and remembering that we all need love, encouragement, and support when we are struggling with something. In addition to that, here are some ways to help your child when they are struggling with a learning disability.
- Keep things in perspective — remind yourself that everyone faces obstacles, but it is your job as a parent to teach your child how to deal with these.
- Become your own expert — do your own research and keep learning new developments in disability programs and therapies.
- Be an advocate for your child — you may have to speak up from time to time to get the help your child needs so he/she can succeed.
- Remember that your influence outweighs all others — your child will follow your lead; if he/she sees that you do hard work and have a sense of humor, your child is likely to embrace your perspective.
Focus on Strengths, Not Just Weaknesses!
Be sure to share if you or someone you love has a learning disability so that we may spread awareness and support to all who struggle.