It’s estimated that 1 in 5 children in the U.S. has some form of a learning disability (LD). A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects how the brain processes and processes information. This can impact a child’s ability to read, write, spell, listen, and/or do the math. Many children with LD are of average or above-average intelligence but may struggle in school due to their disability. As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs of LD and what you can do to support your child.
Signs of Learning Disabilities
Most children with LD will show signs of difficulty early on, usually around preschool or kindergarten age. These could include the following:
- Difficulty with tasks that other children of the same age can do easily
- Trouble comprehending new concepts
- Struggling to follow instructions, remember sequences, or complete tasks in order
- Difficulty recalling words and/or pronouncing them correctly
- It avoids activities involving reading, writing, math, or other
If your child shows any of these signs, they must talk to their teacher or doctor for further evaluation. Early detection and intervention are key to helping children succeed in school. As parents, you are responsible for being aware of the signs and helping your child get the support they need.
However, there are “special learning disabilities” that can only be detected by the age of seven. One example is auditory processing disorder, where a child cannot process and interpret the things they hear. Many kids go undiagnosed until first grade or later because most traditional auditory processing disorder tests require a child to be at least seven years old. However, newer tests that use noninvasive electrodes to check the body’s response to speech can give some information about the central auditory system in younger children.
Supporting Your Child with a Learning Disability
Once you’re aware that your child has a learning disability, there are several things you can do to help them cope and get the most out of their education:
- Talk to your child’s teachers and ensure they understand how the LD affects your child and what they need in terms of accommodations.
- Find out if any tutoring or support services can help your child with their studies.
- Provide a quiet study area, free from distractions and noise.
- Help your child break tasks into smaller, more manageable parts to make them easier.
Showing your support and guidance will help your child to feel valued and secure, giving them the confidence they need to work through their learning disability. Additionally, it would help if you stayed positive and encouraging when discussing your child’s LD—don’t let it become a source of shame or embarrassment.
Treatment and Support Options
There is no “cure” for learning disabilities, but effective treatment and support options are available. Options may include the following:
- Special education services, such as tutoring and/or classroom adaptations
- Occupational therapy to help your child with sensory integration needs
- Speech and language therapy to improve communication skills
- Psychoeducational testing to determine the severity of the LD and what accommodations may be needed
- Medication to manage symptoms related to anxiety or depression that can arise from dealing with an LD
Of course, these options differ from child to child and their conditions, so discussing the best action plan with your doctor or school is important. Various resources are available online and in your community to help parents support their children with learning disabilities. Be active, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
The most important thing you can do as a parent is an advocate for your child and ensure they get the help they need at school. This may involve working with the school to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan. This outlines specific accommodations and services that will be put in place to help your child succeed in school.
Some common accommodations include extra time on tests, assistive technology, preferential seating, and one-on-one help from a teacher or aide. You can also take a more active role in your child’s education by talking to their teacher. You can also attend IEP meetings and stay informed about how your child is doing.
Stay Informed and Involved
Learning disabilities are complex and can be difficult to understand. As a parent, staying informed and involved with your child’s education is the key to helping them succeed in school. Do your research, ask questions, and reach out for help when needed—these simple steps will make a difference in your child’s learning experience.
Finally, remember that no two children with learning disabilities are exactly alike; each has unique challenges and strengths. Be patient and supportive, and emphasize the things your child can do rather than focusing on what they can’t. With your help, they’ll be able to overcome any obstacles they face.
Learning disabilities are relatively common but often go undetected because many children can compensate for their difficulties. With early intervention and appropriate support, children with LD can reach their full potential!