“Until you have a kid with special needs, you have no idea of the depth of your strength, tenacity and resourcefulness”
Parents play a crucial role in the life of their child who has learning difficulties. The child looks to the parent for support and encouragement. Do you have a child with learning difficulties? Here is a brief introduction to the role of parents who have children with learning disability.
What is learning difficulty?
Children with learning difficulty, though having average or above average intelligence, have problems in processing information. Some of them struggle to read and write. They have difficulty in spelling. They find it difficult to do certain tasks which others of their age group can do effortlessly. Another problem area is comprehension of concepts in mathematics such as area, fraction etc. Some of them may find it difficult to do problems which have a series of steps like division or multiplication. They are unable to stay focused on a task as they have low attention span and are easily distracted.
How to know if my child has learning difficulty?
- Early signs at home:
A child is expected to achieve certain skills at a certain period. These are called developmental milestones. Sitting, crawling, standing up, walking, talking, listening to instructions, playing with other children, drawing/doodling are examples of developmental milestones. A checklist of developmental milestones can be downloaded from the internet. Each of the milestones is linked to cognitive development. Missing a milestone may affect cognitive development. Delay in achieving the milestones could be the early indicators of learning difficulty. If the delays in reaching developmental milestones persist, get the help of experts.
- Early signs at school:
Children with learning difficulty have problems with language. The inability to recognize the alphabets is a sign of learning disability. They may have difficulty in reading and writing. They may not be able to pronounce certain words. Some children are unable to sit still and focus on an activity. They may show poor memory. The teachers may complain about the poor social skills of these children. If their child shows any of the above difficulties, the parents should go to the school and meet the teachers to get a detailed feedback. Have the child assessed by a psychologist or by a special educator.
- How is the assessment made?
The psychologist interviews the parents to gain information about the child’s difficulties and behaviour patterns. The child’s notebooks and answer sheets help the psychologist to understand the nature of difficulties experienced by the child. An interview with the child is useful to get more insights. Standardized tests are available to evaluate the academic level achieved by a child.
The psychologist identifies the areas of difficulties of the child and may suggest appropriate remedial measures.
What to do if my child has learning difficulty?
- Accept the problem
Many parents are reluctant to accept the fact that their child has learning difficulty. Even highly educated parents refuse to accept that there is something wrong with their child. Many special educators are frustrated because of the lack of cooperation from parents. The most important step is to accept the problem. Only if we accept a problem, will we look for solutions.
- Accept your child unconditionally
All children need parental love. But the need for parental love for children with learning difficulty is much more. They are often teased by their peers and they even get abused by teachers who have no knowledge of learning difficulty. They come to their parents with their self esteem badly bruised and battered. Only the loving embrace of their parents can sustain them through their difficult days and make them grow into emotionally healthy beings.
Unconditional acceptance is the greatest gift that you can give to your child.
- Understand your child
Understanding the child is an important aspect of parenting. Unfortunately, many parents don’t understand their child. Each child is unique and your child is also unique. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your child. We concentrate more in the areas of weaknesses of our child. Because of the preoccupation with the shortcomings of our child, we fail to spot her/his strengths. Your child may have a unique ability. Develop this and it may transform your child’s life.
Understanding your child’s learning style is another important area. There are three types of learners- visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Find out the learning style of your child and choose appropriate methods to teach your child.
- Learn more about learning difficulties to help your child
You are your child’s best friend and tutor. Learn more about learning difficulties. Find out the specific problems faced by your child and seek remedies from experts. If possible, make use of the services of a special educator. Interact with other parents who have children with learning difficulties. Form a group and learn from each other.
- Maintain a positive attitude and be your child’s shock absorber!
Managing a child with learning difficulties is a difficult task. You may get frustrated and depressed. Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness may overpower you. Remember, you can help your child only if you remain emotionally healthy. Never hesitate to seek the help of a psychologist/psychiatrist. Sometimes group counseling may be of great help. Maintaining a positive attitude is very important. Only then would your child come to you seeking help. A calm and steady parent is a source of great support for a troubled child.
- Play with your child
Play with your child and develop a strong bond with her/him. Many board games boost brain power. Play and have fun with these board games- Ludo, Chinese checkers, chess, monopoly, scrabbles, and memory games. You can play many games with playing cards. Many other games are available. Reclaim your childhood by playing with your child!
- Teach life skills to your child
- Praise your child and boost her/his self esteem. Many children with learning difficulties have a poor opinion of their abilities.
- Concentrate on your child’s social skills along with strengthening academic abilities.
- Teach your child yoga and meditation- these improve memory and concentration.
- Make your child eat healthy food.