After a month or two of school, you’ve probably developed a routine with your kids. If you help your children with their homework, you also have an idea of what their curriculum looks like and how they should be progressing.
Many children have trouble when they’re learning to read and write. If your child is in his or her first year of school, that’s normal. However, if your child doesn’t make any progress, or these problems persist over time, it’s possible that he or she has a learning disability.
Between 8 percent and 10 percent of all children in the U.S. have some form of learning disability. Having these problems doesn’t necessarily mean your child won’t succeed in school, but it does mean that he or she will need extra help. You can become your child’s best advocate by recognizing the signs of a learning disability, finding out which resources to turn to and collaborating with your child’s school to ensure that he or she gets the necessary aid.
Know the signs
Only a professional can determine whether your child has a learning disability. However, these early warning signs will help you decide whether you should consult one:
- Difficulty reading or writing
- Problems with math skills
- Lacking memory skills
- Trouble following instructions or paying attention
- Easily distracted
- Impulsive behavior.
If any of these are persistent problems for your child and you’re concerned, it may be time to consult a family health advisor. These professionals will sit down with you and come up with a plan regarding which resources you need to turn to. The first and most obvious choice is to speak with your child’s teachers, who will have the best idea of how well your child is progressing. If the teachers suspect a learning disability, it’s a good idea for your child to undergo a medical evaluation.
In addition to seeing a doctor, your child may need to be evaluated by special education experts, speech-language pathologists and school psychologists, who can help determine what type of learning issues your child is facing.
Examples of common learning disabilities include:
- Dyslexia, which hurts the ability to connect letters and sounds to spelling and words. Early signs include delayed speech, poor spelling and difficulties with both written and spoken language.
- Dysgraphia, which affects writing abilities. Early signs include trouble or disinterest with writing, grammar problems and a strong dislike of writing or drawing.
- Dyscalculia, which makes basic arithmetic difficult to comprehend. Early signs include trouble recognizing the logical steps in a process, messy math work on paper and poor performance on math-related word problems.
- Dyspraxia, which is trouble with motor tasks, such as hand-eye coordination. Early signs include poor balance and sensitivity toward repetitive noises and touch.
Education tailored to the individual
Once you and your child’s care and education team know what the problem is, all of you can work together to make sure he or she gets the necessary support. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, your child is entitled to a range of free educational services. If your child is in a private school, consult the public school district to find out what resources are available. Services may entail developing an Individualized Education Plan that lists goals for your child, specific plans for services to be provided and which specialists need to work with your child. Reports from your child’s doctor will help create the IEP.
Ultimately, ensuring your child succeeds in school is a team effort, and with the right resources, his or her learning disability will become an easier challenge to overcome.