Does My Child Have a Learning Disability?

Does your child seem to constantly struggle with school work? Does your toddler only seem to know a few words? If your child has trouble with reading, math, writing, or forming sentences they may have a learning disability. This is often difficult to identify in young children because they are constantly growing and learning, but it is better to get tested then wait.

When I was in kindergarten, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia. This was during the early 1980s and since no one really knew much about the disease at the time I was sort of lost. Instead of receiving help I was placed in Pre-first. During the 1980s this was a popular choice for many public schools that didn’t want, or couldn’t afford to put children in special education. Although I didn’t know at the time I was in a special class, I was later embarrassed when my little sister was in my class the next year.

This just frustrated me, and I ended up having behavioral problems in school. My teachers said that I was too imaginative, and that I had too much energy. I thought they were crazy because I felt just fine. My reasoning was “that’s the way God made me”. But my parents had a slew of tests run on me. Brain scans, blood tests and the like. After all the tests I was notified that I had dyslexia but that was pretty much it.

My parents couldn’t afford to have me tutored, or go to special school. Ignoring the disorder did not make it non-existent. By the time I reached high school I was having serious problems with math and reading comprehension. In fifth grade I was tested at a ninth grade reading level. Even though I could read the words, I didn’t understand them. I was failing tests on which I clearly knew the information for. My SAT scores were so low I had to retake them before applying to college.

If you think your child is suffering from a learning disorder it is important that you recognize the symptoms. If your child is not yet school age, focus on their speech and motor skills development. Between the ages of 2 and 3 your child should be able to put together 2-3 word sentences. They should also be able to follow simple two to three step commands. 3 year olds should also be able to walk up and down stairs and ride a bike. At four years old your child should be able to button clothing.

If your child is school age some of the symptoms may include frustration with school, homework, or in general. Difficulty or refusal to do homework, inability to read or write, crying, and loss of focus are some of the other symptoms. Sometimes your child may want to stay home in order to avoid the embarrassment of school. Pay attention to all those stomach aches your child complains of because it may be a sign of a learning disorder. Sometimes school age children with learning disabilities will call themselves stupid, or compare their learning ability to that of their peers.

What is a Learning Disorder?

A learning disorder is a neurologically based disorder. Usually learning disorders are recognized as an unexpected under achievement in individuals with average or above average learning skills. Often times children that are especially good at music, art, and math are the most likely to have learning disorders. The nerve cell connections in the brain do not function properly. Information that should be sent to a specific target in the brain is not making it there. It is like running a windows operating system on a Mac computer. It just doesn’t work function properly.

Learning disabilities are often hard to identify in young children, but in school age children it can be more apparent. During early childhood development and puberty learning disabilities can often be reversed, but only if caught early. Some examples of learning disabilities are dyslexia, which causes reading and reading comprehension problems, Dyscalculia which causes problems with mathematical capacity, and Dysgraphia that causes problems with writing and understanding. Diagnosis should be made by a neurological professional.

Getting Help

The first thing that you should do, if you think your child has a learning disability, is gather evidence. Take your child to the pediatrician or doctor and get a physical. Also get neurological exams as well as reading, math, and comprehension tests. Take a look at your family history with your doctor to determine if your child is Pre-disposed to having a learning disability. When you get an evaluation of your child’s performance make sure that academics, cognitive growth, speech, language, and comprehension are all tested.

After the diagnosis you should immediately seek treatment. If you wait, it will just get worse. If your child is not school age, talk to your pediatrician about your child’s growth rate and cognitive development. In most states, all public schools have a Committee on Pre-School Special Education. Speak to them if you need resources or referrals. If your child is school aged speak to all of his/her teachers. Find out exactly what your child is struggling with. Often times your child may just clam up when you ask them about school. They do this because they are embarrassed and feel inferior to their peers.

Education for Students with Disabilities

During the 1980s when I was diagnosed with Dyslexia, there weren’t many resources for help. I struggled with the disorder throughout my entire public education. I stayed after school so I could play catch up to the rest of the students. Since there are so many more resources out there for children with learning disabilities today you have a host of schooling options.

First speak to the teachers and see if they can try different teaching techniques with your child. Treatment of a learning disability can be accomplished without putting your child in special education. Request a meeting with all of your child’s teachers and principal if possible. Discuss the issues that your child is having and how they can be solved.

Under federal law every public school student is entitled to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is a legal binding contract between you and the school detailing the goals and objectives that your child should complete within one school year. This contract is a living and breathing document that changes from year to year. In order for this plan to work for your child you need to be a pro-active parent and get involved. Failure to stay involved in the educational process of your child will result in a harsh educational future for your child.

Other than the IEP there are several choices for alternative education. If you choose to leave your child in public school make sure that they have access to the resource room, or what is sometimes called the learning annex, or reading room. In most public schools this is a special room set aside where students can get help taking tests, with reading, writing, and computer skills. You could also get private schooling for your child. Typically private schooling will cost about thirty thousand or more per year.

If you decide to enroll your child in a state funded program make sure that you keep records of everything. Have concrete proof that your child suffers from a learning disorder and keep copies of everything. When you make phone call be sure to note the five W’s; who, what, where, when, and why. Later on, if you have to sue in court you will have proof and evidence.

I had a very difficult time in high school because my disorder had been ignored for so long. I eventually figured out the best ways for me to learn my way around. For most children with a learning disability using a multi-sensory approach usually works the best. A multi-sensory teaching method will allow your child to get a hands on approach where they can see, touch, feel, and hear what they are doing.

When I was in about fifth grade I entered a program called Talented and Gifted (TAG). The in school program allowed me to use all my senses to learn and create. I thoroughly enjoyed the time in the class and it quickly became one of my favorite classes. Each day I couldn’t wait to get to TAG because it helped me learn in my own way. We usually did math and word puzzles using colors and blocks. TAG really helped me learn how to work around my disability. Most public schools still offer this program as an after school activity.

The best thing that you can do for your child is pay attention to how they are doing in school. Make sure that they are completing their homework and turning it in. If they are having difficulty, do your best to find out why. Talking with teachers and doctors will help you come to an educated diagnosis. Once you know what the problem is seek treatment right away. The worst thing that you can do is ignore it because it will just cause worse problems later on.

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