Understanding and Accepting Your Child's Learning Difficulty
Diagnosis of a child’s learning disability can be an emotional roller-coaster ride.
I first noticed that my son didn't have as much manual dexterity as other kids his age when he was in preschool, but the teachers and a developmental education specialist shrugged off my concerns.
When my son started kindergarten, we had him tested by an occupational therapist, who recommended therapy to help him develop his gross and fine-motor skills. Halfway through first grade, my son's teacher and the school's principal suggested he undergo a battery of psycho-educational tests.
His scores mirrored those of other children with learning disabilities: dramatic ups and downs, and a sizeable discrepancy between his IQ and his performance. He qualified for special help from the school district.
As a second grader, his reading and writing problems continued, but my husband and I thought he was making progress. So I was shocked when I was told by my son's teacher, the school principal, and the school's special education consultant that he needed more intensive and specialized help. Maybe, they suggested, he needed to go to a special school. I was devastated. My husband was upset. Were they right? Or were they overreacting?
It took months of agonizing, soul-searching, and investigation for me to realize that my son's self-esteem and learning might improve at a school that specialized in helping students with dyslexia. The next two years at the Charles Armstrong School, which serves the dyslexic learner, proved to be critical to his gaining building-block skills and experiencing success.
Whether you pick up on difficulties your child is experiencing on your own or have them pointed out to you by educators or other professionals, it's critical to act on what you learn — the sooner, the better. There are many interventions that can make a difference in your child's life, whether he's 5, 10, 15, or older. It is never too late to get help.
Diagnosis and intervention are a complicated process. It can be hard to cope with the emotional reaction you may have to a diagnosis by professionals.
Negative Emotions Are Okay
When you finally learn what your child's problem is, you will probably experience a great sense of relief. Your observations weren't off the wall. You weren't being overly sensitive. With a diagnosis in hand and experts who have suggestions on what will help, things are going to be all right....but not right away and not without continuing advocacy on your part.
You will soon realize that there is no one prescription that will solve "The Problem." Perhaps the toughest news of all is that "The Problem" will never go away, although interventions can help children learn more effectively or better control their behavior. Once this realization occurs, it's likely that you'll experience negative emotions. But it's important to allow yourself to have them.
Here are some of the most common emotions parents experience:
Grief. You mourn for the loss of the child you thought you had or wanted. When you realize that your child's difficulties are going to interfere with your own hopes and dreams for him, it's natural to feel a sense of loss. But unless you acknowledge that loss, you cannot begin to value your child for who he is.
Self-blame and guilt. Parents feel they should be able to protect their child from painful struggles. And when they cannot, as often happens with a child who has special needs, they feel guilty about something done or not done. But blame is not productive for parents or the child.
Anger. You may feel angry with your child for being the way she is or for requiring too much of your time, or your emotional or financial resources. Or you may feel angry with your spouse for what he does or doesn't understand or do. You may feel upset at how the rest of the world treats your child. Feeling angry is inevitable; channeling your negative energy into positive action can help you, your child, and your family.
Frustration. Raising any child has its frustrating moments; parenting a child with special needs multiplies those times. The more you understand about your child's needs and how those needs impact the stages of childhood, however, the easier it will be to keep this emotion in check.
Depression. At times, you may feel depressed because you realize how hard it is to help your child or feel sorrow for how hard things are for your child.
Learn as Much as You Can
You can minimize depression by educating yourself about your child's problem and becoming a knowledgeable and forceful advocate for him. The more you know, the more empowered you will feel, say educational therapists. What's more, you will be able to ask intelligent questions, better evaluate answers and recommendations, and pursue solutions that are likely to help your child.
Read, listen, and watch. Well-regarded books, audiocassettes, and videotapes are available. Check with your local library or at the library of a parent support center.
Check out advocacy organizations. You can connect with other parents, identify educational professionals in your area, and find out about recommended resources. Try contacting organizations such as Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CH.A.D.D.), the Developmental Delay Registry, the International Dyslexia Association, LD Online, the Learning Disabilities Association of America, the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, the National Parents Network on Disabilities, and the Schwab Learning Center.
Attend lectures and seminars. Many parent support groups and advocacy groups regularly feature speakers at their meetings. You do not need to be a member or a professional to attend, although you may be asked to contribute a $5 to $10 fee.
|From Be Your Child's Best Advocate by Peggy Schmidt, available at Xlibris. Copyright © 2001 Peggy Schmidt. All rights reserved.|