Learning Disabilities and their impact

You might wonder why I would touch on learning disabilities on a website that seems dominated by mental health issues?

Because - ask any special education teacher and they will tell you that probably as many as half of their students also have a co-occurring disorder like ADHD, bipolar or depression.

Learning disabilities, like children, come in all shapes and sizes. The only way to find them is with a really comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation. These can be done in the private sector by a trained evaluator or psychologist. However, the evaluations are most often recommended by and completed by school psychologists once a child has been identified as struggling to meet academic requirements.

Typically, identification takes places around 2nd or 3rd grade. This of course might not be the case if the difficulties go unnoticed or are very subtle to start with. Or, if the school staff are not linking or looking for a relationship between the behavioral difficulties and the learning difficulties.

Certainly as you may know, having LD does not mean one is lacking in intelligence. Many LD children are very bright. It simply means that they learn differently and are performing at a level significantly lower than their expected achievement based on their IQ.

My own son is fairly bright, but has pretty severe LD. Most significantly he has was the psychologist calls Phonological Dyslexia.

Here a point of clarification - Something I learned during his evaluation process. The term Dyslexia simply means one has a disorder of reading. It DOES NOT mean only they one sees letters and words backwards, as many people think.

So for my son, phonological dyslexia means that he does not hear his letter sounds properly. This is a pretty necessary function right off the bat in school. If you can't hear all the individual letter sounds correctly or all the sounds as they function within a word, you aren't going to spell and read properly, PERIOD!

As the parent of an LD child, I can tell you that they (the disabilities, not the child) are SO frustrating. I have NO IDEA what it feels like to be in his brain! I feel so helpless and so sad for him because I am no help at all. I don't understand why he doesn't "get it." I don't even understand what he doesn't get. I only understand that he hates school because it is so hard for him.

If you want to learn more about the family experience with learning disabilities, check out "A Special Education - one family's journey through the maze of learning disabilities" by Dana Buchman.

And from my perspective as a parent and professional, here is what I suggest.

  • Listen to the teachers. Probably 95% of the referrals I see teachers make for special ed testing end up qualifying.
  • If your child hates school. Doesn't perform well. Acts like every homework assignment is Mount Everest. PAY ATTENTION and ask the school to do an evaluation. I can tell you that had I had my second child first, I would have caught my son's LD much sooner because watching my daughter learn with ease shows me just how hard it is for my son.
  • If your child ends up in or is already in a special education resource program and you are not seeing results, DON'T BE SILENT. We had to put our son in a Lindamood Bell program in order to get him the proper reading help. It was the best thing we have done for him yet.

Now - Here is why I have included some information about learning disabilities. Kids who have an undiagnosed learning disability can easily look like they have ADD or ADHD or some other emotional disorder. Think about how easy that would be to mistake.

You are told your child won't sit still in class, seems to not be focused, can't complete assignments on time, has trouble with social situations and peer groups.

Sound like any other disorders we have talked about? EXACTLY

Speaking of peer and social situations...A great resource for parents is Richard Lavoie's book, "It's So Much Work to Be Your Friend." It is full of support, suggestions, and strategies for parents and professionals to help children find social success.

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