Parents who have kids with disabilities may find it difficult to keep up with their children’s physical, mental and emotional needs. Kids with learning disabilities need extra attention in order to make academic progress. Because learning problems can be hard to pinpoint, it’s easy for kids not to be diagnosed properly, wasting valuable years of their educational training. Early diagnosis is key to overcoming learning disabilities, so children can get the most from their studies.
Defining Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities (LDs) have little to do with a child’s intelligence. In fact, many gifted people throughout history are known to have had some disability. Among them were Alexander Graham Bell, Winston Churchill and even Walt Disney.
Learning disabilities occur when a person’s brain has problems with receiving, comprehending or retaining certain types of information. These problems tend to slow down the learning process. Even smart kids can have learning disabilities that hinder them from learning at a faster pace.
Learning disabilities can affect different aspects of a child’s education. Some children find it difficult to concentrate as their mind is always wandering. Other disabilities hinder a student’s ability to learn to read, spell, write or work out math problems. Learning disabilities can even affect the way children interact or relate to one another, making it difficult for them to develop good social skills.
Types of Learning Disabilities
Most LDs fit into two categories: verbal disabilities and nonverbal disabilities. Children with verbal LDs usually have a hard time with written or spoken language skills, such as reading or writing. Dyslexia is a verbal learning disability that hinders children from learning to read. Dyslexic students have trouble recognizing letters in words which hinders them from sounding out words phonetically or memorizing them as sight words. As a result, students with dyslexia have a hard time learning how to read. Other types of verbal LDs hinder kids from understanding what they read or learning how to write.
Nonverbal LDs make it difficult for children to process the information they receive, such as comprehending math signs and concepts. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, aka ADHD, have difficulty concentrating, making it near impossible to focus on their studies. Their overactive minds and bodies also make it hard for them to control their own impulses, further contributing to the LD problem.
Although the exact cause of learning disabilities is not known, researchers believe that genetic influences, improper brain development and environmental impact play a role in children developing these disabilities at birth or as they grow. The good news is that there are ways of helping kids with disabilities manage their problems so they can make progress in their learning and grow into productive adults. With parental help and support, kids with learning disabilities can make the academic progress they need to establish successful careers.
Learning Disabilities: How to Cope
Getting an accurate diagnosis of a learning problem is the first step towards overcoming it. Once kids with disabilities know what they are facing, they can get a better handle on their educational needs. Many schools have programs geared toward children with special ed needs. Special ed teachers use different strategies and learning techniques to help their students learn more effectively. Smart kids with learning disabilities can make progress faster once they establish a means of managing their particular LD problem. By getting special one on one attention, special ed programs can even help slower children make significant progress in their academic studies.
Although there are independent schools for kids with learning disabilities, well organized Individualized Education Programs (IEP) within regular schools are often sufficient to meet LD students’ needs. These programs help to identify a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses so teachers can develop a personal study plan to help them succeed. Some IEPs incorporate audiovisual equipment and computers into their curricula to help their students get the most from their primary and high school education. By working closely with their school board, parents can help monitor their kids’ progress to ensure they’re getting the best educational opportunities they can to meet their LD needs.
Parental Role in Helping their Kids with Learning Disabilities
Although schools play an essential role in educating children with learning disabilities, parents shouldn’t overlook their responsibility to help their child succeed. Children with disabilities need all the help and support they can get, especially from those closest to them, i.e. parents and older siblings. As a parent, here are a few ways in which you can become involved in your child’s education and care:
- Learn as much as possible about your child’s particular disability and treatment options so you can better understand how to help him make progress in his learning program. By reading books about kids with disabilities, parents can glean ideas that could be incorporated into their child’s treatment.
- Reinforce the academic strategies and techniques learned in school within the home environment. If you can’t get personally involved due to work or other obligations, hire a professional tutor skilled in teaching LD kids.
- Encourage your child to pursue personal interests and goals to the best of his or her ability. Young children, in particular, will appreciate all the encouragement they can get, especially during the initial struggle to cope with their problem.
Types of Learning
In order to reinforce their academic training, parents of kids with disabilities will need to become familiar with the three main styles of learning – auditory, visual and kinesthetic – to give them a better idea of how their children learn best. Most kids learn through one or a combination of these learning styles.
- Auditory learners prefer learning by hearing. They would rather have someone explain concepts to them rather than reading about them on their own. They retain information better when it is repeated out loud and often use oral recitations to help in their studies.
- Visual learners learn by seeing, whether it’s watching an audiovisual demonstration, studying graphics or reading a book on their own. They’d rather look at graphs and charts and glean information on their own rather than have someone try to explain the information to them.
- Kinesthetic learners learn by doing, i.e. hands on practical training. They prefer writing to sitting and listening, and getting physically involved in a task as opposed to watching a video explaining how something is done.
In addition to these learning styles, children with learning disabilities often incorporate additional strategies and learning techniques into their studies to help them grasp the concepts they’re trying to learn. As they grow older, they eventually adapt to their learning differences and find ways to accomplish their goals.
Making progress in their academic objectives gives kids with disabilities a sense of achievement, which boosts their confidence and self-esteem. When handled properly, learning disabilities can help kids develop good character traits such as patience, perseverance and discipline as they accept the challenges of their problem. By teaching their kids to retain a positive attitude throughout their learning experiences, parents can prepare their kids for a more successful future.
Jobs Working with Kids with Disabilities
Learning disabilities are not new. People all over the world have faced challenges with disabilities of some kind and continue to do so to this day. The dedicated efforts of teachers, counselors and other professionals have made a positive difference in helping these children receive the educational training they need. There are many professional careers available for those looking for jobs working with kids with disabilities. Here are a few:
Special education teacher
Special ed teachers work with children of all ages in providing specialized instruction to help meet their academic, social and vocational needs. Their special training in LD strategies, methods and techniques give them an edge in helping LD students succeed.
In the school setting, occupational therapists help kids (both with and without LDs) learn the academic and social skills required to integrate into the school environment. This increases their chances of being successful in receiving the education they need.
School counselors offer an array of services in helping LD children obtain their educational needs. They provide counseling, intervention and guidance to help kids adapt to their school environment. They also help children create academic, career and personal goals to pursue their interests and develop their skills for the future.
Speech language pathologist
Speech pathologists help to diagnose learning disabilities and aid in developing specialized learning programs for educating LD children.
Is Higher Education in Your Child’s Future?
Many children with learning disabilities continue their education after high school to obtain a college degree. When considering colleges for kids with learning disabilities, parents should look for schools offering programs that support students who have learning issues. By researching their options online, parents can help their kids find a reputable college or university geared to helping disabled young people reach their full potential. In this way, their kids can get the most from their university studies to establish themselves in a successful and prosperous career.