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How To Cater To The Academic Needs Of A Child With A Specific Learning Disability

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By Geetika Kumar
5 Mar'22  10 min read
How To Cater To The Academic Needs Of A Child With A Specific Learning Disability

In searching for ways to help children with specific learning disabilities, remember to give them tools to empower themselves. Your job as a parent is not to “cure” the specific learning disability, but to give your child the support system and emotional tools they need, to deal with the challenges. In the long run this will make your child grow stronger and more resilient. This article will speak primarily about ways that can help you in dealing with your child’s SLD, and how can better help your child with an SLD to emerge as an independent and fulfilled individual.

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How To Cater To The Academic Needs Of A Child With A Specific Learning Disability

In searching for ways to help children with specific learning disabilities, remember to give them tools to empower themselves. Your job as a parent is not to “cure” the specific learning disability, but to give your child the support system and emotional tools they need, to deal with the challenges. In the long run this will make your child grow stronger and more resilient. This article will speak primarily about ways that can help you in dealing with your child’s SLD, and how can better help your child with an SLD to emerge as an independent and fulfilled individual.

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Remember that the way you behave and respond to challenges has a big impact on your child. A blameless and positive attitude may not solve the problems associated with a specific learning disability, but it can give your child hope and confidence that things can improve, that it is just a condition, and that they will eventually succeed.

When it comes to specific learning disabilities, have an eagle’s eye and look at the big picture. So, what are some of the ways that may help you in dealing with your child’s specific learning disability? Let us take a look!

Ways For You To Deal With Your Child's SLD

a) Become Your Own Expert

Stay updated with new developments in specific learning disability programs, therapies, and educational techniques. Find the tools your child needs in order to learn.

b) Be An Advocate For Your Child

Ask for help from the school every now and then. Embrace your role as a proactive parent with effective communication skills.

c) Keep Things In Perspective

A specific learning disability is not impossible to deal with. Everyone faces obstacles. It is up to you as a parent or a caretaker to teach your child how to deal with those obstacles without getting discouraged, or overwhelmed. Do not let the tests, school system, endless assessments, and paperwork distract you from what is really important, which is giving your child adequate emotional and moral support.

Your impact outweighs all others. Your child will follow your lead. If you approach learning difficulties with flexibility and hard work, your child is likely to learn and accept the challenges as nothing but minor speed breakers, which can be easily overcome.

d) Focus On The Gifts And Talents Of The Child

The child’s program should not circle inside the specific learning disability bubble. Nurture the activities where they excel, and make plenty of time for them. Your child must be seen without a specific learning disability lens. They are much more than that. A specific learning disability points out specific zones of weakness, but there are many more areas of assets.

e) Research The Issue

When we understand the diverse types of learning disorders and their signs, it is easier to address the exact challenges the child expresses, and find a specific learning disability management program that works.

Now, let us talk about how you can better help your child with a specific learning disability!

Better Helping Your Child With An SLD

Tip 1- Be In Charge Of Your Child’s Education

In today's time, you have to be the one who should be navigating your child’s education. Do not throw your responsibility on someone else to give your child the tools required for learning. Take an active part in your child’s learning and education.

Understand the special education laws as per the education boards and ask for the best support for your child at school. Your child is entitled to various accommodations and support services, but the school might be too busy to provide them until you demand them to be provided.

Communicating with the school- Asking for special services for your child can be challenging. A sought-after research along with clear communication and negotiation skills is required to help your child avail the accommodations.

  • Clarify your goal- Before meetings with the principal, counsellor, special educator, and other teachers, note down what you want to accomplish. Decide what is most important, and what you are willing to let go of.
  • Offering new solutions- Since you are not part of the system, you have the advantage of having and offering new ideas. Do your research and find examples of innovative teaching methods that other schools have adopted.
  • Be a good listener- Allow the educators to explain their observations and ideas.
  • Be consistent- Since the school is dealing with thousands of students and endless curricular and co-curricular activities, be there to highlight the child’s learning needs.
  • Stay positive, calm, and collected- Understand that everyone in the meeting is willing to work in the best interest of your child.
  • Persevere- Do not give up easily.
  • The school system has its limitations too- Parents sometimes focus all of their time and energy on the school as the only solution for their child’s specific learning disability. Recognize that the school situation for your child will seldom be perfectly appropriate or up to the mark as per your child’s needs. Too many ordinances and limited funding mean limitations in support services, frustration, and stress. Understand that the school will always be a singular part of the solution for your child and unburden yourself. Your encouragement and optimism will have a bigger and long-lasting influence on your child.

Tip 2- Identify How Your Child Learns Best

Is your child an auditory learner, a kinaesthetic learner, or a visual learner? Once you know how your child learns best, you can try to reinforce those kinds of learning at home, and in the classroom.

Tip 3- Know That There Is Much Beyond School Grades

Success holds different meanings to different people, but your hopes and dreams for your child must extend beyond good report cards. You might be hoping that your child gets a fulfilling job and long-lasting, satisfying relationships. The point is that life success depends not only on academics, but on things like how positive is one’s sense of self, one’s ability to form and maintain interpersonal relationships, ability to ask for help, and much more, rather than just getting good scores in the report card.

Skills for success with a specific learning disability in life:-

A 20-year study that followed children with specific learning disabilities into adulthood identified the following attributes for life success.

a) Self-awareness and self-confidence

  • For children with specific learning disabilities, knowing and understanding oneself (knowledge about strengths, weaknesses, and special talents), and self-confidence are really crucial. Classroom challenges can cause children to doubt themselves and ignore their strengths. Talking to your child about their strengths and weaknesses, and sharing about your own, would be of great help to your child.
  • Motivate your child to talk to adults with specific learning disabilities, and to ask about their strengths, and challenges they face.
  • Do activities with your child that they are good at and employ the types of learning that are best suited to them. This will give them a sense of achievement.
  • Help your child develop goals and ambitions. Achievements in one area would encourage the child to try new things and perform better.

b) Being proactive

  • Being proactive for people with specific learning disabilities involves self-advocacy (for example, making a choice or sitting on the front desk).
  • Talk with your child about the problems you have faced, the steps you took to encounter them. And now when you look back, what are all possible solutions you could have come up with. Talk to your child about their ways of approaching problems. How do they feel when a problem comes up? Do they feel well equipped to solve the problems? What helped them to decide on an action? Provide an imaginary situation to the child to see if he/she understands different problems, and comes up with possible solutions and outcomes.

specific learning disability, learning disability identification, learning disability, dealing with your child's SLD, better helping your child with SLDTeaching Your Child To Be Proactive Can Go A Long Way

c) Perseverance

  • Perseverance means to keep going ahead despite challenges and failures, and to be flexible to alter plans if things do not work. There is constant hard work for children (or adults) with specific learning disabilities.
  • Help your child to remember about times when they persevered and won, and ask them what kept them going. Share stories of your challenges and victories. Share what it means to keep moving on when the going gets tough. Talk about the consequences of working hard, and how it helps in making life a success. Even when the hard work did not pay off, discuss different roads to possibilities.

d) Help them to learn to set SMART goals

  • The ability to set realistic and attainable goals is a life skill for success. It involves learning to be flexible, to adapt and adjust and alter goals according to changing circumstances, limitations, or challenges.
  • Help your child to identify and form short-term and long-term goals, and write down steps and a practical timeline to achieve them. Check-in periodically about progress, and make alterations as needed.
  • Share your own short- and long-term goals with your child, as well as what steps you take when you come across difficulties.
  • Celebrate the achievement of each goal with your child. Talk about how to come up with a plan to achieve seemingly impossible goals. And why and how plans or goals might be adjusted to make them achievable.

e) Practising how to ask for help

  • Family is a strong support system that is key for people with specific learning disabilities. Teach them that it is absolutely normal to ask for help whenever needed, and reach out to others for support.
  • Help your child to develop and value good relationships. Showcase what it means to be accepting and supportive of others.
  • Demonstrate to your child how to ask for help from family members in different situations.
  • You may also share with your child some parables on how certain people asked for help and benefited from it. Creating role-play scenarios on the same may be a good way.

f) The ability to handle stress

  • Children with specific learning disabilities will be much better equipped to overcome challenges if they learn how to regulate and reduce stress, and calm themselves. Teach them to use words to identify and recognize different feelings. Ask your child how he/she feels, to enable them to describe stress. Do they understand when they are feeling stressed?
  • Motivate your child to identify and participate in outdoor activities that would help reduce stress. These activities can include sports, games, music, or writing in a journal. Ask your child to describe activities and situations that invoke stress in them. Take up each scenario one at a time and discuss with them how overwhelming feelings of stress and frustration might be avoided or dealt with.

Tip 4- Emphasise A Healthy Lifestyle

Sound learning involves a sound mind, sound body, and high attention levels. It is crucial, then, to emphasise the importance of healthy lifestyle habits in children. If children with specific learning disabilities follow a proper diet, and get a good sleep and exercise, their focus and attention levels would rise tremendously.

Tip 5- Help Your Child Building Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience must be built in addition to healthy physical habits. Doing activities with them gives them outlets for expressing their emotions, such as love, excitement, pleasure, as well as bottled-up anger, frustration, or feelings of discouragement. Give them a patient ear. Listen when they want to talk, and create a safe space, an environment open to expression. Doing so will help them to regulate their emotions and connect with their feelings to calm themselves. Teach them that it is okay to go through feelings of pain sometimes, what is important is to know how to process them and come out as stronger individuals.

Tip 6- Take Care Of Yourself, Too!

The hardest part of parenting is remembering to take care and prioritise oneself, which will in turn enable us to take better care of others. It is easiest to be caught up in what your child needs, while forgetting your own needs. However, if you ignore your well-being, you might face major burnout. It is important to be physically, mentally, and emotionally strong so that you are in a healthy space for your child and can provide them with the support system that they require. You will not be able to help your child if you are stressed out, exhausted, and emotionally depleted. When you are calm and focused, on the other hand, you are better able to forge a bond with your child, and help them stay calm and attentive too. Your spouse, friends, and family members can all be made as stakeholders, helpful as and when the help is required.

While parenting in itself is a complex and dynamic process, parenting a child with a specific learning disability requires even more sensitivity and care. Parents of children with an SLD must ensure that they stay proactive in terms of seeking relevant knowledge about the specific learning disability management programs, facilitating communication with the concerned people, understanding their child’s strengths and weaknesses, taking care of themselves as much as they care for their children, and most importantly, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits and a positive attitude throughout their journey of parenthood.

- Geetika Kumar is a counselling and rehabilitation psychologist accredited with the Rehabilitation Council of India. She specialises in child psychology and has extensive experience working with special children with intellectual disability, ADHD, autism, and other related issues.

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