HomeLearning DifficultiesLearning Disabilities & ADHDIdentifying a Learning Disability

Parent Stories: Don't Wait to Get Help

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By GreatSchools Staff

High School

Jonah attended public high school in Berkeley, California. Rochelle believes the large public high school was a good setting for him and that a private, very competitive academic high school probably would not have been the best choice for Jonah. In Jonah's high school, there were some students who were "totally not doing school," she said, so Jonah could be comparatively successful just by making an effort. Also, Rochelle notes that he changed school districts between middle and high school, which gave him a whole new peer group and enabled him to lose his identity as a "pull-out kid." Jonah graduated from Berkeley High School with a GPA of 3.7, and he took several Advanced Placement classes.

Social Aspects of Jonah's Learning Disability

Once Rochelle was confident that Jonah's academic needs were being met at school, she and her husband worked with Jonah on social issues and his self-esteem. They also continued to support his academic progress. Rochelle said she "was pretty much fanatic" about reading to him. She read both fun books like Harry Potter and books assigned at school aloud to him.

When he was young, Jonah had trouble controlling his impulses to do little things that annoyed other students, his mother remembers. For example, he would crumple other students' papers or lean over and blow on them. She said the teachers in his elementary school were very good about giving him incentives to try to eliminate these habits, and she and her husband worked on them at home, as well. Rochelle would watch him in class and observe whether he would eat lunch with other children. Then she would model appropriate social interactions for him and make social expectations very explicit for him. "Jonah is now very social - he's really getting it," she said.

Maintaining Jonah's self-esteem was perhaps the hardest thing for Rochelle. "The first time your kid says he's stupid is just devastating," she said. "You know he's not." She and her husband tried to focus on things Jonah is good at, like math and science. For example they gave him opportunities to participate in fun science enrichment programs and emphasized his great sense of humor. They also hid his poor reading standardized test scores from him and emphasized his excellent math scores.

Where He Is Now

Jonah is now a successful college student at Northeastern University in Boston. Because he was no longer in special education and did well academically in high school, Jonah did not request or receive accommodations on college admissions tests like the SAT. Despite his success in school, standardized tests continued to be difficult for Jonah, so Rochelle arranged private tutoring for him in writing and test-taking. Those efforts raised his scores by 10 or 20 points, helping him test around the 50th percentile. Rochelle also prepared Jonah mentally for not scoring exceptionally well on the reading section of the SAT and guided him to consider colleges where he had a realistic chance of being accepted on the basis of his strong high school grades.

Jonah was accepted at several competitive colleges and chose Northeastern University. Rochelle believes Jonah made a good choice in Northeastern, which he chose in part because of its co-operative education program in business. In the five-year bachelor's degree program, students take traditional classes for two semesters, then do a hands-on, real world internship in their prospective field for a semester, and then rotate back to class. Jonah has long been interested in business and has built on his strengths in math by focusing on the financial aspect of business. He has made the dean's list each semester. Rochelle said, "It may be because school did not come easily to him, but he has a great work ethic, takes his college and internship work quite seriously and has held leadership positions in clubs and his fraternity."

While she is glad that Jonah has been academically successful in college, Rochelle said that to her, the most important thing is that he now "sees himself as a competent person out in the world."

Tips for Other Parents

Rochelle advises parents to resist the urge to deny there's a problem, which allows a child to fall further and further behind. "The second you have a suspicion [of a learning disability], run with that, look into it, don't wait," she says. "You can lose an important opportunity."

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