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By Annie Stuart
You likely know the challenges of helping a child with a learning disability. Now imagine other challenges heaped on top of those. These might include English as a second language, lack of transportation, or working two jobs. In addition, parents still learning about U.S. culture and customs may not have felt welcomed in the classroom by the teacher, or, for various cultural or personal reasons, parents may not see a role for themselves at school.
You can help in a variety of ways. Here's how:
"Rather than focusing on a specific child, you might help by organizing a support group," says Leung. You can set these up at the school, a community center, or someone's home. Post a notice or get teachers to help identify children who might benefit. The school may even provide support (e.g., a guest speaker) for this purpose. Of course, it's important to arrange for translators and child care.
Short of a support group, a variety of other resources are available. Libraries and schools often provide reading or tutoring services. Community colleges, mental health agencies, or recreation centers may also provide resources or referrals. High school students sometimes need to earn community service credits and can do so by tutoring younger students.
Many culturally specific parent groups and community or religious organizations offer parent education opportunities. You might suggest learning disabilities as a topic. This could be done as a formal presentation or as a discussion with parents from a variety of cultures whose children have identified learning disabilities. A parent may be more receptive to this type of conversation within a comfortable cultural context.
Hooking up parents and their children to these resources will go a long way toward helping them navigate what may be incredibly challenging terrain.
Finding common ground in the complex world of learning disabilities and cultural or language differences isn't easy. But by keeping an open mind, listening, offering your ideas in a nonjudgmental way, and providing concrete support, you can do a great deal to help other families. And, though the rewards for you may not be always be tangible, gaining allies to help all children succeed will benefit everyone in the long run!
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