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Dynamic Duo: A Father and Daughter Who Share LD

A devoted dad who, like his college-age daughter, has a learning disability, explains how he's encouraged her along the way -- and how she has blossomed into a dynamic young woman.

By David Sharpe , Kristin Stanberry

David Sharpe talks about his teenage daughter, Hayley, and the role he plays in her life. Both David and Hayley have learning disabilities (LD). Because David is actively involved in Hayley's life, we wanted to know more about his parenting philosophy and experiences. Like many parents, David is quick to discuss his daughter's achievements but is modest about his contribution to her success. We convinced him that his insights would benefit other parents — particularly fathers — who are also raising kids with LD. This is his story.

Words of Wisdom

We asked David what advice he'd like to share with other men whose kids have LD. Here is what he frequently tells other fathers:

"We men tend to want to 'fix' problems, but we can't fix or cure LD. What we can do is learn about LD and get our kids the help they need to succeed."

"If you watch your child stumble and fall at the playground, you'd naturally run over to help. If you watch your child struggling in school, you should intervene in the same caring manner. Don't ignore it and hope it will just go away."

Demystifying Learning Disabilities

Hayley has been identified with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and short-term memory issues. David has always believed strongly in demystifying LD for her. "We never hid Hayley's disabilities from her. From the time her LD was first identified in first grade, we told her she simply learned in a different way. We encouraged her to be aware of her LD but not ashamed of it."

David is a pro at delving into books and the Internet in search of research-based information that sheds light on his and his daughter's learning disabilities. He and Hayley are both intrigued by brain research that helps explain the physiology and dynamics of LD. He's grateful that scientific evidence is making learning disabilities, often called "invisible disabilities," more tangible in the eyes of the general public.

A Positive Perspective

David speaks passionately about his philosophy on living with learning disabilities. "Learning differences are something to be embraced and celebrated," he says. He and his wife have always emphasized this perspective with Hayley and her teachers and school administrators. As parents, they've always taught Hayley that the world needs and values people who learn and think differently, and they point to many successful people in history who probably had LD. While in elementary school, when Hayley was assigned to play the role of an historical figure she could relate to, she chose Thomas Edison, who is believed to have had LD.

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.