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Coming to terms with your child's learning disability

It's normal to experience a range of emotions when your child is struggling in school. Facing your feelings and working through them can help you come to terms with your child's LD.

By Kristin Stanberry

Are you worried because your child isn't doing well in school? Do you struggle along with your child when she does her homework? Has her teacher recommended testing for special education because she might have a learning disability (LD)? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be on the brink of the identification, or discovery, stage of a LD.

The LD identification stage

The identification stage may last for weeks, months, or years. Of course, your concern for your child is vital. But, during this phase, caring for yourself by honoring your own feelings is just as important. You're a unique individual and experience feelings and reactions in your own way. You may find yourself in a cycle — feeling confident one week, confused the next.

In order to stay strong, healthy, and helpful, it's important to face your feelings and work through them. Here are just a few of the normal emotions you may feel as you move through this stage.

Anxious

Many parents don't know much about learning problems because school was easy for them. It's normal to fear things you don't understand. Your best approach is to seek information. Your child's school, other parents, the library, and the Internet are sources.

Start by learning more about LD from a trusted source. Because there's a lot of unreliable information out there, learn how to evaluate it for accuracy. Don't be lured into false promises of cures.

Overwhelmed

If your child's school has started the process of evaluating her for LD, you may be given a list of things to do — gather information, meet with teachers or the school psychologist, complete forms. These tasks may seem like more than you can handle because you feel exhausted from all your efforts to help your child.

To bolster your energy and move ahead, realize that teachers, school administrators, and other specialists are there to collaborate with you and your child. From now on, the time and energy you spend on her behalf will be more helpful than ever! Just remember to pace yourself and take it one day at a time.

Sad, angry, disappointed

All parents have hopes and dreams for their children. Your dreams may seem shattered by the news that your child has LD. Your sadness or anger express the grief you feel and can make it difficult to accept her LD.

Don't despair. Having LD means she learns certain things in a different way than other kids. It doesn't mean she can't learn. While LD can't be cured, it can be managed with support and interventions tailored to her needs. Always remember her talents, abilities, and special qualities. With help, she can become a happy and successful learner.

If you find yourself unable to cope with your sadness or anger, seek help from a family member, professional counselor, or support group. You really need to deal with these emotions so that they don't interfere with efforts to help your child.

Lonely and isolated

You may not know other families who live with LD, but you may find comfort connecting with others. Some moms want to meet in person — to connect with a friendly face. Others prefer to meet online — to be anonymous. Either way, you'll be glad to find the support you've been looking for.

Participate in your support group as much, or as little, as you want to. Ask questions, or quietly observe. It's likely you'll find some moms as new to LD as you are and others who have been managing their child's LD for several years. Every mother will remember how she felt when she first learned her child had LD.

Relieved

You may feel relieved that your child's problem finally has a name — and that help is available! If this describes your reaction, start working with your child's team of educators right away. Once you get the process rolling, be patient while waiting for a firm plan to be developed.

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.

 

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