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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At this early stage, it's important to be honest with yourself and take steps that are comfortable for you. Select one of these as a place to start:
Learn to take care of yourself during the early days of your child's LD experience so that it becomes a healthy habit you can maintain over time. Both you and your child will benefit!
While you might not be an expert on LD, you are the expert about your child as a whole person. Trust your instincts about what is best for her. Above all, believe in the power of a mother's love to see you through the journey.
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