• What to Do if You’re Wondering if Your Child Has a Learning Disorder

    Here in Texas, standardized testing happens every year in the spring at public schools. These tests are a big deal, because if students don’t pass, there can be major consequences.  Because of this, I’ve been getting a lot of school-related questions recently!

    In particular, parents have been extremely concerned about the possibility their child might have a learning disorder. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what to do if you suspect your child might have a learning disorder. If you have these same questions, read on!

    What are learning disorders?
    First of all, learning disorders can exist in math, reading, and/or writing. It’s not just about writing letters backward! (Which, by the way, is extremely common as your child is learning to write the alphabet.) One big red flag is if your child consistently struggles with, dislikes, and performs worse in one subject compared to the others.  Most red flags of learning disorders are different based on age and grade, so it’s difficult to say what to look for without knowing your child, but click here to read a great list of common signs of learning disorders in different age groups.

    Where do I start?
    If you recognize many of these characteristics in your child, the next step is to rule out any other causes that may be causing these difficulties. Have your child’s eyesight and hearing been checked recently? Are they getting enough sleep at night and eating a good breakfast before school? Make sure that vision problems, hearing problems, tiredness, and hunger are ruled out as causes. In addition, anxiety and depression both can cause major difficulty at school, so think about whether your child’s learning difficulties might be due to either of those.

    Who gives the diagnosis?
    Your first step, if your child attends public school, is to contact the school and submit a written request asking for your child to be tested for a learning disorder. Click here to view an excellent document that outlines the procedure to request testing for your child in Texas. Although the laws differ by state, this procedure should work well in most states. If your child is in public school and there is a suspicion that they have a learning disorder, the school is required by law to test them for this or provide evidence showing why it’s not necessary. This is free of charge for you.

    If your child isn’t in public school, or the school refuses to do the testing, or you disagree with their results, your next step is to contact a licensed psychologist.  You can contact a psychologist in the community and ask them to do the testing. Sometimes the schools have a list of psychologists whose testing they recommend, so you can ask them if you’re not sure whom to go to. This may be somewhat costly, depending on how much time it takes, but it will likely be thorough and will be completed more quickly than it would be at the school. You can then take these results to the school.

    My child was diagnosed with a learning disorder. What do we do now?

    • Talk with the school about what accommodations can be given. Many schools have programs in place to help students with learning disorders. They also may be willing to give your child extra time on assignments and tests or allow them to type, rather than write, certain assignments.
    • Get your child a tutor! Find a retired teacher or a current teacher
      who is looking to make some extra money. One-on-one help from a good tutor is often the best way to improve your child’s skills.
    •  Be compassionate. It’s hard to try so hard at school and still not understand things. It can be really frustrating. Kids with learning disabilities often believe they are stupid, so be sure to help them understand that learning disorders don’t mean they are dumb.
    • Try to get your child involved in other activities that aren’t as difficult for them. They may excel in sports or theatre. Help them get involved in activities where they can utilize their strengths, rather than their weaknesses.
    • Make sure your child doesn’t give up. It can be easy to give up and stop trying when you have a learning disorder. Encourage your child to do their best, and try to ensure that they have enough accommodations in place as well as tutoring so that they develop confidence that they will be capable of learning even when it’s difficult.

    Have you ever wondered whether your child has a learning disorder? If you’ve been through this process already, what advice would you share with other parents? What do you wish you had known starting out?

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