So, your child’s teacher has advised that you get your child tested because she suspects there may be a problem or perhaps the child has been formally diagnosed with a learning difficulty. You are overwhelmed, and it feels like the world is crashing down on you. What do you do when you receive such news? What do you do as a parent to help your child? Parents react in different ways to learning problems in their children. Some common responses are denial, fear, anger, grief, guilt, confusion, and powerlessness (Logsdon, 2022).
While all these reactions are valid, it is unfortunate that some parents get stuck here. However, moving away from these reactions is important to help the concerned children maximise their potential.
Acknowledge the learning difficulty: recognise the difference between misbehaviour and learning challenges
Acknowledgement of a problem is the first crucial step towards solving it. One cannot begin searching for a solution or a way to fill a need whose existence is not acknowledged. This is the situation with parents who do not acknowledge that their children struggle with the process of learning. When parents do not acknowledge their children’s learning challenges, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to help such children. Helping a child with a learning disability begins with its acknowledgement.
Some parents react with denial because the predominant belief system and culture they live in denies the existence of learning problems. You know your child best and should know by observation and interaction when a child is stubborn, lazy, or simply does not have the capacity to do some things without some help and guidance.
Settle some inner issues
Parents, especially mothers, often feel guilty about their child’s diagnosis because they feel that they are responsible for the child’s difficulty with learning. No parent should feel this way because they are not to blame for their children’s learning difficulties (Smith, n.d.). You need to silence these voices so you can concentrate on giving your child optimal love and care. Also, realize that a learning difficulty does not mean your child is stupid. Psalm 139:14 tells us that God created each of us fearfully and wonderfully. That includes your child! You need to settle this in your mind because others pick on your cue and treat your child accordingly.
Denial and associated fear come from a lack of understanding of the diagnosis of the child. As a parent, seeking ways to educate yourself about the learning difficulty is important. It is also important to realise that what is termed disability is only one side of a coin; the other side is an ability which should be maximised. Be proactive in learning ways through which you can help your child.
Liaise with the school and teacher
A child with a learning difficulty may need to be protected from bullying in school. Liaise with your child’s teacher if you notice that your child becomes unusually quiet or apprehensive about going to school. Advocate for your child and teach the child to do the same respectfully. Also, ask if there are accommodations that your child is eligible for. Actively seek for these and ensure that the school implements them.
Prioritise your child’s needs
A child with learning disabilities requires many sacrifices that may impact the parent’s relationships on many levels. Different demographics have varying assumptions about learning disabilities (Davison & Ford, 2001). Your need for group acceptance must not overshadow your need to seek help for your child. Getting the needed help for your child may also impact the family finances.
Find a support structure
Raising a child with learning challenges comes with diverse hurdles, and it is important to have the support and guidance of people who understand the challenges and what you are going through. You may find support groups through your child’s school, therapists, or church. There are also many online resources that you may subscribe to.
Carry the whole family along
Siblings may struggle to understand the disability, and they should be carried along as you get informed about it. Of course, you may need to break it down into age-appropriate chunks. Understanding, kindness, and love should be ingrained in their relationship. Note that you, as the parent, set the tone for this in the home. Treat your children equally and explain accommodations that may appear as undue favouritism so that there are no misgivings or resentments. It is advisable that family members undergo counselling on how to cope with the learning disability.
Develop a thick skin
Be aware that some of your worst critics may be well-meaning family and friends who view learning challenges as bad parenting. You must not only develop a tolerance for their negative comments but also create ways of protecting your child from them. These may range from setting boundaries for how they treat or talk to your child to missing some family gatherings.
Logsdon, A. (2022, February 17). Common Reactions to a Child’s Learning Disability. Verwell Family. Retrieved January 5, 2023, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/parent-reactions-childs-disability-2162643
Davison, J. C., & Ford, D. Y. (2001). Perceptions of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in One African American Community on JSTOR. The Journal of Negro Education, 264. https://doi.org/3211279
Smith, S. L. (n.d.). Parenting Children with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Related Disorders. LDA. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from https://ldaamerica.org/info/what-do-parents-of-children-with-learning-disabilities-adhd-and-related-disorders-deal-with/#:~:text=Parents%20often%20feel%20guilty%20because%20they%20feel%20their,more%20practice%2C%20it%20would%20have%20changed%20the%20situation.