5 Ways to Support a Child with Learning Disabilities

A new school year is full of opportunities for growth and new learning. But for children who struggle with learning disabilities, it can also be overwhelming.

Cheryl Butler
Episode #345

Tip #4:  Set a “Can Do” Tone

One important thing to remember is the way you behave and respond to challenges has a big impact on your child. A good attitude won’t solve the problems associated with a learning disability, but it can give your child hope and confidence that things can improve and that he or she will eventually succeed. Try not to get frustrated when you’re dealing with his/her learning deficits, especially in front of your child. With my three learning-disabled kids, I found they always seemed more confident and tried harder when I was a cheerleader. For example, when they were having a tough time with homework that they just didn’t understand (many times I didn’t understand some of it myself!) and were in near tears saying, “I’m so stupid, I’m never gonna get this math problem. I’m always going to be the last kid in class to finish their work” etc., I would immediately go into cheerleader mode. I'd turn it around with thoughts like, “You are not stupid, you’re just learning something brand new to you. Anyone learning new material and new ways of doing things has to be taught first. You can’t just expect to get it on the first try. Let’s work on it together, and if we still can’t figure it out, we’ll figure out who can help until you do understand it.”  Or even: “C’mon now—give me a little smile, even just a little one—we might as well try to have some fun while we’re doing this. Pretty soon you’ll be cruising through these math problems. But it won’t happen if you act like Eeyore—you’ve got to at least try.”  If my kids saw me being calm and having a “can do” attitude, it would usually help them focus and feel like it was going to be OK if they at least tried to understand the homework. Remember that your influence outweighs all others. Your child will follow your lead. If you approach learning challenges with optimism, hard work, and a sense of humor, your child is likely to embrace your perspective—or at least see the challenges as a speed bump, rather than a roadblock. Focus your energy on learning what works for your child and implementing it the best you can.  See Also:  10 Essential Parenting Strategies for When Life's Got You Down 

#5:  Help Develop Strengths in and out of the Classroom

By focusing on our child’s strengths rather than his/her weaknesses, we help to build self-esteem and gain momentum within difficult areas.

For children with learning disabilities, self-awareness, knowledge about strengths, special talents, and knowing when and where they need to advocate for help are very important. Struggles in the classroom can cause children to doubt their abilities and question their strengths outside of school as well.

Sit down with your child and list his or her strengths and interests. You can also use this time to share what you think your strengths and talents are to see what you may have in common in these areas.  Next, go ahead and talk about the areas that are more difficult for him/her as well as yourself. This opens up the area for conversation that will help him/her realize they are not alone when it comes to having difficulties. You can even encourage your child to talk to adults with learning disabilities and to ask about their strengths and challenges and how they’ve dealt with them.

Find areas of success for your child and encourage his participation. Maybe it is sports or music. Work with your child on activities that are within his or her capabilities. This will help build feelings of success and competency.  Help your child develop his or her strengths and passions.

Every child learns differently, even kids without learning disabilities. Try to figure out how he learns best. Try to encourage this type of learning. Maybe he needs his math presented in words rather than in writing.  My learning challenged kids are visual learners, so we’ve made sure that when they are receiving instructions verbally, either in school or when we help them at home with a project that we reinforce with some type of visual support.  See Also:  5 Ways to Connect With Your Teen

Lastly, read to your child for fun. Don't make it a chore; make it a pleasure. Reading has been a constant source of tension for two of my kids who struggle, because they can’t always comprehend what they are reading the first time around.  But when we read together, I can stop and talk about something that we just learned in a particular chapter, and that way we can recap together. This is a great way to steak 15 minutes or so together on a regular basis and stay connected throughout the school year and beyond.

Do you have a child who struggles with a learning disability?  How do you support him/her? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page, or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.

Also visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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