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Learning Disabilities in Children


TYPES OF LEARNING DISORDERS AND THEIR SIGNS
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Does your child struggle with school, no matter how hard he or she tries? Does he or she dread reading out loud, writing an essay, or tackling a math problem? While every kid has trouble with homework from time to time, if a certain area of learning is consistently problematic, it might indicate a learning disorder. If you think your child might have a learning disability, its important to face the problem early on. You can start by studying up on learning disabilities and pinpointing the specific learning challenges your child faces. With the right support and training, children with learning disabilities can tackle the obstacles they face in the classroom and thrive in all areas of life.
IN THIS ARTICLE:

What are learning disabilities? Signs and symptoms Problems with reading, writing, and math Other types of learning disabilities Other disorders that make learning difficult Hope for learning disabilities Getting help Diagnosis and testing Related articles & resources
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What are learning disabilities?


Learning disabilities, or learning disorders, are an umbrella term for a wide variety of learning problems. A learning disability is not a problem with intelligence or motivation. Kids with learning disabilities arent lazy or dumb. In fact, most are just as smart as everyone else. Their brains are simply wired differently. This difference affects how they receive and process information. Simply put, children and adults with learning disabilities see, hear, and understand things differently. This can lead to trouble with learning new information and skills, and putting them to use. The most common types of learning disabilities involve problems with reading, writing, math, reasoning, listening, and speaking.

Children with learning disabilities can, and do, succeed

It can be tough to face the possibility that your child has a learning disorder. No parents want to see their children suffer. You may wonder what it could mean for your childs future, or worry about how your kid will make it through school. Perhaps youre concerned that by calling attention to your child's learning problems he or she might be labeled "slow" or assigned to a less challenging class. But the important thing to remember is that most kids with learning disabilities are just as smart as everyone else. They just need to be taught in ways that are tailored to their unique learning styles. By learning more about learning disabilities in general, and your childs learning difficulties in particular, you can help pave the way for success at school and beyond.

Signs and symptoms of learning disabilities and disorders


If youre worried, dont wait
If you suspect that your child's learning difficulties may require special assistance, please do not delay in finding support. The sooner you move forward, the better your child's chances for reaching his or her full potential. Learning disabilities look very different from one child to another. One child may struggle with reading and spelling, while another loves books but cant understand math. Still another child may have difficulty understanding what others are saying or communicating out loud. The problems are very different, but they are all learning disorders. Its not always easy to identify learning disabilities. Because of the wide variations, there is no single symptom or profile that you can look to as proof of a problem. However, some warning signs are more common than others at different ages. If youre aware of what they are, youll be able to catch a learning disorder early and quickly take steps to get your child help. The following checklist lists some common red flags for learning disorders. Remember that children who dont have learning disabilities may still experience some of these difficulties at various times. The time for concern is when there is a consistent unevenness in your childs ability to master certain skills.

Preschool signs and symptoms of learning disabilities


Problems pronouncing words Trouble finding the right word Difficulty rhyming Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, days of the week Difficulty following directions or learning routines Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors or coloring within the lines Trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps, learning to tie shoes

Grades K-4 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities


Trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds Unable to blend sounds to make words Confuses basic words when reading Consistently misspells words and makes frequent reading errors Trouble learning basic math concepts Difficulty telling time and remembering sequences Slow to learn new skills

Grades 5-8 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities


Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems

Dislikes reading and writing; avoids reading aloud Spells the same word differently in a single document Poor organizational skills (bedroom, homework, desk is messy and disorganized) Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud Poor handwriting

Paying attention to developmental milestones can help you identify learning disorders
Paying attention to normal developmental milestones for toddlers and preschoolers is very important. Early detection of developmental differences may be an early signal of a learning disability and problems that are spotted early can be easier to correct. A developmental lag might not be considered a symptom of a learning disability until your child is older, but if you recognize it when your child is young, you can intervene early. You know your child better than anyone else does, so if you think there is a problem, it doesn't hurt to get an evaluation. You can also ask your pediatrician for a developmental milestones chart.

Problems with reading, writing, and math


Learning disabilities are often grouped by school-area skill set. If your child is in school, the types of learning disorders that are most conspicuous usually revolve around reading, writing, or math.

Learning disabilities in reading (dyslexia)


There are two types of learning disabilities in reading. Basic reading problems occur when there is difficulty understanding the relationship between sounds, letters and words. Reading comprehension problems occur when there is an inability to grasp the meaning of words, phrases, and paragraphs. Signs of reading difficulty include problems with:

letter and word recognition understanding words and ideas reading speed and fluency general vocabulary skills

Learning disabilities in math (dyscalculia)


Learning disabilities in math vary greatly depending on the childs other strengths and weaknesses. A childs ability to do math will be affected differently by a language learning disability, or a visual disorder or a difficulty with sequencing, memory or organization. A child with a mathbased learning disorder may struggle with memorization and organization of numbers, operation signs, and number facts (like 5+5=10 or 5x5=25). Children with math learning disorders might also have trouble with counting principles (such as counting by 2s or counting by 5s) or have difficulty telling time.

Learning disabilities in writing (dysgraphia)


Learning disabilities in writing can involve the physical act of writing or the mental activity of comprehending and synthesizing information. Basic writing disorder refers to physical difficulty forming words and letters. Expressive writing disability indicates a struggle to organize thoughts on paper. Symptoms of a written language learning disability revolve around the act of writing. They include problems with:

neatness and consistency of writing accurately copying letters and words spelling consistency

writing organization and coherence

Other types of learning disabilities and disorders


Reading, writing, and math arent the only skills impacted by learning disorders. Other types of learning disabilities involve difficulties with motor skills (movement and coordination), understanding spoken language, distinguishing between sounds, and interpreting visual information.

Learning disabilities in motor skills (dyspraxia)


Motor difficulty refers to problems with movement and coordination whether it is with fine motor skills (cutting, writing) or gross motor skills (running, jumping). A motor disability is sometimes referred to as an output activity meaning that it relates to the output of information from the brain. In order to run, jump, write or cut something, the brain must be able to communicate with the necessary limbs to complete the action. Signs that your child might have a motor coordination disability include problems with physical abilities that require hand-eye coordination, like holding a pencil or buttoning a shirt.

Learning disabilities in language (aphasia/dysphasia)


Language and communication learning disabilities involve the ability to understand or produce spoken language. Language is also considered an output activity because it requires organizing thoughts in the brain and calling upon the right words to verbally explain something or communicate with someone else. Signs of a language-based learning disorder involve problems with verbal language skills, such as the ability to retell a story and the fluency of speech, as well as the ability to understand the meaning of words, parts of speech, directions, etc.

Auditory and visual processing problems: the importance of the ears and eyes
The eyes and the ears are the primary means of delivering information to the brain, a process sometimes called input. If either the eyes or the ears arent working properly, learning can suffer.

Auditory processing disorder Professionals may refer to the ability to hear well as auditory processing skills or receptive language. The ability to hear things correctly greatly impacts the ability to read, write and spell. An inability to distinguish subtle differences in sound, or hearing sounds at the wrong speed make it difficult to sound out words and understand the basic concepts of reading and writing. Visual processing disorder Problems in visual perception include missing subtle differences in shapes, reversing letters or numbers, skipping words, skipping lines, misperceiving depth or distance, or having problems with eyehand coordination. Professionals may refer to the work of the eyes as visual processing. Visual perception can affect gross and fine motor skills, reading comprehension, and math.

Common Types of Learning Disabilities


Dyslexia Dyscalculia Difficulty reading Difficulty with math Problems reading, writing, spelling, speaking Problems doing math problems, understanding time, using money Dysgraphia Difficulty with writing Problems with handwriting, spelling, organizing

Common Types of Learning Disabilities


ideas Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder) Dysphasia/Aphasia Difficulty with language Problems understanding spoken language, poor reading comprehension Auditory Processing Disorder Difficulty hearing differences between sounds Visual Processing Disorder Difficulty interpreting visual information Problems with reading, math, maps, charts, symbols, pictures Problems with reading, comprehension, language Difficulty with fine motor skills Problems with handeye coordination, balance, manual dexterity

Other disorders that make learning difficult


Difficulty in school doesnt always stem from a learning disability. Anxiety, depression, stressful events, emotional trauma, and other conditions affecting concentration make learning more of a challenge. In addition, ADHD and autism sometimes co-occur or are confused with learning disabilities.

ADHD Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while not considered a learning disability, can certainly disrupt learning. Children with ADHD often have problems sitting still, staying focused, following instructions, staying organized, and completing homework. Autism Difficulty mastering certain academic skills can stem from pervasive developmental disorders such as autism and Aspergers syndrome. Children with autism spectrum disorders may have trouble communicating, reading body language, learning basic skills, making friends, and making eye contact.

Hope for learning disabilities: The brain can change


How does understanding the brain help a learning disorder?
Using a telephone analogy, faulty wiring in the brain disrupts normal lines of communication and makes it difficult to process information easily. If service was down in a certain area of the city, the phone company might fix the problem by re-wiring the connections. Similarly, under the right learning conditions, the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. These new connections facilitate skills like reading and writing that were difficult using the old connections. Science has made great strides in understanding the inner workings of the brain, and one important discovery that brings new hope for learning disabilities and disorders is calledneuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brains natural, lifelong ability to change. Throughout life, the brain is able to form new connections and generate new brain cells in response to experience and learning. This knowledge has led to groundbreaking new treatments for learning disabilities that take advantage of the brains ability to change. Innovative programs, such as the Arrowsmith program, use strategic brain exercises to identify and strengthen weak cognitive areas. For example, for

children who have difficulty distinguishing between different sounds in a word, there are new computer-based learning programs that slow down the sounds so that children can understand them and gradually increase their speed of comprehension. These discoveries about neuroplasticity provide hope to all students with learning disorders, and further research may lead to additional new treatments that target the actual causes of learning disabilities, rather than simply offering coping strategies to compensate for weaknesses.

Getting help for children with learning disabilities


When it comes to learning disabilities, its not always easy to know what to do and where to find help. Turning to specialists who can pinpoint and diagnose the problem is, of course, important. You will also want to work with your childs school to set up accommodations and get specialized academic help. But dont overlook your own role. You know your child better than anyone else, so take the lead in looking into your options, learning about new treatments and services, and overseeing your childs education.

Learn the specifics about your childs learning disability. Read and learn about your childs type of learning disability. Find out how the disability affects the learning process and what cognitive skills are involved. Its easier to evaluate learning techniques if you understand how the learning disability affects your child. Research treatments, services, and new theories. Along with knowing about the type of learning disability your child has, educate yourself about the most effective treatment options available. This can help you advocate for your child at school and pursue treatment at home. Pursue treatment and services at home. Even if the school doesnt have the resources to treat your childs learning disability optimally, you can pursue these options on your own at home or with a therapist or tutor. Nurture your childs strengths. Even though children with learning disabilities struggle in one area of learning, they may excel in another. Pay attention to your childs interests and passions. Helping children with learning disorders develop their passions and strengths will probably help them with the areas of difficulty as well.

Social and emotional skills: How you can help


As you can imagine, learning disabilities can be extremely frustrating for children. Imagine having trouble with a skill all of your friends are tackling with ease, worrying about embarrassing yourself in front of the class, or struggling to express yourself. Things can doubly frustrating for exceptionally bright children with learning disabilitiesa scenario thats not uncommon. Kids with learning disabilities may have trouble expressing their feelings, calming themselves down, and reading nonverbal cues from others. This can lead to difficulty in the classroom and with their peers. The good news is that, as a parent, you can have a huge impact in these areas. Social and emotional skills are the most consistent indicators of success for all childrenand that includes kids with learning disorders. They outweigh everything else, including academic skills, in predicting lifelong achievement and happiness. Learning disabilities, and their accompanying academic challenges, can lead to low self-esteem, isolation, and behavior problems, but they dont have to. You can counter these things by creating a strong support system for children with learning disabilities and helping them learn to express themselves, deal with frustration, and work through challenges. By focusing on your childs growth as a person, and not just on academic achievements, youll help him or her learn good emotional habits that set the stage for success throughout life.

Diagnosis and testing for learning disabilities and disorders

As youve already learned, diagnosing a learning disability isnt always easy. Dont assume you know what your childs problem is, even if the symptoms seem clear. Its important to have your child tested and evaluated by a qualified professional. That said, you should trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, listen to your gut. If you feel that a teacher or doctor is minimizing your concerns, seek a second opinion. Dont let anyone tell you to wait and see or dont worry about it if you see your child struggling. Regardless of whether or not your childs problems are due to a learning disability, intervention is needed. You cant go wrong by looking into the issue and taking action. Keep in mind that finding someone who can help may take some time and effort. Even experts mix up learning disabilities with ADHD and other behavioral problems sometimes. You may have to look around a bit or try more than one professional. In the meantime, try to be patient, and remember that you wont always get clear answers. Try not to get too caught up in trying to determine the label for your childs disorder. Leave that to the professionals. Focus instead on steps you can take to support your child and address his or her symptoms in practical ways.

The diagnosis and testing process for learning disabilities


Diagnosing a learning disability is a process. It involves testing, history taking, and observation by a trained specialist. Finding a reputable referral is important. Start with your child's school, and if they are unable to help you, ask your insurance company, doctor, or friends and family who have dealt successfully with learning disabilities. Types of specialists who may be able to test for and diagnose learning disabilities include:

Clinical psychologists School psychologists Child psychiatrists Educational psychologists Developmental psychologists Neuropsychologist Psychometrist Occupational therapist (tests sensory disorders that can lead to learning problems) Speech and language therapist

Sometimes several professionals coordinate services as a team to obtain an accurate diagnosis. They may ask for input from your child's teachers. Recommendations can then be made for special education services or speech-language therapy within the school system. A nonpublic school that specializes in treating learning disabilities might be a good alternative if the public school is not working out. For a list of nonpublic schools in your area go to the website for your state's Department of Education.

Integration, sequencing and abstraction: Technical terms for how the brain works
A professional learning disorders specialist might refer to the importance of integration to learning. Integration refers to the understanding of information that has been delivered to the brain, and it includes three steps: sequencing, which means putting information in the right order; abstraction, which is making sense of the information; and organization, which refers to the brains ability to use the information to form complete thoughts. Each of the three steps is important and your child may have a weakness in one area or another that causes learning difficulty. For example, in math, sequencing (the ability to put things in order)

is important for learning to count or do multiplication (as well as learn the alphabet or the months of the year). Similarly, abstraction and organization are important parts of numerous educational skills and abilities. If a certain brain activity isnt happening correctly, it will create a roadblock to learning.

Getting help for children with learning disabilities


All children can be both exhilarating and exhausting, but it may seem that your child with a learning disability is especially so. You may experience some frustration trying to work with your child, and it can seem like an uphill battle when you dont have the information you need. After you learn what their specific learning disability is and how it is affecting their behavior, you will be able to start addressing the challenges in school and at home. If you can, be sure to reach out to other parents who are addressing similar challenges as they can be great sources of knowledge and emotional support.

Helping Children with Learning Disabilities


PRACTICAL PARENTING TIPS FOR HOME AND SCHOOL
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Has your child recently been diagnosed with a learning disability? Did you immediately begin too worry about schoolabout all the homework, tests, and projectsand how your kid will make it through? Its only natural as a parent to want the best for your child, and to worry about the challenges he or she is facing. But if you slow down for a second, you may realize that academic success, while important, isnt the end goal. What you really want for your child is a happy and fulfilling life. With encouragement and support, theres no reason why children with learning disabilities cant succeed and thrive at school and beyond. As a parent, your influence outweighs that of any teacher, tutor, therapist or counselor. You can help your child build a strong sense of self-confidence and a solid foundation for lifelong success.
IN THIS ARTICLE:

Look at the big picture Take charge of your childs education Identify how your child learns best Think life success, not school success Emphasize healthy lifestyle habits Take care of yourself, too Related articles & resources
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When it comes to learning disabilities, look at the big picture


All children need love, encouragement, and support, and for kids with learning disabilities, such positive reinforcement can help ensure that they emerge with a strong sense of self-worth, confidence, and the determination to keep going even when things are tough. In searching for ways to help children with learning disabilities, remember that you are looking for ways to help them help themselves. Your job as a parent is not to cure the learning disability, but to give your child the social and emotional tools he or she needs to work through challenges. In the long run, facing and overcoming a challenge such as a learning disability can help your child grow stronger and more resilient. Always remember that the way you behave and respond to challenges has a big impact on your child. A good attitude wont 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.

Tips for dealing with your childs learning disability


Keep things in perspective. A learning disability isnt insurmountable. Remind yourself that everyone faces obstacles. Its up to you as a parent to teach your child how to deal with those obstacles without becoming discouraged or overwhelmed. Dont let the tests, school bureaucracy, and endless paperwork distract you from whats really importantgiving your child plenty of emotional and moral support. Become your own expert. Do your own research and keep abreast of new developments in learning disability programs, therapies, and educational techniques. You may be tempted to look to othersteachers, therapists, doctorsfor solutions, especially at first. But youre the foremost expert on your child, so take charge when it comes to finding the tools he or she needs in order to learn. Be an advocate for your child. You may have to speak up time and time again to get special help for your child. Embrace your role as a proactive parent and work on your communication skills. It may be frustrating at times, but by remaining calm and reasonable, yet firm, you can make a huge difference for your child. 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 perspectiveor 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.

Focus on strengths, not just weaknesses


Your child is not defined by his or her learning disability. A learning disability represents one area of weakness, but there are many more areas of strengths. Focus on your childs gifts and talents. Your childs lifeand scheduleshouldnt revolve around the learning disability. Nurture the activities where he or she excels, and make plenty of time for them.

Helping children with learning disabilities tip 1: Take charge of your childs education
In this age of endless budget cuts and inadequately funded schools, your role in your childs education is more important than ever. Dont sit back and let someone else be responsible for providing your child with the tools they need to learn. You can and should take an active role in your childs education. If there is demonstrated educational need, the school is required by law to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that delivers some educational benefit, but not necessarily one that maximizes student achievement. Parents who want the best for their kids may find this standard frustrating. Understanding special education laws and your schools guidelines for services will help you get the best support for your child at school. Your child may be eligible for many kinds of accommodations and support services, but the school might not provide services unless you ask for them.

Tips for communicating with your childs school:


Being a vocal advocate for your child can be challenging. Youll need superior communication and negotiation skills, and the confidence to defend your childs right to a proper education.

Clarify your goals. Before meetings, write down what you want to accomplish. Decide what is most important, and what you are willing to negotiate. Be a good listener. Allow school officials to explain their opinions. If you dont understand what someone is saying, ask for clarification. What I hear you saying is can help ensure that both parties understand. Offer new solutions. You have the advantage of not being a part of the system, and may have new ideas. Do your research and find examples of what other schools have done. Keep the focus. The school system is dealing with a large number of children; you are only concerned with your child. Help the meeting stay focused on your child. Mention your

childs name frequently, dont drift into generalizations, and resist the urge to fight larger battles. Stay calm, collected and positive. Go into the meeting assuming that everyone wants to help. If you say something you regret, simply apologize and try to get back on track. Dont give up easily. If youre not satisfied with the schools response, try again.

Recognize the limitations of the school system


Parents sometimes make the mistake of investing all of their time and energy into the school as the primary solution for their childs learning disability. It is better to recognize that the school situation for your child will probably never be perfect. Too many regulations and limited funding mean that the services and accommodations your child receives may not be exactly what you envision for them, and this will probably cause you frustration, anger and stress. Try to recognize that the school will be only one part of the solution for your child and leave some of the stress behind. Your attitude (of support, encouragement and optimism) will have the most lasting impact on your child.

Helping children with learning disabilities tip 2: Identify how your child learns best
Everyonelearning disability or nothas their own unique learning style. Some people learn best by seeing or reading, others by listening, and still others by doing. You can help a child with a learning disability by identifying his or her primary learning style. Is your child a visual learner, an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic learner? Once youve figured out how he or she learns best, you can take steps to make sure that type of learning is reinforced in the classroom and during home study. The following lists will help you determine what type of learner your child is.

Is your child a visual learner?


If your child is a visual learner, he or she: Learns best by seeing or reading Does well when material is presented and tested visually, not verbally Benefits from written notes, directions, diagrams, charts, maps, and pictures May love to draw, read, and write; is probably a good speller

Is your child an auditory learner?


If your child is an auditory learner, he or she:

Learns best by listening Does well in lecture-based learning environments and on oral reports and tests Benefits from classroom discussions, spoken directions, study groups May love music, languages, and being on stage

Is your child a kinesthetic learner?


If your child is a kinesthetic learner, he or she:

Learns best by doing and moving Does well when he or she can move, touch, explore, and create in order to learn Benefits from hands-on activities, lab classes, props, skits, and field trips May love sports, drama, dance, martial arts, and arts and crafts Studying Tips for Different Types of Learners

Tips for visual learners:

Tips for auditory learners:

Tips for kinesthetic

Studying Tips for Different Types of Learners

Use books, videos, computers, visual aids, and flashcards.

Read notes or study materials out loud.

learners:

Get hands on. Do experiments and take field trips.

Use word associations and verbal repetition to memorize.

Make detailed, colorcoded or highlighted notes.

Use activity-based study tools, like roleplaying or model building.

Study with other students. Talk things through.

Make outlines, diagrams, and lists.

Use drawings and illustrations (preferably in color).

Listen to books on tape or other audio recordings.

Study in small groups and take frequent breaks.

Take detailed notes in class.

Use a tape recorder to listen to lectures again later.

Use memory games and flash cards.

Study with music on in the background.

Helping children with learning disabilities tip 3: Think life success, rather than school success
Success means different things to different people, but your hopes and dreams for your child probably extend beyond good report cards. Maybe you hope that your childs future includes a fulfilling job and satisfying relationships, for example, or a happy family and a sense of contentment. The point is that success in liferather than just school successdepends, not on academics, but on things like a healthy sense of self, the willingness to ask for and accept help, the determination to keep trying in spite of challenges, the ability to form healthy relationships with others, and other qualities that arent as easy to quantify as grades and SAT scores. A 20-year study that followed children with learning disabilities into adulthood identified the following six life success attributes. By focusing on these broad skills, you can help give your child a huge leg up in life.

Learning disabilities and success #1: Self-awareness and self-confidence


For children with learning disabilities, self-awareness (knowledge about strengths, weaknesses, and special talents) and self-confidence are very important. Struggles in the classroom can cause children to doubt their abilities and question their strengths.

Ask your child to list his or her strengths and weaknesses and talk about your own strengths and weaknesses with your child. Encourage your child to talk to adults with learning disabilities and to ask about their challenges, as well as their strengths. 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. Feeling passionate and skilled in one area may inspire hard work in other areas too.

Learning disabilities and success #2: Being proactive


A proactive person is able to make decisions and take action to resolve problems or achieve goals. For people with learning disabilities, being proactive also involves self-advocacy (for example, asking for a seat at the front of the classroom) and the willingness to take responsibility for choices.

Talk with your learning disabled child about problem solving and share how you approach problems in your life. Ask your child how he or she approaches problems. How do problems make him or her feel? How does he or she decide what action to take? If your child is hesitant to make choices and take action, try to provide some safe situations to test the water, like choosing what to make for dinner or thinking of a solution for a scheduling conflict. Discuss different problems, possible decisions, and outcomes with your child. Have your child pretend to be part of the situation and make his or her own decisions.

Learning disabilities and success #3: Perseverance


Perseverance is the drive to keep going despite challenges and failures, and the flexibility to change plans if things arent working. Children (or adults) with learning disabilities may need to work harder and longer because of their disability.

Talk with your learning disabled child about times when he or she perseveredwhy did he or she keep going? Share stories about when you have faced challenges and not given up. Discuss what it means to keep going even when things arent easy. Talk about the rewards of hard work, as well as the opportunities missed by giving up. When your child has worked hard, but failed to achieve his or her goal, discuss different possibilities for moving forward.

Learning disabilities and success #4: The ability to set goals


The ability to set realistic and attainable goals is a vital skill for life success. It also involves the flexibility to adapt and adjust goals according to changing circumstances, limitations, or challenges.

Help your child identify a few short- or long-term goals and write down steps and a timeline to achieve the goals. Check in periodically to talk about progress and make adjustments as needed. Talk about your own short- and long-term goals with your child, as well as what you do when you encounter obstacles. Celebrate with your child when he or she achieves a goal. If certain goals are proving too hard to achieve, talk about why and how plans or goals might be adjusted to make them possible.

Learning disabilities and success #5: Knowing how to ask for help
Strong support systems are key for people with learning disabilities. Successful people are able to ask for help when they need it and reach out to others for support.

Help your child nurture and develop good relationships. Model what it means to be a good friend and relative so your child knows what it means to help and support others. Demonstrate to your child how to ask for help in family situations. Share examples of people needing help, how they got it, and why it was good to ask for help. Present your child with role-play scenarios that might require help.

Learning disabilities and success #6: The ability to handle stress


If children with learning disabilities learn how to regulate stress and calm themselves, they will be much better equipped to overcome challenges.

Use words to identify feelings and help your child learn to recognize specific feelings. Ask your child what words they would use to describe stress. Does your child recognize when he or she is feeling stressed? Encourage your child to identify and participate in activities that help reduce stress like sports, games, music, or writing in a journal. Ask your child to describe activities and situations that make them feel stressed. Break down the scenarios and talk about how overwhelming feelings of stress and frustration might be avoided.

Recognizing stress in your child


Its important to be aware of the different ways in which stress can manifest. Your child may behave very differently than you do when he or she is under stress. Some signs of stress are more obvious: agitation, trouble sleeping, and worries that wont shut off. But some peoplechildren includedshut down, space out, and withdraw when stressed. Its easy to overlook these signs, so be on the look out for any behavior thats out of the ordinary.

Helping children with learning disabilities tip 4: Emphasize healthy lifestyle habits
It may seem like common sense that learning involves the body as well as the brain, but your childs eating, sleep, and exercise habits may be even more important than you think. If children with learning disabilities are eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise, they will be better able to focus, concentrate, and work hard.

Exercise Exercise isnt just good for the body, its good for the mind. Regular physical activity makes a huge difference in mood, energy, and mental clarity. Encourage your learning disabled child to get outside, move, and play. Rather than tiring out your child and taking away from schoolwork, regular exercise will actually help him or her stay alert and attentive throughout the day. Exercise is also a great antidote to stress and frustration. Diet A healthy, nutrient rich diet will aid your childs growth and development. A diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein will help boost mental focus. Be sure your child starts the day with a good breakfast and doesnt go more than 4 hours between meals or snacks. This will help keep his or her energy levels stable. Sleep Learning disability or not, your child is going to have trouble learning if he or she is not well rested. Kids need more sleep than adults do. On average, preschoolers need from 11-13 hours per night, middle school children need about 10-11 hours, and teens and preteens need from 8-10 hours. You can help make sure your child is getting the sleep he or she needs by enforcing a set bedtime. The type of light emitted by electronic screens (computers, televisions, iPods and iPads, portable video players, etc.) is activating to the brain. So you can also help by powering off all electronics at least an hour or two before lights out.

Encouraging healthy emotional habits


In addition to healthy physical habits, you can also encourage children to have healthy emotional habits. Like you, they may be frustrated by the challenges presented by their learning disability. Try to give them outlets for expressing their anger, frustration, or feelings of discouragement. Listen when they want to talk and create an environment open to expression. Doing so will help them connect with their feelings and, eventually, learn how to calm themselves and regulate their emotions.

Helping children with learning disabilities tip 5: Take care of yourself, too
Learn about changes you can make in responding to stress

Watch a 4-min. video: Quick Stress Relief Sometimes the hardest part of parenting is remembering to take care of you. Its easy to get caught up in what your child needs, while forgetting your own needs. But if you dont look after yourself, you run the risk of burning out. Its important to tend to your physical and emotional needs so that youre in a healthy space for your child. You wont be able to help your child if youre stressed out, exhausted, and emotionally depleted. When youre calm and focused, on the other hand, youre better able to connect with your child and help him or her be calm and focused too. Your spouse, friends, and family members can be helpful teammates if you can find a way to include them and learn to ask for help when you need it.

Tips for taking care of yourself


Learn how to manage stress in your own life. Make daily time for yourself to relax and decompress. Keep the lines of communication open with your spouse, family, and friends. Ask for help when you need it. Take care of yourself by eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest. Join a learning disorder support group. The encouragement and advice youll get from other parents can be invaluable. Enlist teachers, therapists, and tutors whenever possible to share some of responsibility for day-to-day academic responsibilities.

Communicate with family and friends about your childs learning disability
Some parents keep their childs learning disability a secret, which can, even with the best intentions, look like shame or guilt. Without knowing, extended family and friends may not understand the disability or think that your childs behavior is stemming from laziness or hyperactivity. Once they are aware of whats going on, they can support your childs progress. Within the family, siblings may feel that their brother or sister with a learning disability is getting more attention, less discipline and preferential treatment. Even if your other children understand that the learning disability creates special challenges, they can easily feel jealous or neglected. Parents can help curb these feelings by reassuring all of their children that they are loved, providing homework help, and by including family members in any special routines for the child with a learning disability.