What do do and how to find help when your child is diagnosed with a learning disability

“Help!   My Child Has Just Been Diagnosed With Learning Disabilities.   Tell Me What That Means.   Where Can I Get Help?   What Should I Do?”

With e-mail becoming such a widespread tool, I am getting the opportunity to hear from parents all over the nation, and even, sometimes, other parts of the world. Many of the feelings and questions seem to be universal, no matter where they come from:

  • My child has a learning disability. How can I learn more about this?
  • Where can I go to get help?
  • Is there hope?

Learning disabilities and attention disorders are perplexing because they may cause very “able” individuals to be unsuccessful or “disabled” in certain situations. There has been a tremendous amount of work done in this field in the last twenty years. This is by no means an exhaustive list of references, but here are a few of my favorites that I think will give any parent or teacher some new insights into learning disabilities, or better stated, learning differences.

Learning Disabilities / Dyslexia / Language Learning Disabilities

  • Conway, David. Help!!! A Handbook on Solving Learning Problems . Gander Publications (800) 554-1819.
  • Davis, Ronald. The Gift of Dyslexia . San Juan Capistrano, CA: Ability Workshop Press, 1994.
  • Hannaford, Carla. Smart Moves . Arlington, VA: Great Ocean Publications
  • LaVoie, Richard. How Difficult Can This Be? P.B.S. Video. 1994. (800) 344-3337.
  • LaVoie, Richard. Learning Disabilities and Social Skills . P.B.S. Video. 1994 (800) 344-3337
  • Smith, Joan M. Learning Victories . Sacramento, CA: Learning Time Products, Inc. 1998.
  • Directory of Facilities and Services for the Learning Disabled . Novato, CA: Academic Therapy Publications.
  • Smith, Joan M. You Don’t Have To Be Dyslexic . Sacramento, CA: Learning Time Products, Inc. 1993
  • Tallal, Paula. Fast ForWord . Reference: Scientific Learning Corporation, Berkeley, CA 1998.www.fastforword.com

To find help in your area:

  • The International Dyslexia Association (410) 296-0232 FAX – (410) 321-5069 www.interdys.org
  • Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) (412) 341-1515 www.ldanatl.org 
  • CHAADD (Support Group for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder)

Attention Challengers / ADD and ADHD / Tourette’s Syndrome

  • Dornbush, Marilyn, Ph.D. and Pruitrt, Sheryl K. M.Ed. Teaching The Tiger – a Handbook for Individuals in the Education of Students with Attention Deficit Disorder, Tourette Syndrome or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder . Duarte, CA: Hope Press
  • Hughes, Susan. Ryan, A Mother’s Story of her Hyperactive/Tourette Syndrome Child . Duarte, CA: Hope Press
  • Hallowell, M.D., Ed and Ratey, M.D., John. Driven to Distraction . N.Y. Simon and Schuster, 1994
  • Silver, Larry B. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder . Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, 1992.
  • Hartman, Thom. Attention Deficit Disorder…A Different Perspective . Underwood Books, 1997.

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities

  • Thompson, Sue. The Source for Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities . East Moline, IL Linguisystems, Inc. 1997.

Learning / Study Skills

  • Amen, M.D., Daniel. Secrets of Successful Students . Mind Works Press. Fairfield, CAwww.danielamen.com 
  • Archer, Anita and Gleason, Mary. Skills For School Success . Curriculum Associates, Inc. (800) 225-0248.
  • Healy, Jane. Endangered Minds . New York: A Touch Stone Book, Simon and Schuster, 1990.

To the question, “Is there hope?”… Absolutely! 

Individuals with learning disabilities generally have something different or perhaps not completely developed in the way that they process or think about information. The way that they process is not wrong, but it may not be efficient, particularly for academic tasks.

Give the future back to your child. Dyslexia isn't a terminal illness.Because they are obviously intelligent and generally do some kinds of tasks very easily, parents and teachers may, at first, see the learning disabled student as lazy or unmotivated. With very few exceptions, learners of any age want to be successful and would if they could.

While we never want to take away a student’s thinking style, the key to teach the learning disabled student is to help him or her to develop the underlying thinking processes that will allow him to take-in, remember, and use information efficiently.

Creating a solid foundation of basic skills is a critical piece of the picture, but only when the brain has been prepared to understand and hold onto those skills.

Students are often taught compensating strategies to help them cope with their learning disabilities. These are helpful and important but they are not enough! Students with learning differences need to be taught in a different way, because these students can learn.

Individuals with learning and attention challenges often have wonderful talents or abilities in other areas. These may tend to get overlooked in the confusion and frustration of poor school performance. Many of the outstanding artists, musicians, actors, athletes, and inventors of our time have had differences in thinking that caused “learning disabilities.” Yet, it was precisely those differences that were the key to their success.

As we seek to help students work through and remediate their inefficiencies in learning, it is also important to notice and encourage their areas of strength and uniqueness.