Finding out that your child has a learning disability is a huge challenge for the whole family. It can be hard to accept that your child has a learning disability, there are no physical symptoms or other signs that your child has an issue. Often you don’t discover there is a problem until your child is in school and starts struggling. The teacher will often bring you in to discuss that your child is struggling to keep up with their peers. You may even notice yourself that your child isn’t reaching milestones as quickly as they should. Finally finding out about your child’s learning disability will leave you reeling from a whole bunch of emotions, everything from overwhelming confusion to relief.
Here are three ways to help you cope with your child’s learning disability
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance
The initial diagnosis of your child’s learning disability brings on emotions very similar to the five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. You may tell yourself that your child is a “late bloomer”…that’s denial. Anger tends to be the predominant emotion until you reach acceptance, you may blame yourself, the school or your spouse. The experts don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Anger is normal and guilt can make the anger even worse.
Bargaining happens when you tell yourself that another school would make a difference, or a different teacher will make the situation better. Depression like anger can stay throughout the process, and it can be pretty brutal. You can find yourself thinking that your child won’t have a normal life, they will never attend college or hold a job. None of that is necessarily true but depression is hard to overcome.
Then you finally reach acceptance and understand that your child has a learning disability. It is a part of your child but it doesn’t define your child. It’s a process and there is no shame in feeling how you feel. Once you reach acceptance you can learn how to cope and get your child the help they need.
Your child is still that same bundle of joy you watched take their first steps. Now they are a young person with their own distinct personality, sense of humor and unique world view. None of that has changed, there are things they were good at before you learned they had a learning disability and your child will discover new things to be good at.
Now you can better understand the areas in which your child struggles and learn to cope and work around that. There are doctors and therapists and testing that will help you figure out your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Work with your child’s strengths to help them improve their where they struggle.
Be Your Child’s Cheerleader…and Plan
You’re the parent you know your child better than anyone else. After learning about your child’s disability you have to learn as much as you can so you can advocate on their behalf. Your child will need help to succeed in school and this can seem an overwhelming task. You need to plan for both long and short term success.
In the short term is getting them the right educational services until they can work independently. In the long term your child needs to be a functioning independent adult. You will be your child’s biggest support in ensuring their academic success. Here is a video talking about standing up for your child’s educational rights.
Finding out your child has a learning disability is difficult and overwhelming, you are navigating the maze that is the education system. You may not always get the answers that you are hoping for and it is beyond frustrating. Reach out for support, you are not alone in your struggles there are other parents who have stood in your shoes.