Learning Disabilities in Your School Age Child
We all have learning strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are better at math, some are better writers, and some have keen memories for dates and facts. This natural variation of skills steers us in certain directions career-wise or hobby-wise. Learning disabilities are a more extreme form of this, and have a range of severity and impact on the student.
Learning disabilities occur in approximately 4 percent of the population, and are recognized by federal law in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Learning disabilities are heterogeneous in nature and are generally characterized by underachievement in school. According to the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, these disorders are believed to be due to some central nervous system problem.
Traditionally, schools have identified students with learning disabilities as those who have a significant discrepancy between their IQ and their achievement, and if they have a deficit in one or more psychological processes (for example, auditory processing or visual processing). Recent changes in legislation encourage schools to use a "Response to Intervention" model as part of the diagnostic procedures for learning disabilities. This approach examines how students respond to increasingly intensive, research-based, and individualized interventions designed to address the area of underachievement. Students with learning disabilities qualify for special education services.
There are things you can do to help your child if he has a learning disability, but first, you need to make sure that you understand the disability, the impact it's having on you child, and the services available at his school. You also need to help him understand his disability. Explain what a learning disability is, how it makes some school work more difficult, and that it doesn't mean that he's dumb or stupid. You should continue to have high and realistic expectations for your child and ensure that additional support services, such as a homework tutor, are in place.