There is a wide range of emotions a child can go through after receiving a diagnosis of a learning disability. Some children may feel embarrassed or unmotivated after being told they have dyslexia or ADHD, while another may feel relieved that they finally have a concrete reason why reading or focusing in class comes so much harder to them than their peers. Some may oscillate between some combination of relief, shame, and bewilderment all at once, which as a parent can be overwhelming to navigate.
No matter how they take in the information, it’s important to be prepared for all outcomes, and know the proper ways you can support them emotionally to keep their confidence high. The experience can be very destabilizing for a child, so it’s imperative that you be a solid presence to help them rebound, even though the news may come as a blow to you as well.
The following five tips are foolproof ways to be there for your child–and yourself–during what can be an incredibly difficult time for the both of you.
A positive attitude goes a long way towards motivating your child. Even if you don’t feel positive about the situation, remember that no learning disability is insurmountable with the right tools, all of which are available to you regardless of whether your child is receiving a public or private education. How you react to the diagnosis will set the tone for your child’s thoughts as well. If you remain positive, they will most likely follow your lead. Teaching them that challenges and setbacks should not knock them off course from an early age will set them up for success long into the future.
Set Small, Easy to Achieve Goals
Though it might be tempting to set the bar high, as you want your child to be high achieving, setting unrealistic goals only serves to set your child up for frustration, or even failure. By setting small incremental goals that they are sure to complete, your child will get hooked on the feeling of satisfaction that comes with finishing something difficult, which will motivate them to keep pursuing academic achievement for years to come. With time and practice, you’ll discover the sweet spot of giving them enough of a workload so as to still be sufficiently hard, but not so difficult that it becomes discouraging, resulting in diminishing returns.
Put Things Into Perspective
They might feel that a learning disability is insurmountable, but remind them that things will only get easier from here on out. You can gently suggest that it might even be empowering to put a label on what is causing your child to struggle, as naming something can often bring on a sense of relief and take its power away. After all, once you’ve pinpointed exactly why your student is struggling in school, you are better equipped to access the resources you need to begin learning in a way that is most effective for how their brain functions. Then, as soon as your child begins to break through and make strides in their education, it may not be smooth sailing per se, but building on a strong foundation of knowledge will be infinitely easier than it was pre-diagnosis.
Seek Therapy of Your Own
Before you can expect to help your child cope with a challenging diagnosis, it can be massively helpful to work through your own complicated feelings with a mental health professional. A trained therapist can be a healthy outlet for you to vent your frustrations and talk through your concerns regarding your child’s future so that you can remain positive in front of your child.
Often learning disabilities are accompanied by or trigger issues with mental health and self-esteem, so if it isn’t already a part of your child’s treatment plan to meet regularly with a school counselor, psychologist, or social worker, it can be immensely helpful to set up regular meetings with them and a therapist with experience working with children with learning disabilities.
It can be incredibly helpful to seek out support groups or get to know other parents of children with similar learning disabilities, so you can share tips and be pillars of support for one another during difficult times. Through schoolwide networks, special education programs, or even social media, you can reach people dealing with the exact same learning disability-related issues as you and your child, which will serve to make you both feel a lot less alone while going through an otherwise isolating experience. You might even find that your child develops strong friendships with other children with learning disabilities who can relate to their unique struggles academically and/or socially.
Do Your Research
As a parent, you probably have endless questions about what your child’s specific learning disability means, and what treatment options and tools you have available to you. In addition, your child probably has about a million questions for you as to what this means. Researching the learning disability they have from top to bottom will help you become a reliable, confident authority so that you can quiet both their concerns and your own. If you’re beginning your search online, make sure to look at reliable and accurate sources such as the NIH website or the Learning Disabilities Association of America, which are great places to start.
Moving Forward With Confidence
At the end of the day, if you feel confident regarding the future of your child’s education, they are sure to follow suit. While it can be incredibly intimidating to receive a diagnosis of a learning disability, it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel, and you and your child have resources available to you to work through those feelings both together and individually. A diagnosis of a learning disability no doubt presents many challenges, but none are insuperable with the right tools and perhaps just as importantly, the right attitude.