5 Parenting Tips for Children with Disabilities

Your child has been identified as having support needs classified as a learning disability. Your mind might be racing as you grapple with the newfound knowledge, but what does it mean? What do you need to know as a parent?  What can you do? Here are 5 tips that every parent needs to know, as well as 3 mistakes you should avoid, when learning of your child’s support needs.

What does it Mean?

A learning disability is classified as a serious and ongoing difficulty with one of more areas of learning: reading, writing, spelling or maths. They may also be referred to as learning difficulties, and their most common forms are dyslexia (reading), dysgraphia (writing) and dyscalculia (maths).

After an assessment, your child may be identified as someone with a learning disability. This can be done by a number of people, including an occupational therapist, a speech pathologist, and/or a clinical psychologist, amongst others.

The causes of learning disabilities are still not yet fully known, with most evidence pointing towards a neurological disorder that involves difficulty processing information.

3 Mistakes You Must Avoid

As a parent or caregiver, there are 3 important mistakes we must avoid. They may sound easy, in truth, but many parents fall into these traps that never end up having a positive impact on their family life, and often can have the opposite effect. Here they are:

1. Avoid the guilt trip, as if you are somehow to blame for this situation.

You didn’t create the fact that your child has a learning disability or ask to have a set of special circumstances that require extra support.  The cause of learning disabilities isn’t fully known at this time, therefore it is not helpful to look back for a reason for your child’s learning disability.  New evidence suggests that the difficulties arise from bringing together the necessary information from various brain regions, and that there are disturbances in brain structure and function that arise before birth.  

2.  Avoid searching the internet to find out everything there is to know about learning disabilities

Learning disabilities are NOT a rare condition. In fact it’s estimated that 5.3% of 5-12 year olds in Australia have some form of intellectual or learning disability. While you may believe you need to become the expert on the topic, there are plenty of experts in the field already.  If you do decide to do a bit of research, make sure you are going to reliable sources and limit your time spent in your searching.  Your time is better spent with your child, learning how best to support them as an individual.

3. Avoid comparing your child to others

This is especially important in relation to siblings, because it will be a setup for unhappiness.  Your child likely thrives in other areas, just as we all do. Embrace the joy in that. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Your child simply learns differently and the key is unlocking the potential in that learning, so you can support that difference. When you unlock your child’s strengths and weaknesses, armed with good information provided from skilled professionals, you are empowered.  

What can you do instead?

Instead of focusing on others and putting potential negative thoughts in your head, it’s important that you know the necessary steps to support your child as effectively as possible. Quite often, this is not an individual task; you will require the support of others – experts in the field, or those who have consistent contact with your children. Let’s go through 5 tips you need to know as a parent of someone with a learning disability:

1. Celebrate your child for ALL of the wonder, joy, skills and strengths they bring.

Your child is not a problem to be fixed; he or she simply learns in a different way.  You will be empowered with knowledge, once you have the information in hand needed to move forward. 

2. Seek out support and guidance 

Getting guidance from experts will allow you to navigate the system and get what your child needs, particularly in school. If you’re not sure about what you’re getting from the school, seek out advice from those who know, such as your child’s teacher, or someone appointed at the school who is responsible for pupil or family wellbeing.  Do you know anyone who has traveled this path before you?

3. Think long term

Your child is going to thrive because they have you supporting their best interests. They cannot do it without you. Now that you know that they have certain learning needs,  ensure that their needs are going to be met, through the process that is in place through their school.

4. Choose all the necessary supports and programs that are available to support your child 

What you do now will set the tone for their academic career. Very early on in my career, I was given an important set of guidelines in special education: evaluation identifies needs; needs drive goals; goals drive support and services. Stay focused on what the assessment data is telling you about how your child learns, what their challenges are and how they need to be supported to develop their true potential.

5. Keep a positive relationship with your child’s school.

Teachers are passionate about their love of teaching and their love for children. Let them know how grateful you are, for the amazing job they do every day. Teachers are highly trained to work in the positions that they hold. Their credentials are public knowledge and the public school system is designed to be transparent to allow the parent and school community to serve you and your child.

What now?

You are your child’s most important asset for their success in school. What you do today sets your child up for life.  Your child is counting on you to be that parent who can give them the best chance in life – but you don’t have to do it alone. 

At Umbo, we take what is called the ‘person-centred’ approach. This is an approach that involves a whole team working around the needs of your child, including staff at school, members of the family and anyone else the child needs to support their goals. We coach the team, where appropriate, for a fully-supportive community for your child.

To find out how Umbo’s unique approach to therapy can help your family, book a free consultation!