I went to the elementary school for a teacher conference and was told that my child had learning disabilities. I was blindsided and incredibly upset! I cried when the school staff explained the test results to me. The results enabled me to understand the depth of my child’s struggles in school and the scope of interventions that had to be put in place to help her succeed in school. While I had known that something was “wrong”, I didn’t have the complete picture. Even though the “complete picture” was enormous, it was comforting to know that we would build a plan to address the specific needs of my child.
After drying my tears, I met with the therapists who were working with my daughter to better understand what they were doing in school and what I should be doing at home to support their efforts and to discuss her progress on an on-going basis. I wish someone had offered to have another parent of a child with similar issues talk to me and my husband about what they had experienced and share any tips for navigating the road ahead of us.
I sat down with my daughter and helped her understand that there was a reason for her struggles in school. I assured her that we are all wired differently and that we need to use our strengths and a strong work ethic to get us through tasks that challenge us. I encouraged her to speak up politely so she and her teacher could work together to ensure that she could learn and apply the information.
We have had support from friends who have children with all kinds of special needs, not just children with learning disabilities. Connection to other knowledgeable and hopeful parents is essential. Regardless of your child’s diagnosis, there are other parents who have walked in your moccasins, who can share their perspectives, tips, and potential pitfalls. Knowledge is power. I became a student of my child’s special need so I could sympathize with her struggles and celebrate her triumphs. Professional support has come from psychologists who have helped us to know how to support her when she is frustrated or struggles socially. They have provided a safe place for us to talk about our fears and grieve over the loss of some of our dreams and hopes for our daughter, and the adjustments we have had to make in our marriage, family, and finances.
Parents need to learn what
they must do (or not do) so their child is enabled to work to their
potential, be in the best health possible, and build healthy
relationships with friends and family that is based on mutual respect.
Our daughter learned how to self-advocate by watching us advocate for
her in meetings and by talking with each other about what works for her
what does not work for her.