Many children have learning disorders that affect everything from their reading comprehension to their math abilities. Learning disabilities affect the brain’s ability to receive, process, analyze, or retain information.
If your child has a learning disability, he’s certainly not alone; roughly 5 percent of children in public schools are receiving special education services for a learning disability, says Dr. Jonathan Romain, a CHOC Clinical Neuropsychologist.
Many dyslexic children also have another learning disability or neurological disorder, often Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), says Dr. Romain, adding that ADHD and dyslexia should be treated separately when diagnosed. Medication and behavioral support and counseling, as well as helping your child to stay organized and have an organized environment, will help, he says.
Here are some tips from Dr. Romain on more ways parents can help their child with a learning disorder:
- Get your child to read and read often! This can be challenging for parents of kids with ADHD, says Dr. Romain. “With ADHD, you don’t like to do the things that you don’t want to do, so this impacts the motivation, follow-through and determination to become a better reader. Parents should provide positive reinforcement. If Jimmy doesn’t want to read, have him practice reading for 10 minutes and then do something fun afterward. You want to tie positive outcomes with reading.” The goal is to get children with a reading disability and /or ADHD to be proficient enough at reading so they will find books or magazines they like and read them on their own.
- Children may have a learning disability in relation to numbers or math. Parents should be aware if their child is having trouble in math and seek an evaluation for a learning disability in first or second.
- Make sure your child has adequate exposure to the material (reading or math) before having him evaluated. First or second graders from low-income areas will often benefit first from more exposure to the material if they are having trouble. They can be evaluated more extensively if they are not making progress.
- Watch out for your daughter! In the classroom, boys are identified as having a reading disability up to three times as frequently as girls, but in research studies, it’s evident that dyslexia is only modestly more common in boys. The conclusion is that girls tend to be underdiagnosed in the schools and this is also the case for other school-based struggles, including ADHD.
- Public schools can evaluate a child to see if he or she needs special education support or accommodations if the problem impacts learning; a clinical evaluation will look for an underlying disorder, developmental delays, mood issues and other medical issues. Concerned parents can ask their school district or pediatrician as a starting point, and seek an outpatient evaluation or a second opinion if they want. If you seek a private evaluation for your child outside of the school district (possibly at your cost, since medical insurance may not deem this as a medically necessary), make sure it’s from a developmental psychologist or neuropsychologist familiar with educational development.