Parenthood comes with a wide range of expectations and responsibilities. Having someone depend on you 100% for all their wants and needs is probably the biggest responsibility a person can undertake. When it comes to raising our children, we face moral dilemmas daily. We question ourselves every second of the day, wondering if anything we have said or done has been detrimental to them.
As parents, we all hope for and want our children to excel at everything they take on in life; be it academics, sports, theatre, art and so on. Moreover, we crave for happiness for our children. We try to give them the freedom to learn and discover who they are for themselves and teach them to be passionate about whatever they decide to pursue. These days so many contrasting and interesting methods of learning are being utilized, and therefore school for most children has become a place of self-discovery. Sometimes during this process of self-discovery is when many parents detect certain learning disabilities in their child.
It is often confusing for parents of children with learning disabilities. Many times, the signs are extremely subtle and difficult to identify which is why we sometimes see the learning disability being identified when the child is much older. It can be hard for parents to know whether things are normal or not, especially if it is your first child. Some of the familiar learning disabilities children experience today are ADHD and Dyslexia.
Dealing with the truth that your child has a learning disability is often a very emotionally draining process.
Some parents recognize and face the disability much earlier than others.
Many parents wrestle with the idea of their child having a learning disability and they face a wide range of emotions before they can effectively contend with the truth.
The different stages of grief come into play here - denial of the problem, rationalizing the problem, fear and anger, guilt and so on.
Parents start blaming themselves for the learning disability, often telling themselves that they should have done things differently when it wouldn’t have made a difference. Sometimes the blame even gets passed onto others like family members and schools.
When parents struggle to comprehend
Denial is one of the most frequently used defence mechanisms. It can only temporarily repress the situation but not erase it completely. In this case, denial of a learning disability in your child can be tricky. I remember a case where a mother was slowly realizing that her child was not developing speech as per his age mandated. At the age of four, he was still speaking single words and not in full sentences. Following her gut instinct, she concluded that something needed to be done. She lived in a joint family along with her husband and son. When she mentioned this to her mother-in-law, her belief that her son may have a learning disability was instantly quashed. She was told that she was being fussy and over-thinking the situation. This was a case of the child’s grandparents not being able to accept the truth. Her husband was neutral. However, the mother still had her doubts so she went independently to consult with a speech therapist who then confirmed that her son did, in fact, require language therapy. The next step was to engage the entire family in counseling with the speech therapist.
The role of schools
Schools face a colossal amount of backlash from many parents for suggesting that the child may have a specific learning disability. There is an increased amount of awareness and engagement from schools today regarding learning disabilities and the symptoms. Earlier, unmotivated children who did not show any interest in school work were pulled aside and termed as having a learning disability, when in fact they just needed to be pushed a little. Many children are often referred first to doctors and psychiatrists to see if the learning disability can be ‘treated’ with medication. It is challenging to distinguish between a child who cannot learn and do something from a child who will not learn and do something. However now teachers are trained to spot any form of learning disability early on, alert the parents and work with them on a special and structured routine for the child.
Children with learning disabilities are as smart and talented as their peers; they are not ‘different’ in any way, contrary to popular theory. They are just not able to accomplish the task at hand at the same speed and with the same method as their peers. So, parents work with professionals like special educators to help their child stay on track and on par with their peers. They are taught that many people are successful in overcoming difficulties and that they will soon be among those people.
A learning disability is not the result of any form of negligence from the parents. This is something that parents need to chant to themselves repeatedly. The most you can do is keep your eyes open for signs of difficulties your child may be facing in school or even at home when one on one time is spent with them in educational activities. Support from the parents is crucial and focusing on optimistic outcomes can make a world of difference to the child’s progress.
As Ignacio Estrada said, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”