Parenting Relationships

Coping with learning difficulty – A parent’s perspective

Learning Difficulty
“The world isn't built with a ramp.” ~ Walt Balenovich, Travels in a Blue Chair: Alaska to Zambia Ushuaia to Uluru
Written by Swati Vivek
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It is difficult to be a parent, it is even more difficult to be a parent of a child with special needs.  The early years of a child’s life are the most crucial for learning and during these years learning happens rapidly and informally. Parents teach their children self-help skills like dressing, buttoning and bathing. Often children are taught by their parents and siblings how to throw a ball, ride a bike and build blocks. Gradually, children progress to reciting alphabets, coloring, counting and writing. All these seemingly simple activities and everyday skills are difficult to learn for children with learning difficulty / disability [LD].

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They are unable to learn from experiences and guidance given by parents and teachers. Children with learning difficulty have problem processing certain types of information. Their pattern of development is uneven and may give rise to problems with communication. They may face difficulty with sounds, phonics, spellings, pronounciation, and math. A child struggling with learning difficulty may even find it cumbersome to button his own shirt! As these children grow and realize that they do indeed have a problem with learning, their self esteem takes a serious beating.

Learning difficulty faced by one’s child is indeed difficult to accept by parents. It takes time and patience for both children and parents to embrace the fact that being different does not mean being inferior. It is very important for parents in general to understand that children with LD are perfectly  intelligent, and, neither does LD affect intelligence in any manner, nor is it an outcome of low IQ. LD is a neurological disorder. Normally, parents face a whole gamut of emotions, from denial, grief, blame, fear, anger, guilt, before finally accepting that their child indeed has a problem with learning. Acceptance of the problem is half battle won, I say.

First and foremost, a parent needs to try and understand the child’s difficulties, his behaviour and the impact on his day to day life. Understanding a child’s difficulties and trying to make sense of his behaviour is no small task. In very young children it is extremely tough to distinguish between a child who can’t do something or won’t do something! For parents, it can get extremely stressful when they are unable to understand whether they are overexpecting and being pushy, or whether it is the need of time in a particular situation. It therefore, becomes very important to think about the challenges the child is facing rather than ‘what wrong have I done?’ Therefore, it becomes important to focus on the child’s strengths and building up his self-esteem, thereby helping him find his own place in society.

On a day to day basis, it is quite confusing for a parent to sort out these issues since the diagnosis may reveal one thing, the counsellor may prescribe as per her experience, but in reality, the child may require the parent to put together all information and do the best thing as per the child’s requirement. This can get very very frustrating for the parent. Additionally, parents also have to anticipate problems which will arise out of the child becoming tired, frustrated or about to explode, especially while social outings. From experience may I add a clichéd statement, ‘few people realize how difficult it is to be a parent, until they become one’.  J

Sometimes a child with LD may be only a borderline case, wherein he may not face difficulty with writing and math but may have problems with building spellings due to inability in deciphering sounds. Such a child may even turn out to be a good student scoring average marks. In such cases, it is important to discuss these issues with the teachers at school. Mostly, teachers will be understanding. The pitfall of this can be that, although, the teacher may understand the child’s problem, she may not have the patience or training to deal with slow learners, as a result she may not encourage him or her participate in extra curricular activities at school, fearing that the child may not be able to perform well. This can result in the child resenting the teacher and vice versa. The parent can deal with such a situation by being a pleasant and persistent broken record! Anything less may not work. Your child has rights too.

Understanding a child’s needs takes time and enormous patience, because needs change with age and with expectations from all quarters, be it home, school or social settings. Unexpected problems may arise at different times, which may be the result of experiences a child goes through in his life, which holds true for most children.

Youngsters with special needs often require more support from not only parents and teachers but also from their siblings. More attention given to a child with LD may not go down well with his siblings. Often he is termed as an “attention seeker.” When he is unable to follow and adhere to the instructions of a game being played in a group with his siblings and other children, he is deemed to be a ‘spoil sport’ or ‘trouble maker.’ Clashes between his siblings and parents may result in him being left alone during play time. Siblings, if not counselled on time and in proper manner, can begin to resent such a child. Children with LD have difficulty in making friends too, since most children generally donot want to associate much with class mates who don’t do well in tests or answer often in class. The child faces rejection on all fronts and of course, turns to his parents for support and understanding. Its amost like the parents are single handedly battling with the world for their  child, albeit quietly. There is also a possibility that one parent might accept the reality of LD much before the other, this only adds to the stress of the understanding parent.

Even with such an ardous task at hand, not all is lost. Cultivating optimism, the ability to make frequent changes, strategizing the best plan in any given situation, constantly working towards building the child’s self-esteem, the right amount of love and care, not to miss, keeping abreast of the latest theories and innovations in medical science, all these ingredients will go a long way in making a success story out of your child.

LD is a hidden disorder and goes undiagnosed in most of the population. It is important for parents to detect problems early, start appropriate remedial treatment and support the child at every level. In cases where LD goes undetected a question mark is raised on the child’s character and he may be termed being lazy or a spoilt brat. As parents, we must try to make life simple and enjoyable for our children and leave no stone unturned in raising a healthy, happy child with a well-rounded personality.

Always remember, every child is curious to know and learn things, some may take longer than the others, but learn they will. As they say “Every dark cloud has a silver lining” history proves that most children with LD are gifted with some or the other skill wherein they do surpass normal children and turn out to be quite successful in life.

Lastly, trust God, he gives difficulties to only those that can deal with them. Your life is extra-ordinary, make it special!

 

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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About the author

Swati Vivek

A lawyer by profession, an avid gardener, yoga enthusiast, aloof yet involved, Swati is a spiritually intuitive feisty mother of two beautiful daughters who keep her on her toes all the time.

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