When it comes to a learning disability in your children, all sorts of emotions come to the front of your mind. It’s a pretty sensitive topic. Many parents are so afraid of what answers might come that they’re hesitant to even have their child tested. As a mother who’s been on both sides of the fence, I can assure you, it is far better to have the answers. Having answers only means you can now find the best solutions for your child. It means help for your child. This isn’t only true for us as parents, it’s also means your child has the answers they’re searching for.
The other day I was reading through some posts on a facebook group for parents of dyslexic children. I came across a post that really alarmed me. I’m don’t remember exactly what it said, but it was something along the lines of should I tell my child he has learning disabilities. Now, I understand this mother’s concern. I understand that she doesn’t want her child to have negative feelings that would come with being told of their learning disability. However, this is something that I feel should not be kept from our kids, and for many reasons.
They Already Know They’re Different
Kids are smart. They see their peers and their accomplishments. Our kids are aware that their behaviors might be different that most other kids. They can see that most other kids their age are reading without difficulties. They notice that other kids can sit still and learn without any problems. Even though our kids might not know why they are different, they already know they are different. They simply don’t know why they are different.
Secrets are Dangerous
Let’s say you have gone through the testing process and have a diagnosis for your child. If you choose to keep that diagnosis a secret from them, you’re only hurting them. I know you like to think you’re helping them because you’re “protecting” them from the ugly label. But remember, they already know they’re different. They need to be told why and how they’re different.
Keeping their diagnosis a secret from our children will make them feel like their diagnosis is bad, which might make them feel like they’re bad. Having a learning disability isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Keeping that diagnosis a secret from your child however, might communicate that the learning disability is something to be ashamed of. Keeping this secret is only going to be damaging to your child’s mental and emotional well being down the road. Remember, secrets have a way of coming out. Wouldn’t you rather be honest and upfront with your child than make them feel like they should be ashamed?
Knowing Means Answers
Once your child knows why they are different from their peers, it means they can find solutions. Maybe they simply need a different learning approach. Perhaps your child would benefit from some occupational/vision/behavioral therapy. Sometimes, having that awful “label” might be just what your child needs to feel better about himself. You see, not knowing means you’re always questioning yourself. Why am I so different, why can’t I read, why is this so hard for me? Those are all things our children with learning disabilities are already thinking. When your child knows their brain is just wired a little differently, they know these things are not because they’re bad or stupid.
Embracing the Learning Disability
Having answers that come with a diagnosis of learning disability means your child can embrace their differences. Having a learning disability doesn’t come with only a list of negative attributes, there will be positive ones as well. For instance, Grasshopper’s dyslexia means it’s more difficult for him to read and spell. However, dyslexics tend to be more creative.
I see this everyday in his art and problem solving skills. You should see the things he builds and creates with legos, or the details he puts into his drawings. One day while he was feeling particularity discouraged by his dyslexia I explained to him how dyslexics are very creative people and that I see his talent in this area. Because he knows he’s dyslexic, we were able to turn something from being a constant negative to something that can be positive. For him, knowing has been a confidence booster.
How to Tell Your Child About Their Diagnosis
So how do we go about breaking the news of a learning disability to our kids? My advice to you is to be as positive as you can. Maybe start with pointing out troubled areas when it comes to learning for your child. Make sure they acknowledge these areas, although I’m willing to bet you’ve already had several conversations about this.
After you’ve discussed their difficulties give them the diagnosis. Tell them what it’s called and define the diagnosis to them. Make sure they know that this isn’t something that is their fault, and it doesn’t mean they are a bad person. You must stress with your child that this doesn’t mean they are stupid or can’t learn.
Take some time to reassure them that you will work together to come up with ways that will help them learn best. Having a learning disability doesn’t mean they can’t learn, it just means you have to find a different way to learn. Ask them for their input, they might have ideas that would help them learn better. If you already have a plan, share it with them and ask what they think. Let them give you feedback and make them feel included in the process.
Finally, spend some time talking about their strengths. They’re going to need a confidence boost, and probably often. Make sure they know the strengths you see in them, and how much you love them.
Don’t keep your child in the dark when it comes to their learning disabilities. If you suspect your child is struggling but haven’t gone through the testing, I encourage you to do so. If you’ve had your child tested and it came back negative but after some time you still have suspicions, trust your mother’s intuition and get a second opinion.
Having a diagnosis isn’t a label filled with bad stigmas slapped on your child, it’s finding answers to help them achieve their potential. Believe me, the the potential is there. You simply might need the diagnosis to unlock the potential.