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One of the most challenging parts of parenting a struggling learner is having to deal with the emotional challenges that inevitably come. I have spoken with numerous parents who ask what to say when they hear their child come home and say, “I’m dumb.”

We, as adults, know that students with learning disabilities are, by definition, intelligent. And we can see all of the other wonderful qualities they have, such as good social skills, athleticism, artistic ability, humor, or kindness. Children, however, often measure themselves against their peers in the setting in which they spend the most time —school. 

Parents can help support their children by talking about what a learning disability is. Children with learning disabilities must have at least average intelligence but are not performing up to their ability in one or more areas (e.g. reading, writing, and/or math). Help your child understand this definition, and talk through what it means. If this is difficult or confusing, seek out the professional who diagnosed your child for help.

Parents should also remind their children of their talents, and find opportunities for the child to spend more time in his area of strength. Is he a great artist? If so, can he go to a class or get cool art supplies to use at home? Is she kind-hearted? If so, can she help volunteer at a pet shelter or donation center? Spending quality time in his area of strength will help develop his confidence. 

Finally, parents can advocate for their children to be sure that teachers also understand their disability and that there is sufficient support at school. Well-meaning teachers may truly care for your child but may not have appropriate training to address her learning needs. If there is not sufficient support at your child’s school, consider a tutor or a different educational setting.

When children have an understanding of their disability, areas of strength to be proud of, and the necessary supports at school, they are set up for success. There will be bumps along the road, but they should not completely derail your child’s progress.

Blogger Stephanie Dunne, Ed.S., is the Center Director at Springer School and Center. Prior to coming to Springer, Stephanie practiced as a school psychologist in public and private schools for ten years. If you have questions, please contact Stephanie at sdunne@springer-ld.org.

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