Learning Disorder

by Jodie Lynn

Q. My daughter has a learning disorder. Should we tell our other children, or should we treat her the same?

It worked for me:

Yes, tell your other children. This will give them the opportunity to understand that your daughter learns differently and that she will have different needs than they have. I don't think you'll be able to treat your daughter exactly the same as you treat your children who don't have a learning disorder. For example, she may require extra time to do tasks, or you may have to explain to her several times how to do things. If your other children understand that your daughter has a real need for these things, they may be less resentful of the extra attention she will be getting and may even come up with their own ways of helping her. -- Mary Radochonski of Wichita, KS

When we couldn't take the behavior any longer, we took my son to a psychological center recommended by the school. He had ADD. We put him on Ritalin, and it calmed him down so he could concentrate better. But by the time he began puberty, we took him off. His homework had to be done in five-to 10-minute spurts with plenty of breaks. We told our other children and adults, but we tried not to treat him differently. We did not give him a chance to use this as an excuse. What I did was make my presence known at the school. I volunteered and tried to help in areas where I could get to know the teachers and their policies. This allowed us all to work together and gave me firsthand experience with things that I could carry through at home. -- J.D. Woods of Fort Wayne, IN

Treat your child as normally as possible. By doing this, other family members will do the same, as well as her peers. Visit with the child's principal, teachers and any specialist who may see her. They can show you and everyone else how to handle the situation. -- Richard Wilson of Woodward, OK

From Jodie: First things first: Talk with your child about what's going on. Then, after she feels comfortable, you may let her explain it to other family members. In your explanation, be careful not to use names or labels. One of the biggest mistakes made is when parents, teachers, siblings and others label children with learning disabilities with names like stupid, slow, goofy, loser, weirdo and retarded. Why? Because a person with a disability eventually will begin to think of herself as the exact label we have given her. Whether your child is disabled or normal (can anyone tell me what normal really is?) all labels hurt and can be devastating to anyone.

It's a challenge that will take a lot of work and acceptance on everyone's part. Stick together, don't label, point fingers or blame, and you will come up just as healthy (and maybe even a little stronger as a family) as before.

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