Help! My Child Has a Learning Difficulty

Upon discovery that your child or teenager is experiencing challenges with their learning, it is, of course, natural to feel some fear and anxiety. There are lots of unknowns and uncertainties that can cause both you and your child to feel a sense of uncertainty about what this means for their future. In my experience, for parents who know very little about the condition their child has been diagnosed with, they are in some ways in a better position than those who have a great deal of knowledge and understanding about the learning difficulty. Sometimes when a parent has a deep understanding of a learning challenge, they can almost end up ticking the mental boxes that demonstrate their child exhibiting those symptoms, even if it just happened as a fluke or a one-off.  Whereas when you are somewhat less informed, there are many of your child’s behaviours and personality traits that you might just accept as quirks and have already found useful ways to workaround.

Whilst having the diagnosis of a learning difficulty can be useful in terms of accessing support (or funding to receive support), or extra time when taking exams, for example, there are some downsides too. For your child, the diagnosis may end up becoming a limitation in their belief about their abilities. It might cause them to get bullied or to think of themselves as not as good as their peers. For us as parents, it might cause us to hold back from encouraging and pushing our child from reaching their full potential. Because we develop a sense of sympathy and empathy towards their diagnosis, as with many situations, there are both pros and cons to making this discovery.

For children where the diagnosis given has lots of research associated with it, it’s worthwhile becoming informed about what you are going to be dealing with. Not only does this help to prepare for the future, but it will also enable you to discover techniques, workarounds, and maybe even some positive aspects that come with that particular learning challenge. You can also support your child by helping them to learn more about their condition and potentially find some well-known celebrities who suffer from the same difficulties. Very often when a person lacks skills in one area or finds learning in that area more of a difficulty, their brain will make up for it in other ways. Some of the most artistic, creative and influential people that we know are dyslexic, for example, Jamie Oliver and Richard Branson.

Those who are super talented at woodwork might find that they are less skilled in other academic subjects such as science, maths or English. Those who are particularly gifted at sports or music might struggle with learning languages. Very often there are ways in which we are compensated for the skills that we lack, and it’s important too to remember that the skills we are given are not necessarily going to be on the curriculum in school. Kindness is a skill, being a great friend is a skill, having the ability to make people laugh is a very special skill. And if as a result of reading this article you begin to question quite where your child’s abilities shine and consider that they may struggle to tick many of the traditional academic boxes, then take a moment to consider who they are as a person and who they have the potential to be. Some of the most entertaining and funniest people I know did appallingly at school and received some of the worst grades during their GCSEs. However, it didn’t stop them from going on to become great mums or dads, great girlfriends or boyfriends, husbands or wives, or fantastic comedians.

Whilst academic development is such a significant part of your child’s life, it is not the whole picture, and it’s important for them to realise that. It’s important too that you consider what other areas of their lives you may be able to develop to help them feel validated in who they are and, to shine a light on those things that are most positive about them. That may mean thinking about activities that can take place outside of school hours, or as a result of social interactions. Learning the various different techniques and strategies that can be used for a young person who has learning challenges, will enable them to feel more empowered to work around the difficulty that they may have. It will help you too, to know how best to support them. If you would like any help whatsoever in developing, understanding and implementing these, then I am able to offer you a free consultation session at my therapy centre in Essex, where we can get together a plan (post-diagnosis), that will enable you and your child to feel more secure about their future.

By Gemma Bailey

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