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Helping My Child on the Meandering Path of Learning Differently

Posted Aug 26 2013 12:00am

One of my kids has learning disabilities. A bunch of them. I prefer to think of them as "differences" rather than "disabilities." A difference just means that this child learns in a different manner, much like driving to a locale by taking an alternate route. You still get there. You just go another way -- maybe it's a more scenic way. Maybe your travel path meanders and, along the way, you see a cool stream and you stop and put your feet in and catch some fish for lunch and then you take a nap and you eventually get to where you were going, but a bit later.

And now you can probably see how my kids all learn in a different manner. They come by it honestly. SQUIRREL!

All kidding aside, when your kid learns differently than other people, it can be a super real challenge. You might have a fantastic teacher, one who thinks outside the box and explores alternate ways to learn and it might be the best school year ever. But the next year, your child might be assigned to a teacher who yells and is rigid about a quiet classroom, with all students in their seats and quiet and every piece of learning is done by the book.

One thing that I've found that really works for my ADD kid -- who has the inattentive type of ADD, and trust me when I say that I struggled with that diagnosis for, I'm not kidding -- five years -- is determining ways to make success within reach. I have to find ways to help this child succeed. Instead of trying to solve the problem, I look at what I want the result to be -- and work backwards. Which sounds like the exact same thought, but it's not.

Child has homework to do but cannot remember to bring home books. Instead of reminding child to bring home books, I think about the end result: I want the child to be able to do the work at home. Getting the books home is the issue, so I sign out a second set of books from the school. This way, we can still get the work done, and if the book doesn't make it home, well, it's not the end of the world.

Child also has a pack up buddy. And I've insisted that this child be allowed an extra two or three minutes to pack up at the end of the day, in order to verify that all of the books and notebooks are taken.

The best piece of equipment, though, is a little piece of paper that my father created. My father was a high school teacher and he saw many kids who struggled. He created a sheet of paper for my son - it looks like this:

Helping My Child on the Meandering Path of Learning Differently


He put the Lego guys on the top because this kid loves Legos, but you could put anything you wanted on your own version. The side says "subject" and I fill that in weekly. The child is responsible for writing down the homework and what books, notebooks, copybooks, etc are required. At the end of the day, I have requested in the accommodations form that the teachers take a minute to look over this sheet and sign off. Which, yes, does make work for the teachers, but at the end of the day, if it helps the child succeed -- well, isn't that what we are all working towards?

There are other accommodations, tricks, tips and secrets that we use for this child. That's not to say that everything has been amazing, though. I wish I could say that I've "solved the puzzle!" and we know EXACTLY how to make this work, but we don't and it's an ever-evolving mix of "Let's try this!"

And in dealing with learning disabilities, for us -- that seems to be the way to go.

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