Here are some ways for parents to facilitate successful outcomes for children with learning disabilities:
Create opportunities for success and avoid frustration when possible.
Set up activities, chores, and homework so that your child can be successful. Also, make sure to say something positive when things go well, and naturally don’t praise work if it isn’t worthy of it. You also want to avoid frustration — both yours and your child’s. If your child is having difficulty with an activity, try to simplify or end the activity before she gives up or gets angry. You can also teach your child ways to avoid frustration by encouraging her to ask for help when needed.
Build your child’s confidence.
Every child (and adult!) wants to feel good about himself. You play an important role in how your child feels about herself. You can say things like “I have every confidence in you” or “I knew you could handle that” to point out that you trust your child and believe that he will achieve great things. You can also ask your child to teach you something. Children need to feel important and competent which leads to healthy self-esteem.
Say what you mean.
Children with learning disabilities often have difficulty understanding all they hear and read. Be very clear when you speak to your child. Give simple directions and break down tasks into concrete steps. For example, ask your child to make his bed and put away his laundry rather than say “clean your room.” Make sure he understands by asking him to repeat instructions before following them. Avoid sarcasm if your child does not understand your meaning.
Model what you want your child to do.
Let your child know what to do by modeling the activity or chore. For example, show your child how to complete a puzzle or art project so that she can see the steps she needs to follow. Or model a social skill, such as asking for assistance to teach your child how to appropriately ask for help when needed. When you model the behaviors you want to see, you set a good example and make your expectations clear.
Prepare your child for new situations.
Help your child succeed by telling her what to expect and how to behave in new or unfamiliar situations. Because she may not pick up on the “unspoken rules,” it is good to discuss what the expectations are. For example, if you are going to a movie theater, it may be helpful to remind your child not to talk during the movie. Letting your child know about a situation beforehand allows her to think through her actions and be less anxious.
Another way to help children with learning disabilities succeed is to teach them to speak up for themselves. When a child tells others what he needs, he is more likely to learn and feel good about himself. For example, a child with a learning disability may ask for more time to complete an activity or to have information explained in a different way. A young child may learn to state her preferences for an activity or ask for assistance in getting what she wants.
Here are some ways you can promote your child’s self-advocacy: