Learning disabilities refer to the limitations on a person’s academic capabilities i.e. reading, writing, speaking and reasoning that affect his/her normal mental development. A disability is impairment or a condition that restricts a human being’s cognitive, sensory or mobility functions. It can occur during a person’s life i.e. through an accident or a traumatic experience or may be present from birth. There are various forms of disabilities, ranging from mild to severe that affect the different spheres of a person’s life. Physical disabilities disrupt the physical functions of the body thus causing sensory and mobility handicaps. Developmental disabilities arise as a result of impairments that inhibit an individual’s growth rate; such disabilities often present themselves at birth (Brown, 2009). Therefore, Parents should be role models in ascertaining that children with disabilities are equipped with life skills, are equally competitive, and lead normal lives against all odds.
Learning disabilities fall under intellectual disabilities as they involve the brain having a hard time receiving, processing, storing of responding to information. They include disabilities such as dyslexia (a disorder that affects word recognition, decoding and expression as well as reading rate and comprehension), dyscalculia (an individual’s ability to grasp numbers and math concepts), dysgraphia (difficulty in writing leading to poor handwriting) and dysphasia/aphasia (difficulty in written expression that is evinced by syntactic and punctuation mistakes). Learning disabilities are more often than not present at birth. However, over the past two decades studies have shown that physical disabilities, mental impairment, environmental disadvantages and genetic abnormalities lead to the development of learning disabilities (Patti & Flanagan, 2005).
In the United States, prevalence of learning disabilities increased by 17%, which represents 1.8 million more children of the total population compared to 2000. Male children were mostly affected than females. In Canada, theyare the most common and fastest growing form of disability. Almost half of the children population is affected. Learning difficulties and not permanent as statistics show that if impairment is noted at an early stage and effective measures employed in enlightening these children, they can lead absolutely normal and exciting lives (Wilhshurst& Brue, 2005).
Ways in Which Parents Can Help Children with Disabilities
There are various ways through which parents can make learning disabilities easier on their children and on themselves. These techniques do not cure the children of their learning disabilities, but they certainly make it easier for the children to cope and deal with them. As the children are growing up, they can learn a lot from their parents because they are the people closest to them (Wilhshurst& Brue, 2005). Parents should be open-minded about learning disabilities and ways to help such children in case of the occurrence. They should be practical, optimistic and oriented to make their children’s life better by providing the necessary amenities and treatment facilities.
Children with a learning disability find it very difficult to synthesize information and make meaning form words, numbers, statements and at times they find it difficult in undertaking games and activities with other kids. Due to these complications in learning, parents are supposed to engage their children academics in order for them to catch up with the level of other kids. This can be done through the provision of special tools that will improve children’s comprehension, analytical, numerical and logical interpretation of phenomena and occurrences. Spell checkers, speech synthesizers and brain storming games, may be used to improve written and spoken language while tape recorders and variable speech control assist the child in speech development. Furthermore, parents should be at the forefront in deriving and initiating programs and activities, in school for children with learning disabilities (Kay, 2007). Parents understand their children best, and they are well knowledgeable about their needs for optimum development and growth.
Parents can also help children cope with learning disabilities by emphasizing on overall life success rather than focusing on the child’s state of academics. Stress on academic performance puts unnecessary pressure on the children to perform better despite the hardships they face as individuals with learning disabilities. This, in turn, place extra burden on the children thus impeding their development in the long run. A parent should celebrate other successes in the child’s life i.e. in sports, and other extra-curricular activities. The parent’s should also have foresight about their children’s future (Salmon & Dover, 2007). This can be done by equipping the children with the life skills such as communication skills, self-esteem, vocational skills and social intelligence that will enable them have a full life.
Healthy lifestyle habits are also crucial in coping with learning disabilities. Parents are best placed to impart these habits on children with learning disabilities as they have the most influence on a child’s growth. For children with learning disabilities, good nutrition is key as eating the right foods aids in growth and development. For example, children with learning disabilities should consume more servings of focus enhancing foods such as ginseng and fish. Regular exercise is also crucial as it provides time for the mind to relax (Kay, 2007). Furthermore, research shows that people are able to think more after exercise as it allows the brain to refresh itself. Children with learning disabilities should also get enough sleep, which means the minimum eight hours of sleep in a day so as to ensure that they have adequate time to rest their minds and their bodies.
Parents with children with learning disabilities should identify the learning methods that are best suited for their children so as to ensure that the children have an easier time understanding what they learn. These methods should also be emphasized on so as to get the best academic progress from the children without undue stress on any of the parties. For example, for a child who understands better by listening; tools such as movies, songs and audio books are best for teaching, for a child who learns easier by seeing; visual teaching aids such as flash cards, maps, charts and drawings work best and for a child who has an easier time learning when doing, practical and experiments should be applied (Brown, 2009).
Parents should be sensitized and educated to develop coping strategies to equip them with emotional encouragement and empathy in executing their duties as parents. Counselors and clergy come in handy in this because they are professionally trained in handling clients and members of their congregation with spiritual reprieve and stress management. Stress is indispensable in day to day living of individuals. Parents with children having learning impairment should be reminded that children are a gift from God and a special responsibility of raising them is endowed upon them. Moreover, this information is available in psychology journals, motivational books and in religious publications (McDermott, Goldman, &Varenne, 2006).
Parents with children with learning disabilities should also provide the necessary support services needed to cater to their children’s special needs. Children with learning disabilities have more needs than normal children; this means that their parents have to go the extra mile in terms of the resources needed when dealing with their children, for example they will need more money to buy special learning aids plus they will have to put extra time and effort towards their children’s growth. Parents with children with learning disabilities will also need to engage the services of specialists who will help them identify the available resources for dealing with their children’s handicaps. This will make it easier for them, and their children to cope with the learning disabilities (Salmon & Dover, 2007).
How Families Can Help Children With Disability
The parents of children with learning disabilities, along with the rest of the family, can help the children lead normal lives. This can be done in various ways which involve treating children with disabilities like other normal children. By treating children with disabilities normally, families empower them to view themselves as no different from any other human being. This is achieved by including them in family activities such as chores, constant positive reinforcement in all that they do as well as motivation from siblings. Such inclusion, as simple as it may seem, goes a long way in adding to the sense of self-value of children with learning disabilities.
In addition to this, the families of children with learning disabilities should be knowledgeable about learning disabilities and what they need to do to help in order to provide proper support for these children. Children with learning disabilities need preferential treatment i.e. more attention and fewer disciplinary measures. This means that is it easier for other family members to view them as burdens if they are not equipped with the skill needed to handle them.
In conclusion, disability is not inability. This means that individuals with learning disabilities are able to perform intellectual activities; they just have a harder time doing it compared to the rest of the human population. Furthermore, disability is a normal occurrence in life that can be managed effectively to ensure that disabled persons live full all round lives despite their incapacities. This can be done by having all the parties involved (i.e. parents, relatives, teachers and friends) in the lives of people with disabilities actively support them in any way possible, which will ensure that the disabled can live normal independent lives. Failure to do this leads to more problems in the society as some of its members are perceived as burdens that impede its progress.
Brown, E. K. (2009). Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges. Minneapolis: Hillcrest Publishing Group.
Kay, J. (2007). Behavioral, Emotional and Social Difficulties. New York: Continuum Books.
McDermott, R., Goldman, S., & Varenne, H. (2006). Educational Researcher. The Cultural Works of Learning Disabilities , 12-17.
Patti, H. L., & Flanagan, P. D. (2005). Contemporary Intellectual Assessment. New York: Guilford Press.
Salmon, G., & Dover, J. (2007). Reaching& Teaching through Educational Psychotherapy. Chichester, CH: Wiley J& Ltd S.
Wilhshurst, G., & Brue, A. W. (2005). A Parent Guide To Special Education: Insider Advice on How to Navigate the System and Help your Child Succeed. AMACOM: American Management Association.