Education Law

More Parents Learn About Learning Disabilities

Unless you're talking about a child genius, practically any parent and student will tell you that school is tough. Maybe not all the time and in every subject, but most students have to work hard - from grade school through high school, and often beyond.

For thousands of students, school is even more difficult because they suffer from learning and developmental disabilities or disorders, making it hard for them to learn.

Sadly, even more students may start struggling in school.

Some Basics on Learning & Developmental Disorders

Developmental Disorders

Developmental disabilities are severe, ongoing conditions caused by a mental or physical problem. Students with these have difficulties with major life activities, like speaking, learning and living independently.

Examples of these disabilities include autism and vision problems.

Learning Disorders

Learning disabilities is an umbrella term for many different brain-related disorders that make it difficult for students to grasp the skills they need to do well in school.

A good example of a learning disorder is dyslexia. This is where a student struggles with reading and spelling.

Problems May Be on the Rise

In 2011, research was released showing a dramatic increase in developmental and/or leaning disabilities - 17 percent in 12 years. Spikes in autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are the main reasons for the increase.

Special Notes on ADHD

Technically, ADHD - a condition that typically makes it difficult for students to concentrate or control their behavior (be "hyperactive") - is not a learning disability. However, most children with ADHD do have some other learning or developmental disability. And, ADHD can be considered a "disability" covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), making the student eligible for special education assistance.

Parents should also keep in mind that ADHD is often misdiagnosed or mistaken for other medical conditions and disorders, such as autism and hearing problems.

Identifying & Coping with Disorders

It's important for parents (and teachers) to know how to identify developmental and learning disorders and how to help students who have them.

Know What to Look For

Parents and teachers spend a lot time with their children/students and are in the best positions to get them help as quickly as possible:

  • Take note of any odd, new behavior by students, such as falling grades, disinterest in school and being disruptive in the classroom
  • Educate yourselves on the symptoms of developmental and learning disorders
  • Work together at testing or screening a student if there's any indication of disorder or disability
  • Parents, get a second opinion from your family doctor or pediatrician on any diagnosis made by school officials

Dealing with a Problem

Any disorder that makes it hard for your child to learn is stressful all by itself, but dealing with the problem on daily basis is often even more difficult, for everyone.

Parents can help by:

  • Making sure your child stays healthy. The proper rest and diet gives your child the right start to the school day
  • Take advantage of any special programs offered at school for one-on-one teaching or tutoring
  • Look into special education resources at school
  • Learn what you can do at home to help your child perform better in school

Teachers are on the frontline, too:

  • Figure out the way the student learns best? Does the student learn by better by reading material or having it read aloud, for example
  • Help parents reinforce learning skills at home
  • Know your limits. Disciplining any student can be tricky, and monitoring or videotaping even unruly students could get you fired

Everyone wants what's best for the children and students. When parents, students and school officials work together, there's no reason why any child can't learn at school and enjoy it.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Is my child's school required to test my child for a learning disability if I ask it to? Can it test my child without getting my permission?
  • What can I do if I and the school disagree over my child's need for special education classes?
  • Is the school required to make a note of a learning disability in my child's school records?
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