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A learning disability is a neurologically-based processing problem which interferes with the learning process (LDA, 2013). Thus, developing skills related to reading, writing and Maths can be a challenge when such difficulties are present. Higher order thinking skills such as planning, organisation and sustaining attention can also be effected. Although these difficulties highly impact a child’s life at school, they also interfere with the child’s life in general. If you notice that your child is struggling to make progress at school, even when additional support such as complementary lessons has been provided, you can seek the help of an educational psychologist. A psycho-educational assessment will be carried out to identify the underlying issues why your child is encountering such difficulties and make suggestions to help them out.

Following an assessment, the educational psychologist may diagnose your child with a disability which would be impacting their learning process. Amongst the most common disabilities are dyslexia (a difficulty with reading and writing) and dyscalculia (difficulty to understand numbers). Other related disorders which can affect the child’s functioning at school and outside are: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia (difficulty in muscle control) and specific problems in relation to memory. A learning disability is a lifelong condition which cannot be cured. However, with the appropriate support and intervention children tend to make good progress and learn how to cope with their challenges.

A learning disability is a wide term which incorporates several specific learning difficulties such as the ones mentioned above. Thus, specific interventions need to be applied according to the difficulty the child is presenting with. Nonetheless, the following are a few general suggestions to support all children with a learning disability.

The biggest support your child will need from you is emotional support. Due to their difficulties, they may frequently be faced with failures and this can negatively impact their self-esteem (Pandy, 2012). Children with a learning disability may start to believe that they are stupid when this is not the case. It is important to make the teachers aware of your child’s disability, not to label them and treat them differently but to discuss the best plan that can support them. It will also make them aware to avoid making certain comments which although would be unintentional, can hurt the child e.g. “come on you are always the last one to finish”.

Spend some time with your child talking to them about their disability. They might have heard people saying that they have a disability but are not sure what this means. Allow them to ask questions and worries they might have. If you do not have all the answers, seek professional help. It is important to emphasise your child’s strengths so that they learn that although they might not be doing well at school, they can still be successful in life. Also, try to identify the exact needs your child has so as to understand what specific support they need and who can help you out with this.

Whilst raising a child who has a learning disability can be challenging, keep in mind that there is a lot of support out there. With the appropriate interventions, these children can still lead a successful life and be happy.

Reference

Learning Disabilities Association of America, (2013). Types of Learning Disabilities. Retrieved from https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/

Pandy, R. I. (2012). Learning Disabilities and Self-Esteem. All Capstone Projects. 133.

Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on marilyn@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.