Written by Brenna Norris
If your child was recently diagnosed with a learning challenge, you are probably sifting through a whirlwind of information and emotions. You may be thinking, “did I do something wrong? How must my child feel at this moment? Could the diagnosis be wrong?” This article is here to help you steady your ship as you start this new journey with your child.
Take Some Deep Breaths
The first thing to do when processing news that can be very shocking is to well, be shocked. While that is normal and completely understandable, taking a few deep breaths and imagining that wave of panic rolling off your back like water on a duck can help. There will be a number of next steps you will need to take, and you will probably get all kinds of advice coming from every angle. Being able to center yourself will be key. If you find this challenging, it is absolutely the right idea to talk with a therapist. They are there to help sort out these very difficult times in life. Remember, your child is still the same wonderful being you have always loved- they just need a little bit of extra support (like a marathon runner with asthma will need an inhaler).
Create Your Support Team
Beyonce may only have 24 hours in a day like the rest of us, but she also has a bevy of stylists, nannies, chefs, and countless other support staff to help her be her Best-yonce (sorry). Now that your child has been diagnosed, they too will have their own team of rockstar talent to help them shine. You can begin your search by talking with their pediatrician about what types of support your child may need. Depending on the diagnosis, your child may need to visit a speech pathologist, art or music therapist, or simply require some extra support in the classroom. There are also national support groups for every type of learning disability that will have researched-backed methodology to help support your child’s needs.
An IEP will Save the Day
Most importantly, you will need to work with your child’s school to have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is documentation between you and your child’s school that will lay out the special education instruction, supports, and services a student needs to thrive in school. These programs describe in detail the strengths and challenges your child has in school and creates a learning path that can be the most supportive. It is also covered by special education law, so you and your child are protected if you experience pushback from someone unwilling to help. An IEP can also move with your child if they switch schools or simply as they move from elementary to middle to high school. This is probably the most important step in supporting your child once they receive a diagnosis. Just remember to remain flexible, you might find one resource works wonderfully at first, but your child may simply change or outgrow it, so adaptation is the name of this game.
You are Doing the Right Thing
While those feelings that somehow you let your child down may creep in, know this: you are doing the right thing. A child with a diagnosis of a learning disability can start to receive assistance and support right away, saving them the challenge of trying to compete academically with one hand tied behind their back. As a tutor, I have worked with countless students who have IEPs and each one of them is grateful to know exactly (and on paper) what their strengths and weaknesses are and how to work with them. They know what works for them, and what doesn’t. As someone who was finally diagnosed in their thirties with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I can tell you personally that I’ve known for a long time that I worked just a little bit differently than other people, but I could not figure out how or why. If I had a diagnosis at a much younger age, I probably could have saved myself a world of struggle in certain classes and have an easier time switching away from teachers who were unsupportive. Now I am finally able to understand when I need to slow down or speed up things in my own life. In the short time since my diagnosis, it has already been a huge positive change for me.