When your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, it can be natural to have concerns about what they will struggle with as they continue on their educational pathway.  What we also need to realize is that they may also struggle with their diagnosis, and they may develop anxieties and emotional concerns around their diagnosis.

While not all children become angry, frustrated, and withdrawn from their peers as they work through their challenges, it is quite common to experience periods of stress and anxiety as they learn to cope with the demands that their learning disability has placed upon them as they learn.  

Signs Of Emotional/Social Struggle

Students with learning disabilities soon realize that their learning experience is different from that of their peers.  They can indicate their emotional distress about their diagnosis in many different ways, including:

  • Negative self-talk and low self-esteem
  • Increasing anxiety around schoolwork and academic performance
  • Irritability, sadness, bouts of crying
  • Angry outbursts and aggression at home and school
  • Physical symptoms such as stomach aches and headaches
  • Lack of motivation

As parents, it can be frustrating and disheartening to watch your children struggle to come to terms with a learning disability.  We must be proactive and positive even though we, too, may be feeling some of these same emotions. Being a source of strength for a struggling child is one of the most challenging things a parent must do, but there are some steps to take that will minimize stress and even promote a better relationship with him/her.  

How To Help Your Child

If you see that your child is having difficulty with a learning disability diagnosis, you can show support in many ways.

  1. If your child feels like they are “dumb” or “stupid”–Let your child know that their diagnosis has NOTHING to do with their level of intelligence; it simply means that they learn differently than their peers.  While there might be a few more roadblocks to sidestep, there are ways to overcome learning challenges and find success in school and beyond.
  2. If your child feels like they “stick out,” or that others know about their disability–Getting pulled from a regular academic setting and placed into remedial or special needs groups is bound to make kids feel like they are different from others.  It can be a blow to their delicate self-esteem. Make sure that they are receiving praise from you and from teachers about the progress they are making. Be sensitive to emotions and needs as they come up; do not dismiss them as fleeting thoughts.  Be supportive of friendships and mentorships that develop as a result of participation in these groups; these friends and teachers could be a source of support and strength to your child in the future.
  3. If your child is “tired of trying,” and just plain exhausted–Children with learning disabilities need to work harder to process information.  Their bodies, minds, and emotions are just plain worn out at the end of a long school day.  Be mindful of goals that you are setting for school and at home; children who experience success with modest goals are more likely to try for more rigorous benchmarks if they feel successful as well.  Provide breaks from work when necessary, and continue to praise praise praise! They are working so hard, and they want to overcome their challenges just as badly as you want them to as well. Continue to encourage them on bad days, push them to achieve on their good days, and remember that consistency vital to success in learning.

Get support if you need it

The most difficult aspect of parenting at times is to remember to take care of yourself as well.  If you are attempting to burn the candle at both ends, reach out for support from others who are traveling similar pathways.  Also, it might be necessary to:

  • Keep the lines of communication open between you and other family members.  Reach out and ask for help if you need it.
  • Care for yourself physically and emotionally so you can continue to be in a healthy space for your child.
  • Join support groups and other communities that can provide you with valuable resources and information to help you and your child.
  • Partner with therapists, teachers, and tutors to make sure that you are all functioning as a team when providing care.

Comfort yourself with the knowledge that your situation is shared by many, and there is help and support available to you and your whole family.  A learning disability for your child is not a life sentence; it is an opportunity to learn and grow right alongside your child, inspiring each other as you blast through challenges to success.

Sue Bridgman

CEO/Founder of My Multiplication Magic

“Supporting the Emotional Needs of Kids With Learning Disabilities.” Child Mind Institute, Child Mind Institute, 29 Mar. 2018, childmind.org/article/supporting-the-emotional-needs-of-kids-with-disabilities/.

Kemp, Gina, et al. “Helping Children with Learning Disabilities: Practical Parenting Tips for Home and School.” Depression in Older Adults: Recognizing the Signs of Elderly Depression and Getting Treatment, 2018, www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/helping-children-with-learning-disabilities.htm

“New to LD.” Learning Disabilities Association of America, 2017, ldaamerica.org/support/new-to-ld/