The school year started out great, but now your child is struggling. What happened? He doesn’t quite understand the new concept, he’s definitely down in the dumps, avoiding his homework … you’re at a loss.
When teachers start getting into their curriculum, things move fast. If a child gets behind, it can be difficult to catch up, resulting in a fall that can last all year long. At what point should you be concerned? Is your child just having trouble with a difficult concept or could it be a learning disability? What steps should you take? How do you get the support he needs to be successful? First? Breathe. Second, learn more.
LEARNING DISABILITY: SUCH A LOADED TERM
The term learning disability is an “umbrella term” that covers a wide range. It’s “a condition giving rise to difficulties in acquiring knowledge and skills to the level expected of those of the same age, especially when not associated with a physical handicap.” The Ohio Department of Education defines a specific learning disability as “the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia.” A learning disability does not include learning problems that could be a result of visual, hearing, motor delays, cognitive delays, emotional delays or an environmental/cultural/economic disadvantage.
MY CHILD IS STRUGGLING. NOW WHAT?
Contact your child’s teacher and request a meeting. Terri Doerr, Parent Mentor for Lakota Local Schools recommends, “If you have concerns about your child’s progress in the classroom, keep bringing it up. As the parent, you know your child best!”
During the meeting, share with the teacher the reasons you’re concerned about his progress and share specific examples of the concerns. Keep an open line of communication with the teacher and work together to problem solve.
Questions to ask your child’s teacher:
- Could it be a learning disability?
- Is he struggling with attention in the classroom?
- Are there negative behaviors getting in the way of his learning?
- As a parent, what can you do to support him at home?
- What supports are available at school?
If there’s concern about your child’s progress in class, the teacher may recommend he receive some Tier 2 supports at school. Tier 2 supports are additional interventions on top of the typical classroom instruction and may include Title 1 reading services, Read Naturally, or small group pullout for additional reading/writing/math support.
If his teacher recommends a Tier 2 support, follow up with the teacher six weeks after the intervention is put in place to check on progress. During this meeting, the teacher reports if he’s making adequate progress and closing the gap. If the data shows the intervention is working, continue with the interventions in place. However, if the data shows he’s still not making the progress expected, the teacher may recommend special education testing, or you can request that he be evaluated for special education services.
If the decision is made to pursue special education testing, you’ll be asked to sign a consent form and an evaluation team will collect data within 60 days about your child from you, classroom observation, direct testing, attendance and behavior as well as looking at vision and hearing test results.
WHEN DO IEP’S BECOME INVOLVED?
If the team decides to pursue special education testing the process will begin. Once IQ, academic testing and the cumulative file has been reviewed, you’ll meet with school staff and discuss the data and next steps for your child. The next step may include special education services and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Doerr recommends putting your emotions aside. “Look at the data and how your child is progressing. Work as a team to come up with solutions to help your child succeed.” If he’s eligible for special education services, the team will work on creating an individualized plan for him which will include interventions to help him learn new concepts, establish goals, put in place accommodations as needed and determine how his progress will be measured. Progress may be measured through direct observation, work samples, assessment, curriculum based measurements, trial, etc. He may also be eligible for a scholarship through the Ohio Department of Education.
SIGNS YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE A LEARNING DISABILITY:
- Slow to learn the connection between letters/sounds
- Makes consistent reading/spelling errors
- Slow to remember/recall facts
- May have a skill one day, but not the next
- Confuses arithmetic signs, difficulty with word problems and learning to tell time
- Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization
- Impulsive, difficulty planning
- Poor handwriting/avoids writing
- Poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents
- Avoids reading aloud
- Difficulty making friends
- Possible difficulty understanding body language and facial expressions
LEARNING DISABILITIES RESOURCES
Brain Balance Center
513-257-0705 | brainbalancecenters.com
Integrates sensory motor training and stimulation and academic activities with nutritional and dietary guidelines.
Bross Center for Learning
513-535-6998 | brosscenter.com
Offers both dedicated day programs as well as individual, targeted sessions to provide direct academic instruction and additional intervention services.
513-531-7400 | langsfordcenter.com
Provides evaluations to identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses and one-to-one tutoring customized for each child.
Website full of resources on learning disabilities, learning disorders and differences.
Learning Disabilities Association of America
Information on learning disabilities, practical solutions and a comprehensive network of resources.
National Center for Learning Disabilities
Provides leadership, public awareness and grants to support research and innovative practices in learning disabilities.
Ohio Coalition for the Education for Children with Disabilities
A statewide nonprofit organization that serves families of infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities in Ohio, educators and agencies who provide services to them.
The Reading & Literacy
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
513-803-7323 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Springer School and Center
513-871-6080 | springer-ld.org
Specialized curriculum and support strategies help students with learning disabilities build educational, emotional and social skills.