Discovering that your child has special needs, such as a learning disability, can be quite a shock. But once you catch your breath and absorb the information about your child's needs, it's time to get serious about becoming their advocate, and helping them learn to work with and overcome their challenges.
Two primary resources for helping children with learning disabilities are pediatricians and teachers. Your child's diagnosis may start with either of these professionals, both of whom can help you find the right path for your child. Teachers and schools are especially important in this process.
Beyond these direct and personal resources, there's a number of national resources available that can provide you with guidance and assistance in helping your child.
Understood is a collection of 15 different nonprofit organizations that have joined forces to help the families of children with learning disabilities. The information and resources available on this site are practical, useful, well-researched, and presented with no charge. Understood also provides a communication board where parents can connect with other parents who are dealing with similar issues. It can be so helpful to connect with people traveling a similar path and compare notes about what works for your family and which resources are most helpful.
2. Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities
Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities is a nonprofit organization created so that parents of children with learning disabilities could encourage their kids to develop talents and use them to overcome their challenges.
3. PBS Parents
PBS Parents has a wonderful section on learning disabilities that helps parents learn about the different types of challenges. It also shows how to identify these challenges, how to have your child tested, and how to move forward through the process of helping your child overcome these challenges. This resource is a great overview for those just starting to come to terms with their child's learning disabilities and needing a foundation-level understanding of the road ahead.
4. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
IDEA is a law that ensures all children have access to education that is appropriate for their learning abilities. It also ensures that this education is provided at no charge. The U.S. Department of Education provides information on resources for families that are funded or promoted by the act, like support groups or special education programs.
5. Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)
The Center for Parent Information and Resources is a hub for each state's parent centers, which provide training and assistance for parents of children with learning disabilities. This website can direct you to your local center, as well as provide general and nationwide resource information.
These resources have a wide scope and are offered across the country. For information on programs that are more specific to your child's needs, search based on their disability and look for resources that are dedicated to your geographic area. Many of the sources listed provide links to other organizations that are focused on specific issues your child may be dealing with. Your child's pediatrician and teachers may also be able to connect you with local resources to help your family thrive while facing these challenges.
These learning difficulties are part of what makes your child who they are. They're part of their personality and charm, and learning to accommodate and overcome them will provide your child with skills and experience they will draw from throughout their lives. Finding support to help you work with your child's differences while celebrating who they are can lead to more joy and success — and much less stress — for your child and your family.