If your child has some learning issues, he/she may get to over hear terms such as ‘learning strengths’ or ‘learning problems’ and if they are diagnosed chances are they will also get to hear terms such as ‘learning disability’ or ‘learning disorder’.
This can be an extremely sensitive topic for children and it is important to know what they think and feel about it
It is crucial to be honest as well as supportive with your child in these conversations. It is also suggested to use these above terms and some other common phrases to let them know what exactly does this mean.
Honestly, there is never a good time or a bad time to have this conversation and it is also not a one time thing. It is a series of conversations that happen over time. These can have a deep impact on the ways your child sees himself and others. The first conversation may be the most difficult one but as your child’s level of understanding changes and grows, so will your conversations.
Initially, it is always better to focus on making them understand learning and attention problems in the ways they understand. Using clinical and technical terms can come later when you feel it is suitable.
Talk to children about what they are good at and what is not easy for them. Also ask them what they feel they are good at and what they find difficult.
Let them gently know that all of us have strengths and weaknesses and having weaknesses doesn’t make them any less lovable. Try and give specific examples when talking about this. Highlighting the positives in the child can make it easier for them to accept their weaknesses.
When you explain their learning issues to them, focus on strategies too that can help them. This can help the child in not feeling lost and feeling empowered.
It is very important to teach children the appropriate meaning of disability and how it is used. A disability is a difference that makes it difficult for someone to do something that others can do easily. Try and give more and more examples to young children.
For example, children may consider someone on a wheel chair to have a disability. Explain them that the person on the wheelchair has a difference. And a difference means that they have difficulty in doing something in one area as compared to others.
This difference does not mean that the person has a difficulty with everything. And it is important to point that out to your child. When a person on a wheelchair is doing something else like using their mobile phones or eating, others don’t notice the wheelchair at all.
It is important to tell your children that learning issues are not obvious. They show up in situations which makes things difficult for them.
For younger children you can use an example of someone who has writing issues, tell them when they are writing in their notebooks nobody knows that they have a problem, but when they are asked to write on the blackboard, their difficulty becomes more visible.
This doesn’t mean that the disability is not always there – it just means that people cannot see it all the time.
When children are struggling, it can be easy to become demotivated. It is important to teach children that their successes and achievements define more of who they are than their challenges.
Point out relevant strengths of your child using specific examples. However, do not over do it. Children can sense when the praise is insincere.
Share stories of successful politicians, athletes, businessmen, actors and musicians with learning disability. Let them know that difficulties does not mean that a person cannot succeed.
It is easy for child to think they are ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ in this situation. They may also feel they will just get worse over time. Talk to them about the power of thinking differently. Do not hesitate from explaining differences between mentally challenged children and learning disability. Let the child know that with the right support things will get better for them.
The most important thing you can do as a parent in listen to your child’s questions and concerns. Show them empathy as it can lead to deep conversations about solutions. Win their trust so that they feel comfortable confiding into you.
It is always good to respond to their questions honestly and giving feedback like “I can understand this must be uncomfortable for you” and “I am so happy you asked this question. Now we can talk about this”