From ADHD to dyslexia: 5 common learning issues and how to help your child thrive

It is essential for parents to become experts in their children's learning issues so they can focus on their children's strengths rather than their vulnerabilities.

From ADHD to dyslexia: 5 common learning issues and how to help your child thrive

When a parent finds out their child has a learning issue, they can often feel overwhelmed, helpless and confused. Learning disabilities affect up to 20% of children in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Services, but that doesn't mean your child can't succeed.

It is essential for parents to become experts in their children's learning issues so they can focus on their children's strengths rather than their vulnerabilities. The first step is creating a plan with your child's doctor and any relevant specialists.

Here are some effective strategies for five common learning issues that parents can incorporate at home or at school to help their children thrive:

1. Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that is also referred to as a reading disability. Dyslexic children have difficulty identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words.

How to help: The use of audiobooks helps children listen to the story while they see the words. By pointing to the words while listening to the story, children incorporate a multi-sensory approach to reading using tactile, visual and auditory senses.

2. Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia is a math learning disability in which children often have difficulty understanding number-related concepts, mathematical reasoning or how to accurately use symbols or functions needed to figure out math facts and calculations.

How to help: Use calculators, rulers, fact charts and manipulatives to bridge understanding between the abstract and the concrete. A hands-on approach can help to close the gap between mathematical reasoning, problem-solving and accurate execution.

3. Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that affects written expression so children can have difficulty spelling, exhibit distorted or poor handwriting and have trouble putting their thoughts down on paper.

How to help: A talk-to-text device allows students to answer written responses without the arduous task of putting pen to paper. By removing the difficult task of handwriting from the assignment with assisted technology, it fosters the use of expanded sentences and detailed response. The use of word processing for class notes and in-class assignments is also beneficial once keyboarding skills are mastered.

4. Processing deficits

Processing deficits are problems with the ability to recognize and interpret information presented through visual and auditory channels. Children with processing deficits experience difficulty with visual and auditory perception.

How to help: Various accommodations and interventions can help them learn. They can benefit from hands-on activities to bring mental images to life so try providing auditory descriptions and details to formulate pictures of what is being discussed.

Have your children make pictures, create story maps as a means of cultivating visual problem-solving skills and watch movies that coincide with assigned literature. For example, when reading To Kill a Mockingbird, watch the movie and ask questions to help your child think critically, predict outcomes and compare and contrast.

5. ADHD

This stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and is often referred to as ADD in both children and adults. Common signs include difficulty paying attention, controlling their impulses or keeping still. ADHD can adversely affect children at home and at school impeding upon their relationships with their family and friends.

How to help: Attending to academic tasks can be extremely challenging. In order to help your children go from initiation to completion of tasks, create a workspace that is free of distractions. Provide headsets to block out surrounding noise, supervise your children while they do their homework, encourage breaks, allowing them to stretch and refocus, and provide positive reinforcement and rewards for staying on task.

With these learning issues, it is important for parents to take the time to explore how their children learn and which modality they should incorporate when their child is learning new concepts for the first time. At school, parents can ask teachers to provide direct instruction, break learning tasks into small steps, incorporate a multi-sensory approach using visual graphic organizers, and model specific strategies.

By incorporating some of the above strategies at home with their children, parents are well underway on helping their children with learning disabilities succeed.

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