Learning Disabilities: Does My Child Have One?

Experts agree: parents aren’t nearly as important as they are. But be assured — you, the parent, are the most important person in your child’s life. Madonna and Toddler, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Of course I have to begin this article with a disclaimer: I am neither a doctor nor a professional educated in the issue of learning problems, so I am not out to diagnose you, your child, or your situation.

I’m just a parent, and like all parents, I am the one most concerned about my children, their lives, and their challenges — and this is something to remember when you are dealing with a child who, for some reason or another, just isn’t “getting it.” Though you may not be a lettered expert, you care more than any third party consultant, and do not underestimate how much you observe, question, research, agonize, hope, and pursue. Whatever challenges you and your child have, you are one of the most important people involved in the solving of them.

In the case of learning issues, it also doesn’t matter whether you are homeschooling (which is what my Thursday column focuses on) or participating in public or private school; with the former, you’re more on your own; with the latter, you work with a team of experts or professionals, which may or may not be a good or bad thing. Me? I like to limit the ingredients I put in the stew, and ensure that they are good ones.

We homeschooled four children with an age span of 9 years between the youngest and the oldest. Eldest Supreme, like many oldest children, was the embodiment of perfection, tackling the day’s assignments quickly, efficiently, and in a manner worthy to be praised.  Of course, she also had the tendency to move onto Chapter 56 of the math book even though she was still struggling with the concepts of Chapters 35-45, but if you looked at external factors alone, she did what was expected.

Child Number Two, whom I hesitate to call the Middle Child because of the look she gives me, exhibited what many people would instantly identify as symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). She could not sit still. She was never quiet. Writing for more than five minutes was an agony, and she had to get a drink of water, use the bathroom, and teach the dog how to shake paws.

She wasn’t bad. She wasn’t disobedient, something Christian parents especially obsess about. She was just . . . busy.

She ran and jumped and played, and when she was all tired out, she read and wrote and learned. Reflection, original oil painting, signed limited edition print, at Steve Henderson Fine Art, licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

And so, I gave her an option: “Why don’t you run to the mailbox (300 feet away) and see if we got anything?” When she returned, with the news that there was nothing, I suggested, “Why don’t you check again? The mail carrier may have come by now.”

Of course, this cleverly subtle ploy quickly palled, and I simply encouraged her, every 30-45 minutes, to run around the property for 20 minutes or so, getting in Physical Education on an incremental basis. When she returned from her forays, she was able to sit, focus, and complete whatever task was before her that took less than 30 minutes.

As an adult, she told me this:

“Running around, between subjects, helped me. I had a lot of energy, and it expelled it so that I was able to sit and read, or write, or do math for awhile, and concentrate. I felt successful.

“You didn’t make me feel stupid. You didn’t make me feel like there was something wrong with me. You didn’t resort to a medicaton because the people around you said you should. You accepted the way I am and and found a creative way to work around it.”

Focus on Your Goal — the education and well being of your children. Take time, ask questions, and be confident that your opinion is a valuable one. Inspirational poster by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Today? This child works multiple jobs with amazing, incredible, yet focused energy. She runs, she bikes, she swims, she lifts weights — and she reads Jane Austen. She doesn’t watch TV, play video games, or spend hours on Facebook, all of which our society calls normal. She is in phenomenal shape.

Your child, and your situation, will be different. I am not telling you to not use drugs, or to use drugs — but I am encouraging you to include yourself in the panel of experts you are consulting, and to listen to yourself — and your child — as you make your decisions.

Always remember this: NOBODY cares about you, or your family, as much as you do.

All four of my children write, and write well, and they never used a workbook. They simply wrote, using basic, easy to understand principles, that I outline in my book Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say Him and Me or He and I?”

Give it a try, and if nothing else, read it yourself so that you feel more confident about your own writing. $8.99 paperback, $5.99 digital at Amazon.com. Also available at Barnes and Noble.

“Carolyn does a great job of addressing common grammar issues and showing the reader how to work those out in their everyday writing. This can be used as a reference or as a daily or weekly lesson book.” — Amazon reader review

Join me at my new column, Commonsense Christianity, at BeliefNet. Today’s post is The Sinless Christian.

This Article is linked to Hope in Every Season, Frugally Sustainable, Thriving Thursdays, Thankful Thursdays, Live Laugh Rowe, Jenny Mullinix, We Are That Family, Katherine’s Corner, Graced Simplicity, Enchanted Homeschooling, Natural Living MamaLittle House in the SuburbsA Blossoming LifeThe Prairie HomesteadMama DianeMoms the WordMy Joy Filled Life, A Mamas Story, Teaching What Is Good,

3 Responses

  1. More Time Than Money

    Although my youngest is in college and I no longer homeschool, it is my FIRM belief that “learning disabilities” are over diagnosed. Two of my 3 boys would have been considered learning disabled. What these boys had was simply a different learning style from the styles that can perform well in a standard school setting. Letting my youngest play with Legos while I read his work aloud allowed him to correctly answer all the chapter questions, while having him sit beside me on the couch for the same reading would reduce his ability to correctly answer the questions to 30% or less. He would do one math problem (standing up at the dining room table) then walk around the table. He would continue this until the math problems were completed! Confining him to his chair reduced his ability to do the problems. This child is now in his second year of college and works 35 hours a week to pay his own way through college, and doing well! He certainly would NOT have been successful in a “normal school setting”! I believe the freedoms he was given early in his education have allowed him to learn to manage his energy to fit in to all different situations and environments.

    1. Yours is a fascinating story, indeed, and I agree with you that — while learning disabilities exist, they are overdiagnosed in a society that imposes a certain type of behavior as being correct, and the rest being “wrong.” It’s along the lines of more people being diagnosed with medical conditions that they didn’t used to have, because the numbers have been changed.

      You were most creative and understanding, and you are much to be praised for your insight into looking for a solution that worked for your child. I applaud you. — Carolyn

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