The Trials of Learning Disabilities [Teen Article]

Ashley is a 14-year old from Wisconsin and enjoys kayaking, hiking and reading. Her favorite subject is English because the teacher is amazing!

For thirteen years I have lived with a learning disorder, but not in the way you might think. My brother is dyslexic and has ADHD. Both of these disorders have impacted the way he learns and the way our household functions. It is often times hard to discipline children or young adults with these problems. There are many disciplinary styles but children with learning disorders are different. Do you bend the rules more often, or allow them to behave differently than your other children? There is also the ever present struggle of doing homework. You can’t always tell when you are pushing too hard or when the son or daughter just doesn’t want to work. But there are always those telltale signs. If you see frustration it might be time to back off. Sometimes your child knows how to do it but doesn’t want to or is pretending they don’t they are probably just craving attention.

One of the things I have noticed over the years is that a firm hand is needed with older children with learning disabilities. If you let them choose when to do homework they will leave it until the last moment or not do it at all. In our house we do homework in increments. When you get home you get a snack and take a twenty to thirty minute break and start and the hardest subject. That way you can jump right in with homework help and they are less likely to lose focus. The main reason people with learning disorders fall behind is because of their lack of focus. Most young adults really try to think about the matter at hand but their stream of consciousness is very strong and end up going off on multiple tangents. Here are some tips to help your young adult focus, learning disability or not.

Keeping Focus

1. Encourage your child to make connections. Make what they are doing relatable and personal, that way there is more natural interest in the subject.

2. Always provide a suitable environment for studying. Not all people work best in a completely silent room so make sure you know your child’s preferences.

3. Find interesting facts or statistics to what they are doing. It will make learning more fun for parent and child and will make you more aware of what you child is learning.

Dealing with bad behavior is a chore for both parent and child. If you discipline one child different than another there are going to be many more problems. When my family found out that my brother had learning disorders they let him get away with much more and that has led to a more undisciplined child today. In the beginning my parents seemed to treat him as if he had a disease and always got more attention than his other siblings. To this day he still gets more attention than the rest of us and it is one of the more difficult things to deal with but is often overlooked. This leads to the “ultimate childhood challenge”, who gets the most attention or “Who is the favorite?” These are ways to try and lessen that attitude because we all know it is inevitable.

Dividing your Attention

1. Support independence. You should always try to help your child when they ask for it but they can’t always be dependent. Children or teens with learning disorders tend to be more dependent and by encouraging their independence you are helping to prepare them for later in life. Homework time is a great way to start this. Help them with one question or have them make an effort before you jump in.

2. Ask how they are doing or commend them. Everyone benefits from compliments or encouragement, learning disorder or not. It will help you feel more connected in your children’s lives as well as make the child feel like he or she is important.

3. Spend time one on one. This gets harder to do as the children get older but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It doesn’t mean the stereotypical “quality bonding” it can be something as simple as dropping them off at a football game and going for ice cream after. The simple things often make the biggest difference.

We have all heard patience is a virtue and I believe it is but it isn’t something everyone has. If you are a parent I hope you are attempting to count it amoung your many virtues, you will need it. One of the best parenting tips is to ask yourself if you are having fun raising your children. If the answer is yes it is likely your children are having fun too. There are always times when neither parent or child are enjoying their roles; it is completely normal and necessary. Just remember to have fun with it. It is a real job being a parent and I hope you enjoy it, even those teenage years.

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