Parenting Children with Learning Disabilities

by SHFamily | Fri, January 26, 2018

By Dr. Beth Rutkowski is the Lead Psychologist at LIH Olivias Place Shanghai

Learning Disabilities are a common reality in the lives and educational experiences of many children. Learning disabilities can be identified early in a children’s academic career, or years down the line when the work demands are increased. When these differences are discovered, the range of emotions that can result are diverse for parents and children alike.

There may be relief that the confusing profile of the child’s abilities or grades has an explanation. There is often worry and concern for how the diagnosis may impact a child’s academics. You may feel sadness over the difference and how it will affect them in the long term. However, there can also be hope as the various tools and resources available for your child become apparent.

Remember from the beginning to keep a learning disability diagnosis in perspective:

  • Learning disabilities are challenges, but are not unconquerable.
  • All people, including all children, face different challenges.
  • This is an obstacle, but not a hopeless one.
  • Don’t become overwhelmed, and ensure your child is not as well.
  • Though the paperwork, meetings, and appointments with specialists can be exhausting, these can all be used as resources to help you child succeed.

In this age of rapid, readily available information, parents are able to educate themselves in ways not available in the past. Work towards becoming an expert on your own terms. Talk with teachers, therapists, and doctors for their knowledge, asking all questions you have. Remember, it is their job to help you and your child succeed.

Do your own research on your child’s circumstances, as you know their individual case better than anyone else. Look into new developments in learning disability programs, therapies, and education. Ensure that your sources are reliable. Blogs and comment strings are not usually the best choices. Look for websites backed by universities, governments, or hospitals.

Be proactive and advocate for your child

At times it may seem as if you are demanding the same things with little progress or as if people are not listening to you. Work on the way you communicate. Remain calm, firm, and reasonable, and do not give up. Remember that your child will be learning from you as well. If you show them that they are worth fighting for, they will learn to advocate for their own right in situations involving their learning differences and other times.

At the beginning of the school year, ask your child’s teacher their preferred method of communication – email, phone, or in person. Knowing this will both help you understand how they are both most likely to respond as well as be amenable to a dialogue. Remember that teachers are generally very busy, and long emails and conversations are not advisable for various reasons. If you throw too much information at a teacher, they will be less likely to absorb the most important pieces that you need them to know about your child and their education.

Additionally, if the teacher finds interactions too time consuming or demanding, they are less likely to attend to your requests for meetings or requests in the future. If sending an email, be concise and direct about the information you need to convey as well as any requests you might have. If communicating in person or over the phone, make a list of the issues you wish to discuss beforehand. Follow up with a short, specific note recapping major points and next steps.

While your own advocacy for your child essential, teaching your child to advocate for themselves is paramount. This skill will be necessary to maximize the resources available to them throughout their lives. The sooner they are taught, the easier it will be for them as they grow older and become more independent. Encourage them to understand their learning disabilities and the methods they have learned that can help them at school.

One of the ways to teach advocacy is to have your child write a letter to their teacher at the beginning of the year. This letter should include information on their learning disabilities, areas of their strengths and areas where they may need additional support. Your child can be included in meetings and school conferences to understand how they are run and what their role is. These efforts will start the process of your child both taking ownership of their learning differences and taking steps to get help. It will assist them in attaining the necessary confidence to approach school staff in the future for accommodations, assistance, and tutoring opportunities.

As a parent, we always want the best for our children. While academic success is important, the goal for any child is a happy and fulfilling life. With our encouragement and support, children with all learning profiles can build a sense of self-confidence and value that will build a solid foundation for lifelong success. If you approach challenges with a sense of optimism and hard work, your child will be far more likely to adopt a similar attitude.


Dr. Beth Rutkowski is the Lead Psychologist at LIH Olivias Place Shanghai. If you have questions or concerns about your mental health or that of loved ones, you are welcome to contact her directly at or the LIH Olivias Place team at (8621) 5404-0058.

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