How do you support your teen with learning disabilities?

By: Contributors

Most learning disabilities are discovered when a child is quite young; severe disabilities can be noticeable in infants, and many other learning difficulties are diagnosed in the early years of a child's education. If your teen has been dealing with a learning disability for years, chances are you will have already found a number of ways to help your child with schoolwork and other learning situations. The challenge of the teen years is how to start giving your child more responsibility and more freedom while continuing to be supportive. Work with her to develop strategies for study; let him tell you when he needs time out from study; involve her in discussions with educators, counselors or doctors.

In some cases, a learning disability will only be diagnosed once a child reaches the teen years. This can happen because the child's natural intelligence has got him through grade school, even though there may have been some problems with writing or math, or the ability to sit still. However, when he enters middle school or high school, he's suddenly expected to do a lot more memorizing, writing and reading and may not be able to cope. A diagnosis of a learning disability at this stage can often come as a relief to both parents and children as they realize the reason for the difficulties: it's not because she's lazy or stupid or sick.


Remember that your child has the legal right to an education appropriate to his abilities and disabilities. Make sure that you and your child work with professionals on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that delineates her educational goals and what resources will be used to meet them. Encourage your teen in the areas in which he does well -- the self-confidence gained by success in one area can often help bolster him in more difficult situations. Set realistic expectations and encourage your child to challenge herself rather than compete with others. Learning disabilities don't go away, but if your child can -- with your help -- negotiate the challenging teen years, he'll have a good start on a successful adulthood.