Advocating for your child during the holidays around relatives and friends who don’t understand LD and ADHD is a skill you can master. It takes some personal insight and the desire to be supportive of your most precious gift, your child.
I have a hard time understanding why adults work so hard to hide personal information about themselves. I find that it leads to a loss of authenticity in relationships and lack of true connection. That could easily be due to limited self-confidence and perhaps poor self-esteem. After all, if you show your true colors, then someone might not like the “real” you. As human beings we all want to be liked and for our families to enjoy our company and support us. If we expose ourselves too much, well then, it leaves us open to criticism and makes us vulnerable. When we become parents we are keenly aware of our children’s vulnerability and have a strong desire to protect them from anyone who might not understand them.
When our children are diagnosed with learning challenges of any sort we want to protect them. The question is, how do we do that? The answer is straightforward and daunting to many parents and caregivers: We must teach children to be honest about their learning challenges from the get-go and not shy away from using the correct terminology and language to describe their diagnosis. If we don’t, we’re teaching the child there’s something to be ashamed of. Hiding implies there’s something wrong. If you hide the fact that a child has LD or ADHD, the child may think I can’t be myself and, if I tell, I’ll upset mommy or daddy. Being forthcoming and advocating for your child can do just the opposite; it boosts a child’s self-confidence
Advocating for your child does a world of good for the entire family. It fosters open communication about the specific learning disability. It enables you to provide education to those who may not know about the disability and what can be done to help the child. If there’s skepticism and you sense it, it allows you to address it head on.
One time, a close friend told me that my daughter had “an unfair advantage” because she could take a state-standard exam with extended test time and in a separate location because she of her diagnosis of dyslexia and ADHD. She had an IEP and these accommodations were mandated for her. Quite frankly, I was mortified. I knew I had to educate her and called her to tell her I was upset about what she’d said. I felt she didn’t truly understand the nature of my daughter’s learning disability and how it impacted her academically. After I explained, she no longer harbored the ridiculous notion that somehow my daughter had an unfair advantage. It took patience on my part to advocate for my daughter. In the end, though, it was key to my friend’s understanding and maintaining our relationship.
Stay tuned for part two of Ellyn’s blog, in which she goes over conversation starters to use when advocating for your child.
Ellyn Levy is a Speech-Language Pathologist in who is in private practice in NYC. She is the parent of two adult children who, along with her husband, are the center of her universe. Her daughter had learning challenges from the time she was a young child. Ellyn has always believed that this fact has helped her relate more easily to the parents of the children she treats in her practice.