Managing a Child's Learning Disability: Be Tough
We all face difficult times. Some are short lived and others are longer term. Dealing with a learning disability is a lifelong challenge. It affects all aspects of your child's life and it affects your family. Be tough, because this is a marathon. You will need to pace yourself. Be resilient, ignore the distractions and defy the odds. Being tough, while it sounds like a less than endearing trait, is actually about understanding the goal and staying the course...no matter what.
In our case my Danielle is also tough. We have managed to complement one another every step of the way. When she would hit the wall and meltdown, spewing negative forecasts of her future, I would be there to listen, to offer a hug and reiterate my belief in her. But, more times than not, the hug was also accompanied by very tough love pushing her to dig deeper, not succumb to her fears and to be strong. And, when I would finally buckle, when I reached my limit with the magnitude of the problem and the lunacy of the purported educational solutions; she would come forth with her absolute resolve. That personal balance in our relationship allowed us to keep going no matter what we encountered.
I have had hundreds of moments when all I wanted to do was take her out of the daily frustrations, keep her protected and carefree. Fortunately, I have also had thousands of tough, determined moments that kept her in the game. I always knew what was right because she always showed the guts to withstand stupidity, cruelty, and disbelievers. Our times of total defeat were private and short-lived.
I did not know as we traveled through this difficult journey that Danielle would ultimately be as resilient as she is. Her high self-esteem and tenacity have allowed her to weather adversity that many could not. The day-to-day challenges are sometimes simply too much and being prepared for that reality will provide a safe environment of understanding and acceptance for your child. There are many resources including books, websites, community, school and learning specialists who can help. Determining what you need for your unique situation will lead you to the best resources for your family.
Danielle belonged to a group of kids at the private learning center where she went once a week for seven years (middle school through high school). Initially she participated in a group of her peers at the learning center. It was intended to allow kids with similar learning challenges to vent and to learn from others. Danielle didn't really like the peer group and dropped out after a few meetings, but four years later when she was in high school she became a group leader, with her counselor, of groups of elementary school kids who came to the learning center. She loved the groups because she had such empathy for the children and saw how fortunate she was to have support and innate strength to fight her battles. She quickly learned that many kids didn't have the same internal resources she had or the absolute belief in herself.
Our children are all unique. Understanding their abilities, finding their strengths, identifying things they love, all go a long way towards maximizing their success. The balance is to allow them the opportunity to go as far as they are able but not to push them to a level of failure. That balance is a daily evolution requiring a very open mind.
Reprinted with permission: Surviving Learning Disabilities Successfully: Sixteen Rules for Managing a Child's Learning Disabilities, "Rule #14: Be Tough". Copyright 2007 Nancy E. Graves and Danielle E. Graves.