The following is a transcription of the podcast, "A Parent's Perspective—The Social and Emotional World of Children With LD."
In this podcast about the social and emotional world of children with learning disabilities (LD), Candace Cortiella (on behalf of the National Center for Learning Disabilities) talks with Judith Halden, a videographer and mother of young adult with learning disabilities.
Candace Cortiella: Welcome, Judith. Many people think learning disabilities are only about reading, writing, spelling, and skills needed for academic success. What would you say about the social side of having a learning disability?
Judith Halden: As hard as it is to watch your child flounder in terms of grades and academic performance, it is ten times harder to watch them struggled to fit in with their classmates. Social isolation and rejection are as painful as academics struggles, if not more so. Feeling good about yourself, especially during the school years, comes from being good at learning, since most of your day is spent in an academic environment. And kids with LD just don’t do well without extra help and specialized attention.
Many of the everyday aspects of school impose extra social and emotional impact for students with LD. For example, if they are asked to read aloud in class, even if they know the subject matter, they often trip over words or misread them or mispronounce them. A student with LD often gets tests and written work back from the teacher and the page is filled with red marks and corrections, while the child sitting next to her may not have that kind of experience, certainly not as often. When students with LD need extra time to finish tests and other assignments in class, or they need to stay after class to get their work done, they have to miss other activities.
Many children with LD process things more slowly and can’t always keep up with the social demands of a conversation. Just being able to answer in a timely manner and to understand what’s going on can be difficult. Sometimes children with LD don’t get the jokes that everybody else does. So, kids with LD sometimes grow up with the sense they just don’t fit in, and watching this as a parent is extremely painful.
Candace Cortiella: Yes. And some children with LD are not as good at sports or seem to be socially awkward, sometimes behaving like they are younger than their chronological age. What can parents do to help?
Judith Halden: The best thing parents can do is give their children lots of encouragement and practice doing different things. This tends to work better with children who are younger than 10 or 12 years old, because as they get in to the teen years, this is generally not something [they’re receptive to]. Try to find activities that your child can do well and allow them to share that with others. This will give them a sense of accomplishment and is a good way of having kids interact. Until your child is ready for the intensity of competition or even skilled enough to participate in a particular sport, try to keep their social time as noncompetitive as you can. I used to look for other children who were accepting and weren’t going to be judgmental of my daughter’s weaknesses. I worked with the other parents to keep the kids connected. When kids do things with each other without a parent involved, they hone the skills they need to build on this. Sometimes there are setbacks but it’s very important that parents be the cheerleader and be excited about the successes.
Candace Cortiella: And there are certainly a lot of activities these days for children who aren’t competitive. So, I think that’s a particularly important recommendation—that we look for things that don’t include the stress that competition brings to the activities.
Judith Halden: Right.