General Parenting Issues — 14 September 2008
How to identify your child’s learning style

From birth, parents are attentive to their child’s developmental progress and delight with every new skill and accomplishment their youngster masters. There are general timetables for children’s developmental milestones such as, crawling, walking, talking, and reading, among many others. Some children who do not attain the scheduled milestones are diagnosed with a learning disability. (LD)

A learning disability is a neurological disorder in the brain that causes difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling and/or organizing information. According to The National Institute of Health, “Fifteen percent of the U.S. population, or one in seven Americans, has some type of learning disability”.

Common learning disabilities include; Dyslexia- difficulty reading or understanding written words, Dysgraphia- difficulty in writing letters within a designated space, Dyscalculia- hardship in solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts, Auditory/visual Processing Disorder- Difficulty understanding language without having hearing or vision impairments, Nonverbal Learning Disability- problems with visual-spacial, organizational, and intuitive functions.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is not a learning disability by definition but often occurs at the same time. It is also neurological and deals with attention and motor difficulties.
I prefer not to label learning challenges ‘a disability’, but rather term it ‘a learning variance’. Since most schools are geared to teach the majority of students in a specific way, the child with a learning variance is, indeed, disabled there. Would we term Galileo, Thomas Edison, Leonardo De Vinci, Mozart, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney or John F. Kennedy, as disabled people? Perhaps they learned to read later, (Einstein at age nine), or had other difficulties in reading or processing information in the usual ways, but they certainly inspired and enriched our world in exceptional ways.

Some parents, attribute their child’s variance to immaturity, minimize it, or hope that the child will outgrow it. When your child is above average or bright, it is easier to overlook these variances or attribute them to the child’s giftedness. It does, however, serve your child best, to have his/her learning style be identified early, so he/she could begin to receive help early enough to maximize benefits.

• Please observe, assess objectively and consult your pediatrician whether your preschool child starts speaking on schedule, develops word mastery and understanding, learns the alphabet, days of the week, colors and shapes as other kids do, can focus and is not restless, can follow instructions well, is moderately coordinated and relates well to peers.
• During early school years, (K-4) observe and consult the teacher about your child’s skills in sounding letters, holding the pencil/pen correctly, writing numbers, arithmetic signs and letters well, telling time, remembering facts, following instructions, being aware of his physical surroundings and being reasonably coordinated.
• If your child is in 5-8 grade, observe his/her willingness and ease of reading aloud, facility with spelling, quality of handwriting, capacity to correctly read non-verbal cues, capacity to recall facts, conscientiousness about homework, quality of connecting with and keeping friends.
• During high school year assess how your teen responds to open ended questions, works within time limits, handles abstract concepts, is able to focus when needed, adapts to a new setting and changes, cultivates and maintains personal relationship with friends.
• If you are concerned about your child’s performance, read about LD and AD/HD. Consult with professionals specializing in child development, Contact CHADD –Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
• Learning variances often cause social and emotional difficulties and needless suffering for your child.
• Public schools are obligated by law to accommodate students’ academic and remedial needs. Request in writing that your child receive an IEP, individual educational plan, or have your child tested privately and follow the given recommendations. It is the best gift you can ever give your child for the facilitation and enhancement of your youngster’s life and future success and happiness.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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