By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor
Researcher, author and adoptive father Dr. David M. Brodzinsky has some advice for parents of the child with learning disabilities. (He's a professor of clinical and developmental psychology at Rutgers University.) Dr. Brodzinsky answered questions put to him in the Sept./Oct. 1992 Ours magazine. I've condensed his replies.
Why are adoptees more likely to have LD than non-adoptees?
Three possible reasons. They are more biologically pre-disposed to LD (because people who relinquish children are more prone to have a genetic basis that includes learning problems). Or young women try to deny their pregnancy for a long time and don't alter their habits of smoking, drinking, drugs. These prenatal conditions, plus abuse or neglect in the child's early months, set the stage for later difficulties, including LD. And finally the learning problems may not be neurologically based but emotionalmaybe a kid spends a lot of time thinking about his adoption and doesn't pay attention in class.
Do children with LD have a hard time understanding adoption?
Being learning disabled means having trouble processing information of the world about you; a child who has received certain information about adoption may have a hard time making sense of that information. The learning disabled child may start labelling herself as "dumb", and use that to explain why her birthmother placed her: "She didn't want me because I wasn't smart." Her learning problems impact how she views adoption.
How should parents try to work through the adoption process with a child with LD?
Have her explain what she is feeling and why she feels that way. Help her work through her feelings, perhaps by saying, "You know, it's hard for someone to see how a baby is going to do. You can't tell by looking." Explain that you adopted her regardless of how well she might do in school.
A learning disability does more than affect school grades; it undermines a child's self-esteem, and makes a child feel different from other kids. Combine that with being adopted, and, as Dr. Brodzinsky says, it's a "double dose of difference."
PARENTS SCHOOL GUIDE
ChallengesThe challenge of school for the adoptee
School issues your child will face
Help your child deal with racism
When birds don't flock together
Should you tell the teacher?
You can give an adoption talk
Language development is key
Learning disabilitiesWhat are learning disabilities?
Detect learning disabilities early
Cope with your child's LD
Brodzinsky on learning disabilities
Do adoptees need special ed classes?
Are LDs inherited?
Special needsAccept your child's special needs
FAS: Friendly school environments
Helping students with FAS
ADHD and the school system
Manage your ADHD child in school
Strategy for the parent advocate
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"From Family Helper, www.familyhelper.net" ________________________________________
First published in Family Helper No. 45, "Adoption Goes To School", ISBN 0-9733470-4-X. Adapted in part from Post-adoption Helper No. 7, "Adoptive Parents' Guide to Your Child in Primary School", edited by Jennifer Smart.