By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor

Writing in Ours magazine (Sept./Oct. 1992) Martha Bordwell has some practical advice on coping with your child's learning disability.

Bordwell starts with a painful truth: the parent who embarks on an adoption with too high expectations risks disappointment. Perhaps you've fantasized about the perfect adopted child with you as the perfect parent … if so, the onset of learning problems will come as a major disappointment.

It's also unrealistic to expect that by providing your learning-disabled child an enriched environment she can overcome her genetic endowment or earlier experiences.

Facing up to the loss of your dream child means coping with the lack of control and the lack of self-esteem—you may feel powerless to understand your child's behaviour or thought processes.

The challenge for parents is to recognize, and more importantly reconcile, differences in academic achievement and ability, among parents, child and siblings—to accept and appreciate everyone's uniqueness.

The road to that appreciation will be smoother if you have these attitudes:

• Accept that aspects of your child's difficulties are medically determined and not within her or your control.

• Maintain your commitment to her without being overwhelmed.

• Expect that she will function with normal children.

• Make efforts to help her compensate for her disability and to reinforce her learning and self-control.

To achieve your optimal attitude to parent a child with a learning disability you should:

• Realize that accepting your child's learning disability is a gradual process for you. Feelings will emerge and re-emerge. Share your feelings and let your child share hers.

• Be informed about learning disabilities. Read, attend conferences, join the LD Association and find other parents who are coping just like you.

• Be an advocate for your child. You need to find the services available, request evaluation, identification and programming. Know your child's rights to an education which meets their learning needs.

• Provide extra tutoring outside school; hire a tutor.

• Promote your child's self-esteem through success in activities outside school. Provide a variety of role models for the child, including those who have similar interests and others who also might have struggled academically.

• Set realistic behavioural standards for your child. What helps LD children do their best is structure with consistent discipline, clear rules and predictable rewards and consequences. Parents need to model appropriate social behaviour.



The 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 disabilities

What 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 needs

Accept 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
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper," ________________________________________
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.