Supporting Parents of Children with Language-Based Learning Disabilities

Supporting Parents of Children with Language-Based Learning Disabilities
Daniel Franklin, Ph.D. LACPA Continuing Education Chair & Board Member

Photo of Daniel Franklin, Ph.D.Language-based learning disabilities (LBLDs) such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and ADHD impact over 2.4 million students in the United States and represent over 45 percent of all students receiving special education. When children, teens, and young adults have LBLDs, families often face an array of challenges at school and at home. Parents and clinicians frequently ask me for strategies they can use to make schoolwork go more smoothly for these children. The strategies I recommend address many of the challenges students with LBLDs and their parents contend with day-to-day, but they are not a set of “quick fixes.” My approach is a collaborative method that encourages parents to commit their time, energy, and kindness to improve their child’s learning experience. 

To help parents become effective collaborators with their children, I help them understand that when it comes to skill development, children are consistently inconsistent. A child who is able to do something one day may be unable to perform the same task independently the next day. The child may not have fully mastered all of the skills needed to get the task done; she may be tired or focused on a different task. When this happens, I encourage parents to step in and provide the support their child needs.

It’s also essential for parents to understand that supporting children with language-based learning difficulties often means helping with schoolwork daily from elementary school through high school and even into the early years of college. Many skill deficits are not quickly remediated. That’s why it’s so important for parents to prioritize their relationships with their children over school performance. The stronger and healthier those relationships are, the more likely it is that children with LBLDs will successfully manage all aspects of school and life.

Collaboration Is Not “Enabling”

Children with LBLDs require high levels of support to be successful at school. I frequently encounter two types of children in my practice: children who feel ashamed of themselves because they get bad grades and children who feel ashamed of themselves because they need a lot of assistance from their parents to complete their homework. Neither needs to be true. Working collaboratively allows a child to accomplish school-related tasks more quickly with better learning outcomes, which boosts the child’s motivation to work hard and learn—because it feels good to be successful.

A child’s level of motivation is a more critical factor in determining how and what he or she learns than almost all other considerations (Brooks and Goldstein, 2001; Lavoie, 2007). If we can help parents embrace an approach that focuses on collaboration, we will foster the positive interpersonal relationships that improve a child’s motivation to learn. When help is provided in this way, it is not enabling.

I encourage families to normalize the support children with LBLDs need. A collaborative approach helps these children navigate school and life. I coach parents to trust their hearts and instincts while providing the support their child needs. This is the kinder way.

Daniel Franklin, Ph.D., is the author of Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities (New Harbinger Publications 2018). He is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and is the founder and president of Los Angeles-based Franklin Educational Services, Inc. Daniel can be reached at [email protected]. He is also the membership chair of LACPA and a current board member. 

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