Do learning difficulties affect families?
It’s very common for families to report upheavals and arguments in the home as a result of a child’s struggle to learn. Some of the problems may be caused by the decisions that have to be made, both medical and educational that might also put pressure on finances. Others are more emotional, encompassing disappointment, guilt, blame and even anger.
Being privy to countless families who seek help for their child, it is clear that those families that cope best have both parents fully involved and sharing in the raising of the child, management of the learning difficulty and all aspects of the programmes chosen to help the child. When only one parent carries the burden of being responsible for everything, it can add tremendous stress. This stress becomes enormous if the other parent tends to criticize or even suggest blame for lack of success.
I’ve noticed that some parents tend to deny signs of difficulties. Unfortunately, my experience has been that this is more typical of fathers. Mothers are quicker to notice ‘at risk’ signs when the child is still young. These signs might be dismissed by the father and as difficulties escalate in higher grades, the disbelief of existing problems are expressed as the child being ‘lazy’ or ‘disliking school – like I did’ or needing discipline to produce more effort.
To help restore family harmony, it is important that both parents have opportunity to meet with the professionals who are working with the child. They need time to understand the reality of their child’s challenges because this realization can be painful. Following this, making an effort to understand the nature and needs of the learning difficulty is really important. It isn’t enough to merely know that a child has some or other diagnosed condition that carries a label. Insist that you are given all the facts of any evaluations or diagnostic procedures that are done and don’t be fobbed off by vague or professional terminology. Don’t leave the office before you feel enlightened and empowered with knowledge of what is needed at home and what role you have in helping the child. Remember that as parents, you aren’t responsible for the learning difficulty and you can’t cure your child. You can, however, provide invaluable help and support – both to the child, siblings and most of all to each other.
If both parents work together, they can plan how to adjust family life to ensure strong family bonds, positive self-concepts and a generally loving and effective family.
This post originated from an article written by Dr Betty Osman, entitled How learning disabilities affect family dynamicsand published by Great! Schooling. The article is available at www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/family-dynamics/