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Common Mistakes of Parents

The Nitzan Association Suggests, "This is the way to help your child cope"

The path of parents of children with learning difficulties isn't always easy and in general, it's accompanied by various obstacles and difficulties. Not all parents know how to evaluate, how to understand the problem, and the ways to deal with it. The Nitzan Association presents for you a few common mistakes that parents make, and also ways to help the child cope as good as possible.

Taken from an article that appeared on Ynet, 30.10.07


From the moment you understood that something is making it difficult for your child to learn until the stage where you succeed in getting your child in a proper and productive routine for him, there's a long way to go that not every parent knows how to deal with. What do you do at each stage, to push the child or not to pressure, to battle with the school system or to flow with it? We've gathered for you a few common mistakes that parents make on the way to solving the problem.


Mistake #1: Running Confused Between Professionals

When the "red light" is lit with the parent and he suspects that the child has learning problems, the question that immediately pops up is "Whom do we go to?"

Many parents report that in this stage they're searching for their child the most prominent and familiar professionals and they invest much money on assessment after assessment. There are those who will first go to a psychologist to check the emotional aspect. There are others who will first go for a learning disabilities assessment, and there are others who will go to a child psychiatrist. The parents receives a number of different assessments and there isn't always someone who will organize for him all of the results and will give a clear and all encompassing picture.

For example, a child can have learning difficulties because of a problem sleeping at night and maybe the problem is entirely local and is connected to a temporary difficulty (a new brother, moving apartment, etc...). This is the reason why it's recommended to search for a professional body that performs a multi-disciplinary assessment.

In the next stage, the professional will guide the child to the proper assessment according to the proper order. There are cases in which it's preferable to begin with a child psychiatrist and in other cases with a psychologist or a didactic assessor.

It's important to receive a full picture of the child. At times, there is a connection between the different disorders. At the end, it's advisable to receive a single summary report in which the various evaluators have signed and not a collection of different assessments that have no connection between them. In any case, with each assessor it's recommended to have a summary conversation and not to agree to receive the assessment results in the mail. During the summary conversation, the assessor is supposed to explain to the parent the assessment findings, their significance, and to give suggestions. When difficulty arouses, it's recommend to return and refer to the assessor and to speak with him about the child's situation light of the assessment that was performed.


Mistake #2: Not investing in learning the assessment

It's difficult to believe, but after all the long journey the child takes with the different assessments, the parents look on the bottom lines: which accommodations do the child require and which leniencies  can be obtained with the aid of the report in the school.

Many parents report that the assessments are put in one of the drawers of the house and are taken out only for meetings with different figures in the school system. The problem is that the school invests administrative time in reading the reports and in learning the findings of the reports.

There isn't a greater missed opportunity than this. Parents invest so much time, energy, and money on the assessments, and in the end they barely invest effort in understanding the findings. It's important to read the reports well, to understand the implications, to search between the lines where lies the child's potential and what are his strong points. It's important to know more than where the problems are.

It's worthwhile to plan learning strategies with the child with the help of a professional who reads the report and to learn to which areas to guide the child and to which clubs and hobbies that are likely to be appropriate for him and to contribute. It's important to know what can be expected from the child, in order to place before him challenges that are appropriate for him, and on the other hand, to prevent as much as possible frustrations and negative experiences.

It's recommended that parents read the report over and over again every so often, certainly not to throw it into a forgotten drawer.


Mistake #3: Not Speaking with the Children

It turns out that many parents do not sit down for an honest, serious, and courageous conversation with their child on the topic that is so central in his life and the life of the family, learning disabilities. Many parents do not explain to their children simply what the learning disability is, from which the child suffers. What are the implications? And what are the ramifications for the present and future? Frequently, they also don't tell the child that he has a learning disability and that his problem has a name.

The parents don't take interest in their child's feelings regarding the disability. They don't check with the children if they're feeling alone or frustrated because of the problem they're suffering from. Maybe they're embarrassed or hopeless?


Mistake #4: Too Much Pressure

The desire to excel, to succeed, and to lead is the price of a competitive and achievement driven society. The problem is that usually the pressure on a child with learning disabilities or ADHD don't help to improve his academic achievements and don't contribute to increasing his motivation to succeed.

For a child with learning disabilities or ADHD, doing homework is a difficult task. He frequently avoids doing homework, is negligent, at times is lazy and looks for excuses not to do it. Parents find themselves acting as supervisors - angry, upset, and disappointed from the child's lack of motivation. Many parents use the reward and punishment method, lots of punishments (no watching television, no going to friends, etc...) with rewards for good behavior. It shouldn't be handled this way.

With more appropriate communication, parents will set clear limits. Sometimes, the child needs assistance getting organized to study, including: arranging learning materials, setting a time schedule, or even the presence of a parent with him when he's studying. At times, the child needs someone to learn together with him (whether this is a parent or a private teacher).

In general, when the parental pressure around the topic of learning goes down, then the child's academic achievements slowly improve. Open and honest communication, understanding the child's difficulties and distress, true understand of the child's situation, the existence of honest dialogue concerning the difficulties and recognition of the strengths, these are what will provide support for the child, and will be in the end, the key for his success, academically as well.

The parents should set together with the child realistic goals, small and measurable, and to arrange them such that small successes can be achieved. Usually, success will bring to the child's desire to achieve additional success and the motivation will increase.

Mistake #5: Putting Faith in the School System - And In General, Being Disappointed

The meeting between parents of children with learning disabilities and the school system is commonly frustrating and painful. The desire to pass the responsibility for treating the child to the school is natural. However, in reality, it's not practical. The expectation that the school will know how to treat the child's difficulties many times does not come true, and more than once the educators are perplexed by the difficulties that arise, when the budget limitations and limited resources bring to such the hand of the system is just too short to reach out and help.

The parent must understand the limitations of the system and to respect them. A middle school teacher who teaches 300 students a week doesn't always remember the difficulty of a specific child, so the parent must think of creative ways to remind the teacher. For example, a signal that the child will show give at test time, a telephone reminding the teacher the night before an exam, etc... The parent must understand that if the teacher sets aside a weekly meeting for his child, this isn't understood automatically, because it's likely that the teacher isn't compensated for this time.

When the parent is invited for a meeting or committee at school, he should come ready for the meeting. He should clarify beforehand what the topic of the meeting is, what's the goal, who will be present, what solutions can he suggest, alternatives, etc... He should document the meeting; write down for himself the main points in order to remember what was agreed upon.

Many times the school staff can't offer a solution, but rather is there in order to do what the parent requests. Parents should take the initiative. They should guide towards a particular solution or to request a response to a particular, special problem. By the way, also in the meeting with the school it's worthwhile to set small, measurable goals. When these are achieved, to continue on to reach the next goal. Don't expect a radical change and understand that change is a slow, lengthy process.


Mistake #6: Don't Know How to Productively Cooperate with the School

The connection with the school must include productive dialogue. A parent who acts with anger toward the teacher, counselor, and principal will receive angry responses in return. Helpless behavior will bring helpless behavior from the other side. Only cooperation between the parent and the school is for the child's good. A disconnection between the two sides will cause the child to fail and won't contribute to his success.

Especially for the parents, nobody can remember all of the details connected with the child, and nobody has the motivation like the parents to do this. The problem is first and foremost that of the parent and the child. When the parent identifies that the conduct toward the school isn't pleasant, isn't effective, he must stop and check how he can change the dialogue. Frequently, the answer is that the parent has to work on himself, has to treat his areas of difficulty and anger, and only after he solved these issues, to come once again to the school but from a different place.

If the parent feels that he can't act alone against the school, then he must recruit assistance such as: a remedial education instructor who is familiar with the child, psychologist, etc...On a professional level this will usually bring to more positive results for the good of the child.

It's also important to include the child in the dialogue with the school, to tell him about the content of the meetings, to ask his opinion and to create with him cooperation that will decrease his anxiety, will help you receive from him information about things that are happening and will also give the child the feeling that you're there for him.


Mistake #7:  Tired, Burned Out, and Fed Up

It's not easy to be a parent of a child with learning disabilities or ADHD. Many parents complain on being burnt out and tired, on that they don't have the energy to push forward all the time, to always be aware of what's happening. However, since the parent is the most important tool in the child's treatment, he must first and foremost take care of himself if/and when he's worn out. All of the routine solutions (vacation, taking a trip, etc...) can help.

But more than anything, it's hard for parents to cope alone with the day-to-day difficulties. The recommendation for parents is to look for support groups. This is one of the way in which the parent can work on himself, meet other parents who are dealing with a similar problem as his, to draw encouragement from other, to hear ideas, to share, and to be strengthened. The parents should seek a process of personal change, which will be for him a wider influence on the child's success.