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So You Think Your Child Has a Learning Difficulty? Top 10 Things That You Should Do Next

So You Think Your Child Has a Learning Difficulty? Top 10 Things That You Should Do Next

You’ll always remember the day you brought your bundle of joy home for the first time. Your heart and your head were full of wonderment and delight at this whole new person, all shiny and new and full of the promise of the life he or she would lead and of the person he or she would become.  Brain surgeon, lawyer, artist, writer, comedienne, self-help guru extraordinaire.  All these things were possibilities for the amazing masterpiece you somehow managed to create.  Many parents will remember the first smile, the first step and the first real words uttered as this tiny little person makes his way in life.  There are literally thousands of moments that a parent can look back on with pride as their own little creation moves from baby to toddler to child and even on into adulthood.

But what happens when there is a glitch somewhere along the developmental trajectory? What happens if your little bundle of joy is not sailing through her early childhood development?  What happens when your child’s classmates are ahead in school while your little one struggles in the classroom?  What happens if he does not grow out of it? What happens if your child has a learning difficulty? This is no longer just about school systems or lofty ideals of a pedagogical nature.  This is no longer about medical discussions on brain health you read on some self improvement forum years ago.  This is not about government policy on educational funding you heard about in the news and only half listened to.  This is much closer to home now.  This is your baby we’re talking about.

Learning difficulties and learning disabilities in children can be neurological in origin and can make it very hard for kids in the educational arena as well as in learning new skills in other domains. Having such a difficulty does not just impact on intellectual development, but it can also have negative implications for social and emotional development. However, if you suspect that your child has a learning difficulty and even though this difficulty may be biological in nature, this is not a life sentence. Here are some top tips from educational professionals on some concrete things that you can do to help.

couple talking

    1. Talk to your partner

    Or other relevant family member who has known your child since birth.  Sound out your fears with someone who knows your child well and loves them as much as you do (if that’s possible).  Check out whether or not what you are seeing and worrying about is being noticed by the other carers in your child’s life.  Perspective is everything and you should get more than one.  And while these perspectives may be somewhat biased, they are long term and they reflect your child’s entire history, not just what is happening right now in the classroom or on the playground.

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    teacher and child

      2.Talk to your child’s teacher.

      While you may know your child better than any other person in the world, remember that your child’s teacher has a very unique perspective.  He or she may have as many as 20-30 same age peers to compare your child to.  And while you may not like some of the comparisons, it is useful to have this perspective too.  As parents, we may often compare our child to a sibling three years older or to a cousin whom you see at holidays or to a neighbor’s child who stands out for some reason or another.

      But we very rarely get to be a fly on the wall when our child is standing beside 20-30 kids his age being presented with a whole host of educational, social, moral or even athletic challenges which are pitched at his level.  Indeed, it is very likely that we only know what a child his age is ‘supposed’ to be able to do when he fails to do it and it seems that every other child on the planet did not.

      doctor button

        3.Talk to the experts.

        If you have engaged with your child’s teacher and if you have put in place some extra supports to remediate some difficulties and still your child is struggling, you may need to go one step further. You may need to book an appointment with the special education teacher at your child’s school.  If that is not sufficient, you may need to seek out an educational psychologist for consultation.

        IQ by raiseyourIQ

          4. Get all the facts.

          If you have had consultation with an educational specialist at your child’s school or with an educational psychologist, and still you are unsure of how to best support your child, you may need to go down the formal assessment route.  People think that getting a psycho-educational assessment or IQ testing done is scary, but it is not.  Getting an assessment done is extremely informative and it is not painful in any way, shape or form.

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          Many kids enjoy the assessment process as IQ tests are set up as a series of games and tasks which are broken up into short segments.  Many involve your child looking at puzzles or pictures and figuring out what goes with what or what comes next in a pattern.  Some items are verbal and some are spatial.  Some are tests of memory and some are more related to verbal comprehension or even to understanding of social and moral norms.  The IQ test is usually followed by some tests of attainment which will likely look at your child’s ability to read, write and do arithmetic, but may be restricted to only the area of concern.  But at the end of this testing process, you will find out where your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses lie.  You will find out if they are stronger visual or auditory learners.  You may find out what their spatial skills or receptive and expressive language skills are like.

          Remember that while an IQ score is just a number, it represents a composite of different skill sets that your child presents with and this number is ranked in relation to what would be expected for your child’s age group.  So knowing which areas your child is strong or weak in will enable you to help them to learn better.  In the same vein, knowing that your child’s decoding skills are much weaker or stronger than their reading comprehension skills are will enable you to tailor their literacy support, if indeed that is where the difficulty lies.  At the end of this process, you should also get a whole list of recommendations for what you should do next to best support your child’s needs. So my opinion is that this process is an empowering one, not a limiting one.

          man doing research on IQ

            5. Do your own research, but only use informed scientific sources.

            Your psychologist will often refer you to certain websites or literature based on the outcomes of the assessment.  So you may be looking at books on general intellectual difficulties or developmental disabilities.  Alternately, you may need to make contact with your local Dyslexia Association or other specific learning difficulty experts.  But the point is that you should only use informed scientific sources.  Googling your child’s diagnosis is fine, but there is no “weed out” process on people’s blogs and some of the stuff online is downright scary and often incorrect.

            Many other sites online may be aiming to sell you something and you need to be very careful to not get sucked in to hoaxes and promises of cures by pseudo-scientific self help gurus selling snake oil about improving your brain health without having any scientific support for their methods or products.  So do your research, but be careful. There are very real and powerful scientific innovations which can help your child to make progress.  Just make sure you can separate the scientists from the charlatans.

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            friends talking about IQ

              6. Talk to your friends for support, but remember, most of them are not clinicians.

              If your child has a genuine learning difficulty– whether that be related to, for example, weak general language comprehension, lower than average overall intellectual skills or a specific learning difficulty in some area of attainment—she will not grow out of it and it is not a phase.  No amount of hugs and love or equine therapy will make a learning difficulty disappear.

              That is of course, not to say that you don’t give plenty of hugs and love and have pets if you so choose, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people try to make their friends feel better by telling them that their child’s learning difficulty is not real or that the child will grow out of it.  Certainly the quality of education matters significantly, but without targeted intervention, there may be skills that your child will not learn incidentally.  So while you should always seek the emotional support of your friends and loved ones, please remember that most of them are not clinicians, specialist teachers or psychologists.  So do not let them make you feel guilty for accessing appropriate intervention and do not let them talk you into bizarre and unscientific strategies for “fixing” your child.

                7. Do not panic.

                There are hundreds of thousands of people walking around, leading meaningful lives, while having some level of learning difficulty.  Some of them may have borderline intellectual impairments.  Others may have severe reading or spelling difficulties.  Others may have social skills or working memory deficits.  But the fact of the matter is that many of them continue to go undiagnosed and many around them will never know the difference.  However, the damage that can be done to a person’s sense of self worth or self efficacy by thinking they are stupid is infinitely worse than knowing they have a language difficulty or a reading difficulty and importantly knowing that there is help out there. So don’t panic.  Get your facts straight first and then decide what you need to do next.

                woman planning

                  8. Come up with a plan of action.  

                  Once you have determined the nature of the difficulty, it is time to come up with a plan.  This plan of action should be informed by the teachers and by the educational psychologist.  The plan should identify your child’s areas of strength and weakness.  It should identify tangible goals and realistic time frames for meeting them.  It should contain concrete strategies for attaining those goals and these strategies should be evidence based.  So if it is Dyslexia support group or a brain training course you are sending your child on, make sure the strategy is evidence based, put it into your plan and make sure that it is consistent with the overall goals of the plan.  This plan should then be reviewed at regular intervals to determine which strategies are effective and which need to be amended/improved.

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                  teacher providing learning support

                    9. Get learning support.

                    Most modern schools have some level of learning support available within the school system.  So you may need to see a reading or a mathematics specialist teacher at the school.  You may also need to access various professional therapies like speech and language therapy if your child’s difficulty is related to weak expressive or receptive language difficulties.  You may have to see an occupational therapist if your child has some difficulties with fine or gross motor co-ordination.  You may need to seek follow-up support with an educational or clinical psychologist if your child has not yet acquired age appropriate social skills or emotional regulation skills.

                    picking peaches

                      10. Love your child anyway.

                      Irrespective of whether or not your child winds up with a diagnosis.  Irrespective of whether or not your child has a general learning difficulty, a specific learning difficulty or is just a little bit behind in some area of academic or social and emotional/development.  This is still your baby.  This is still the same bundle of joy that you first brought home and loved with all your heart and protected with with all your might.  So your expectations may have changed somewhat.

                      Well, I suspect you know by know that that was going to happen anyway, no matter where you live or who you are.  Life is never quite the way we imagined.  It is much more difficult, much less Hollywood, and infinitely more interesting and exciting than our parents ever told us about.

                      Featured photo credit: Shannon O’Brien via shannonrosephotography.weebly.com

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                      Last Updated on November 19, 2019

                      20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

                      20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

                      Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

                      If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

                      1. Create a Daily Plan

                      Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

                      2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

                      Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

                      3. Use a Calendar

                      Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

                      I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

                      Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

                      4. Use an Organizer

                      An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

                      These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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                      5. Know Your Deadlines

                      When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

                      But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

                      6. Learn to Say “No”

                      Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

                      Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

                      7. Target to Be Early

                      When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

                      For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

                      Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

                      8. Time Box Your Activities

                      This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

                      You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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                      9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

                      Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

                      10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

                      Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

                      You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

                      11. Focus

                      Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

                      Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

                      Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

                      12. Block out Distractions

                      What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

                      I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

                      When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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                      Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

                      13. Track Your Time Spent

                      When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

                      You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

                      14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

                      You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

                      Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

                      15. Prioritize

                      Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

                      Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

                      16. Delegate

                      If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

                      When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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                      17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

                      For related work, batch them together.

                      For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

                      1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
                      2. coaching
                      3. workshop development
                      4. business development
                      5. administrative

                      I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

                      18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

                      What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

                      One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

                      While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

                      19. Cut off When You Need To

                      The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

                      Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

                      20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

                      Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

                      More Time Management Techniques

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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