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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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                      Published on November 14, 2018

                      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                      With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

                      For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

                      In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

                      Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

                      Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

                      It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

                      For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

                      Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

                      Symptoms of Fatigue

                      Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

                      • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
                      • mental blocks
                      • lack of motivation
                      • headache
                      • dizziness
                      • muscle weakness
                      • slowed reflexes and responses
                      • impaired decision-making and judgement
                      • moodiness, such as irritability
                      • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
                      • reduced immune system function
                      • blurry vision
                      • short-term memory problems
                      • poor concentration
                      • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

                      Causes of Fatigue

                      The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

                      • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
                      • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
                      • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
                      • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

                      Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

                      Medical Causes of Fatigue

                      If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

                      Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

                      Anemia

                      Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

                      Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

                      There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

                      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

                      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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                      This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

                      Diabetes

                      Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

                      Sleep Apnea

                      Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

                      Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

                      Thyroid disease

                      An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

                      Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

                      • Lack of sleep
                      • Too much sleep 
                      • Alcohol and drugs 
                      • Sleep disturbances 
                      • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
                      • Poor diet 

                      Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

                      • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
                      • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
                      • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
                      • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

                      Psychological Causes of Fatigue

                      Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

                      • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
                      • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
                      • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

                      How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

                      Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

                      1. Tell The Truth

                      Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

                      To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

                      Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

                      The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

                      One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

                      • How you feel
                      • What time of day it is
                      • What may have contributed to your fatigue
                      • How your mind and body reacts

                      This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

                      2. Reduce Your Commitments

                      When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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                      If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

                      When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

                      Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

                      3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

                      If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

                      Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

                      If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

                      Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

                      Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

                      4. Express More Gratitude

                      Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

                      It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

                      Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

                      5. Focus On Yourself

                      Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

                      There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

                      But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

                      We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

                      6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

                      Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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                      Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

                      The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

                      Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

                      7. Take a Power Nap

                      When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

                      Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

                      This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

                      8. Take More Exercise

                      The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

                      Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

                      The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

                      You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

                      9. Get More Quality Sleep

                      To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

                      Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

                      My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

                      10. Improve Your Diet

                      Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

                      Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

                      On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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                      To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

                      Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

                      Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

                      11. Manage Your Stress Levels

                      Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

                      When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

                      Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

                      My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

                      12. Get Hydrated

                      Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

                      Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

                      If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

                      The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

                      The Bottom Line

                      These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

                      If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

                      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
                      [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
                      [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
                      [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
                      [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
                      [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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