Some children may have problems communicating, processing information or learning to read. Other children have physical handicaps. Parents need to be especially involved with the school to address these needs.
The federal law states that learning disabled or handicapped children must receive education to meet their particular needs and that parents must be involved in planning the individualized program for their child. In addition to the many programs, there are trained people in the communities, as well as in the schools, to help these children. Parents need to seek out these resources and implement the best plan for their child's development.
The Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a blueprint of special helps designed for an individual child, aids parents of special education students. First, the child's capabilities, level of achievement and skills are determined by his test scores, and his needs both at school and at home are considered. Then a conference is held with parents, teachers, resource specialists, counselors and a speech therapist to design the IEP. Sometimes the child is included in this meeting.
Jason, the eighth-grade son of Debbie, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, mom, has significant hearing loss. When he entered a junior high school of more than 2,000 students, he was to be mainstreamed into regular classes. Before school started, Debbie set up a meeting of resource people to discuss Jason's needs and the program that would be best for him.
After speech evaluation was completed, it was decided that one day a week Jason would work at speech therapy articulation and miss one section of an elective class. He would sit in the front of all his classes, and his teachers would do a quarterly evaluation, in addition to the regular grading periods. Each teacher would record Jason's progress to keep his parents informed.
Don't give in right away to a teacher who calls your child a slow learner. Once a child is labeled "learning disabled," it is almost impossible to get him off the slow track, even if he makes progress or the problem is corrected.
A University of Virginia education professor who tutors elementary kids said she finds that the vast majority of "learning disabilities" are problems that could be solved through one-on-one instruction. For example, a second-grader was labeled "learning disabled" by her teacher because she failed consistently at adding columns of two-digit numbers. The child's mother didn't believe or accept the label. When she watched her child do homework and add 35 to 35 to get 88, she realized the child had been adding across instead of up and down. Because the mother discovered the problem, the label was removed, and the student was able to stay in the regular math classroom.
If you child needs extra help, find a tutor or do it yourself. Perhaps you know a retired teacher in your church or a college student who would be willing to tutor. The extra help and attention often boosts the child's confidence, efforts and skills tremendously. It is further encouraging to him if he can stay in his regular classroom and learn to compensate or overcome a difficulty.
Katherine Newman's nine-year-old daughter Angela had a learning disability that caused her to have difficulty staying on track and focusing on written work for any length of time. "By all rights and with her difficulties, Angela should have had a disastrous school experience," said Katherine. "But it's been very good. Because I've been active in her classroom, giving individual reading help to students and transporting kids on field trips, I've known how to help Angela at home." Angela's teacher is likely to say, "There's a problem in this area, but you can work on this at home." Trust has been built between Katherine and the teacher because of her participation in the classroom.