Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 7:21 pm | Fair 60º


Positive Environment, Routine Key to Helping Children With Developmental, Learning Disabilities

By keeping a few things in mind, parents can make school time less stressful and more productive.

The first days of school are often an exciting time for young children, who get to step out into the big world for the first time, or get back in touch with old friends and teachers. For children just diagnosed with developmental delays or learning disabilities, however, it can be stressful and difficult.

“Children with learning disabilities are working harder throughout the school day,” said Jane Warner, a county resource specialist at Montecito Union School. “They may be more tired and stressed.”

Generally, Warner says, a learning disability will manifest itself by kindergarten or first grade. Sometimes, a bright, intelligent child will, for some reason, have extreme difficulty with a certain skill, such as reading or writing. Warner’s job is to help find ways to get around the disability.

“Parents always want to know what they can do at home,” she said. While there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with a learning disability, there are a few common practices that could make life easier.

“Routine is important,” Warner said. “Ideally, the children do their homework at the same time in a location that’s not filled with distractions.”

It’s also a good idea to monitor how long they’re taking on homework, she said. If the child is taking longer than usual, it probably should be modified by the teacher so he or she isn’t spending too much time laboring over it.

While working hard at school is important, Warner said, it’s also necessary for the children to have time for other interests.

“It’s important that parents provide lots of opportunities to participate in activities that they’re good at, enjoy and have a passion for so they can be involved and excel in other areas,” she said.

Support is essential, Warner said, whether it’s a system in which older siblings and other family members get involved, or a discussion group for the parents of children.

Maura Kennedy agrees. A special day class teacher for the county who works at Hollister School in the Goleta Valley, she is also the mother of a developmentally delayed child who is now 22 and learning to be independent. Through a highly individualized program, she works with children who have more severe intellectual and physical conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder.

“There are some strong parent support groups out there,” she said. Being part of a group also helps parents get an idea of the kinds of programs available.

Both educators say constant communication and advocacy are important when dealing with children with developmental and learning disabilities.

“The teacher doesn’t see what the child is doing at home,” Warner said. “If the parent has found something that works, we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”

Most of all, they say, maintain a positive and confidence-building atmosphere at home.

“It’s not on any Individual Education Program, it’s not written as a goal, it’s not mandated by the state, but in my opinion, it is the most important thing,” Kennedy said. “School can’t possibly replace what home and family do.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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