Parents often ask me how ADHD or a learning disability will impact their child’s future.
Let me start by saying that every child is a unique individual who brings their own personality, tenacity, and problem-solving ability into the equation. While learning and attention issues do bring up some special challenges, no one can say for sure how your child will rise to those challenges. I can say that with your support, and with the many resources available to you, there is no reason why your child cannot achieve any personal or professional goal.
Let’s break down some of the challenges your child may face and examine ways you can help your child prepare for a successful adulthood.
1. BE AN ACITVE MEMBER OF YOUR CHILD’S TEAM
Learning disabilities and ADHD can affect adulthood indirectly, by making it harder for children to get a complete education. You can avoid that problem by paying attention to the effectiveness of all the interventions offered to your child, and if something isn’t working, or if your child needs something more, speak up. No matter how many expert educators are on your child’s team, you always have a right to be the team leader because this is your child.
2. DON’T ASSUME THE OBVIOUS WHEN IT COMES TO LEARNING DISABILITIES
The problem is not that your child can’t learn, but that so many people will assume your child doesn’t need to learn things that seem obvious, such as how to follow instructions or how to make and execute a plan. But what is obvious to most people is not obvious to someone with a learning disability or ADHD. You can help by not making this type of assumption. Once you discover where your child needs help, you can do a lot of teaching at home, just as you would teach any other important life skills.
For example, if time management is an issue, you can use household chores as a learning opportunity. Assign a task that you know your child can do, break the task down into steps and set a timer for each step. If the results are less than optimal, talk over the task with your child to find the problem and brain-storm ways to solve the problem together. The same process can translate easily into finding ways to complete home work on time.
3. ASK FOR OUTSIDE HELP
Schools usually can’t supply all the support services your child really needs. If you are able, fill in the gaps by hiring additional professionals. Private speech therapists, tutors, or occupational or physical therapists, for example, can encourage faster progress. Make sure that there is good communication between private and in-school supports so that the child has consistency in their life.
Also ensure your child is receiving necessary emotional support. It is all too easy for children being assessed for special needs to conclude they are “broken,” or “stupid,” and negative self-image can persist for years even if the learning disability itself gets resolved. Think about providing extra emotional support as a preventative, the same way you might provide extra vitamin C during flu season.
4. PLAN AHEAD WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY
Sometimes children grow out of learning disabilities, or become so good at coping that they can function normally as adults—but many retain at least some deficits into adulthood. Fortunately, colleges and employers are legally required to provide reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities. The support systems available to adults work a little differently than those available to minors, but as your child moves into adolescence, the two of you can prepare for the transition by learning how to navigate the world of adult support services together.
5. KEEP IT POSITIVE
It’s easy to get overly focused on problems and deficits. Don’t forget to nurture your child’s interests and strengths as well. Life is not all about successfully completed school work, after all.
Like I said in my last post, together we can affect a change in your child’s learning–and future.
Don’t give up.