Questions and Answers
Learning disabilities can make learning to read really hard. Whether you are wondering if your child has a learning disability or looking for ways to help, these questions will help you support a struggling reader.
Click below for answers to the following learning disabilities questions:
What is LD?
These articles and others are available on LD OnLine, particularly in the LD Topics section.
Can you recommend summer camps especially for kids with special needs?
As a non-profit organization, we can not recommend specific camps. We can, however, provide you with articles that will give you the information you need. It is important to be a careful consumer when looking for a program for a child with special needs. Check out each camp carefully. Visit the site and talk with previous clients if possible.
What is dyslexia?
For more information, browse Reading Rockets or contact the International Dyslexia Association.
What is the difference between a person with LD and a slow learner?
However, it is often difficult, based on observed behaviors, to distinguish between slow learners and learning disabled persons. Basically, a student with LD has deficits in one or two areas while performing at or above the average in other areas. The child's potential or overall intelligence is greater than his/her poor achievement would predict. This is called the ability-achievement discrepancy. It is even possible for someone to have characteristics of both conditions.
Actual diagnosis of a learning disability can only be done by a trained professional – clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, some physicians, etc. There are a number of articles that give parents and teachers a better idea of what goes into making such a diagnosis. A few of the articles list typical signs of a possible learning disability; others list strategies that work well with LD students.
The last reference raises serious questions about whether an ability-achievement discrepancy is a valid definition of reading disability. Well-replicated research has demonstrated that a core deficit for reading disabled individuals – both children and adults – is phonemic awareness (the ability to understand how sounds and sound patterns work in our language system). Although it's a difficult read, this article has some good citations and research within it.
Also check these sections of our site for general information about learning disabilities and teaching strategies that can help:
What are some strategies I can use to help develop my child's working memory?
There are several activities you can do to lift the memory performance of a child. Researchers have found that using mnemonic devices can help students improve their memory skills. Below are some suggested resources:
Lastly, it may be beneficial to find a support group in your area to see what works for others. There are several publications, organizations, and support groups that exist to help individuals, teachers, and families to understand and cope with learning disabilities see LD OnLine's resource list to get started.
I think my child may have a learning disability but I'm not sure how to describe to the school exactly what I want assessed. What should I do?
Before going elsewhere, you might want to find out exactly what services the school system could offer you and when they could provide them. If the timeframe or suggestions for providing needed services is unacceptable to you, there are independent educational testers that you can go to privately. The following articles will give you an idea of what to expect from the testing process:
There are several national organizations that can help you through this process and provide referrals to local professionals. You can contact the International Dyslexia Association or the Learning Disabilities Association. In addition, you can look in your local phone book for educational testing or psycho-educational testing for someone close to you. LD Online has a Yellow Pages service that might be helpful. There are also educational consultants and educational advocates that can help you through the process locally.
Be a good consumer in this process. Ask potential testers, tutors, and consultants about their experiences and specialization before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose will be a good match for your child.
I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?
After the evaluation process is completed, you can use the information from the evaluation to help you make a decision about the next step in your child's educational path.
I feel as though my child's skills are regressing. What should I do?
It is alarming to feel that your child is no longer making progress and may even be losing skills, but it will benefit him if you recognize this early and intervene.
Speak with his teachers about your concerns and share any samples of his work that reflect these concerns. Together, you can decide which step should be taken next. If you and his teachers feel that the level and amount of services and accommodations your child is receiving need to be revisited, then an IEP meeting should be convened.
You may also consider asking that the concerns you have about your child’s academic progress be discussed at the school's next local screening meeting. At this meeting, you and the other members of the local screening committee will decide if further evaluation for your child is warranted.
At both meetings, it is important to discuss the possible reasons for your child's current struggles in helping to determine the next course of action. For example, perhaps your child was able to compensate for his disability before, but now that he is getting older and the schoolwork is getting more challenging, his ability to compensate is being strained and the achievement gap between your child and his peers is widening. His apparent regression may also be signs of stress from knowing that he is falling further behind. It is imperative that the emotional component of your child's educational experience be addressed.
You and your child's teachers should be able to work together to develop an educational program that will meet his needs and help him reach his academic potential.
My child's school says that my child is very bright, but they want to hold him back because of his poor reading skills. I want him tested for a reading disability. What should I do?
Because your child is so bright and is still struggling with reading, he may very well be exhibiting some of the characteristics typical of students with a learning disability. It may be helpful to look at the following articles, which describe characteristics that some children with learning disabilities exhibit:
Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation, among other things, will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how best he learns. This should make the decision about how to help your child in subsequent years seem clearer.
Because your child is bright, he may be able to compensate, at this point, for any learning difficulties that he might have. But as he gets older and the reading material in school gets more challenging, your child may find it increasingly difficult to compensate and he may fall further behind. This is why the earlier the cause of his reading weaknesses is determined and addressed, the better chance your child has of truly reaching his academic potential.
What should I do if my child has an IEP but is not making any progress?
Because you feel that your child is not making progress, it is important to request an IEP meeting as soon as possible. At this meeting, there should be a detailed discussion about the type of assistance your child is receiving and for how long each day. You should also ask her teachers if your child is making progress toward meeting her IEP goals and objectives. Request documentation, such as your child's work samples and assessments, to support their claim.
You can also contact the Parent Advocacy Resource Center in your state. They may be able to provide you with information, suggestions, and guidance specific to your child's needs.
Parents can be the strongest and most knowledgeable advocates for their children, so trust your instincts and don't give up until your child receives the type of education that she needs and to which she is entitled!
How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?
Reading Rockets offers strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn to read. Its resources assist parents, teachers, and other educators in working with struggling readers who require additional help in reading and comprehension skills development. Our sister website, Colorín Colorado, although designed for Spanish-speaking parents and educators of English language learners, also has excellent information for anyone interested in early reading instruction.
Where can I find information about services for people with learning disabilities outside the United States?
Learning Disabilities Worldwide: LDW is an international organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with learning disabilities. They strive to increase awareness and understanding through multi-lingual media productions and publications that serve populations across cultures and nations. Their educational enrichment programs are designed to serve individuals with LD, their families, and the professionals in their lives. They publish the largest peer reviewed journal, Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, and present the annual World Congress on Learning Disabilities.
International Dyslexia Association: The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a nonprofit, scientific, and educational organization dedicated to the study and treatment of the learning disability dyslexia. IDA focuses its resources in four major areas: information and referral services, research, advocacy and direct services to professionals in the field of learning disabilities.
How can I get my child with LD motivated to read more?
How can I find a professional who can diagnose a learning disability?
A full psycho-educational assessment would be helpful to give you more information about the way this student learns.
In addition, you can look in your local phone book for educational testing or psycho-educational testing for someone in your area. LD OnLine also has a Yellow Pages service that might be helpful.
Be sure to ask potential testers, tutors, and consultants about their experiences and specializations before choosing a provider.
How common are language-based learning disabilities?
According to the International Dyslexia Asssociation and the Learning Disabilites Association of America, about 15% of the population (close to one in seven) has a learning disability. Of the students with learning disabilities receiving special education services, 70-80% have deficits in reading.
Luckily, there is plenty of information on how to address the needs of these children. More information on strategies to help children with learning disabilities is available on LD OnLine and Reading Rockets.
My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?
Also, the American Federation of Teachers published a report in 1999 called Building on the Best, Learning from What Works: Five Promising Remedial Reading Intervention Programs.
Have a meeting with your child's teachers so that you can share your concerns with them. Any reading remediation that she receives should be individualized to her specific needs, because no pre-packaged programs are able to address every child’s areas of weakness, strengths, and the instructional methods with which they learn best. You and your child's teachers should work together to ensure that her specific needs are being met. This may require an IEP meeting to develop a new IEP with more skill-specific educational goals and objectives.
My daughter has a learning disability. What strategies can I use to help her through the writing process?
Also, contact her teachers and ask for suggestions. They may have strategies they use in class that you could use at home.
What should I do for my child who has an IEP but still has trouble with handwriting, taking notes, and writing speed?
If you see some of your childs struggles described in these articles, you may want to call an IEP meeting to share your concerns. At this time, you and the other members of the IEP team can discuss whether the goals, objectives, accommodations, modifications, and types and level of services your child is receiving are meeting his needs in the area of writing. This would also be a good time to discuss whether your childs writing challenges are most likely related to the disability label under which he has an IEP or if further evaluation is warranted to get a clearer picture of why writing is such a struggle for him.
The sooner your childs writing challenges can be systematically addressed, the greater the likelihood of him reaching his potential in writing.
How can I help older students improve in reading comprehension?
There are a number of approaches to helping students organize their thinking and get the most out of textbooks. Some of the strategies, such as the SQ4R process, are useful in upper elementary, middle, high school, and college levels.
Finally, the Learning Strategies Database at Muskingum Colleges Center for Advancement of Learning (CAL) has an excellent website. It has an extremely comprehensive listing of reading comprehension strategies applicable to both secondary and postsecondary instruction. You can also find an excellent library of comprehension articles on our sister site, AdLit.org.
What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?