During the six years of elementary school is often when you, the parents, learn that your child has a learning disability. In many ways, this new knowledge is a relief (especially when your child has been in school, struggling, for a few years). Even more especially when you’ve been thinking your child has been lazy, disorganized or deliberately defiant. In other ways, this new knowledge is scary and the entirely new language you hear from administrators and teachers can be confusing and intimidating. In the midst of all this change, never forget that YOU are your child’s best advocate.

Take a deep breath and learn the new lingo. Never sign anything you don’t understand or agree with. Take your time and educate yourself about your child’s special needs first. Deal with the school once you’re comfortable with your options.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

Individualized Education Programs, aka the IEP. In order to be enrolled in Special Education Services, your child must have an IEP. Done well, it’s a great thing that gives your child a way to continue working with his peers in a regular classroom. Poorly done? You don’t want to go there. Read these resources. If you do not understand them fully, it’s worth your time and money to hire someone who can help you design the best educational program for your child. (The link here is only an example with good information. Do your own research if you reach this point.)
  • While based in Minneapolis, The Friendship Circle is filled with great Special Education Resources. The page linked here contains articles concerning dealing with, personalizing and negotiating IEP’s for your traditionally-schooled and home-schooled child. (Always check your own state’s laws before proceeding.)
  • IEP meetings can be overwhelming, frustrating and tear-inducing. Bring a second set of ears with you, at the very least. Most importantly, prepare for IEP meetings!

Technology Based Special Education Resources

Put your phone, tablet and/or computer to work for your child. Depending on your child’s personality and individual challenges you may or may not have to set limits (think it through before you start using these special education resources). Once you’ve set some family limits, check out the Best Apps for Kids site. It’s constantly updated and has a section devoted to children with special needs.

Special Education Resources Outside Of School

Many children – with and without special needs – seem to be programmed to fight their parents whenever a new skill is involved. Sometimes, an investment in Special Needs Tutoring, coaching or instruction is well worth the price of admission. You, the parent, are removed from the immediate situation and, if you play your cards right, are only acting as a cheerleader on the sidelines. If your child is especially independent and also has a learning challenge, this is often a good place to jump start things.


Channel Your Child’s Energy

If you have a child with ADD or ADHD, you know the frustration of over-the-top-behavior followed by consequences that seem to mean nothing to your child. For some kids, an outside activity – sports, science, art, dance, music – is the key to helping them learn to focus. It can be challenging, if both parents are working, to get your child to these kind of activities, but the effort can really pay off – scholastically and socially.

Speak With Your Child About Their Learning Difficulty;

In other words, talk to your child. If your elementary school child has been diagnosed (recently or in the past) with a learning disability keep an informal, open conversation going from day one. We’re not talking big, deep conversations here. Rather, include your child’s challenges in your everyday short exchanges. Ask how the reading is going. Ask if they’re making friends in their classroom and, if not, what can you do to help. Your child’s learning disability is going to be with them for life. Talking about it early instills in them that it’s OKAY and helps build confidence for the future.

Teachers Are Your Friends

Even if you are not a full-out fan of your child’s teacher, it’s worth the time and effort to become friendly with them. They are not the know-all on education. BUT, they have had training on learning challenges and can likely help you help your child. Do your best to be non-confrontational and friendly with your child’s teachers and they will likely end up being your best resources. This article specifically talks to teachers about how to deal with difficult parents. It’s worth reading as a parent. Do you see yourself? Are there things you can do to be less aggressive and more friendly? Understanding a teachers point of view is a large part of creating a successful relationship. Remember, it takes 3 parties to maximize a child’s success (Teacher, Parent, and the Child)!

Special Education Resources For Homeschoolers

If you’ve made the decision to homeschool your elementary aged child with special needs, there are literally millions of Special Education Homeschool Resources available to assist. We have a tremendous number of resources available to help during this journey; Related article; Homeschool Resources Elementary.

Books Are Always Great Special Education Resources

All Kinds of Minds by Mel Levine is a great book for kids newly diagnosed with a learning disability. It’s written to their level and offers five stories that are terrific prompts for more in-depth conversations with your child. If you are worried your child’s self-esteem is suffering, this book is a great place to start explaining to him that everyone struggles with something.

Most Importantly, Have Fun

Whether you send your child to a traditional school or homeschool them, home should be a place that’s fun and where learning is always part of that fun. It’s not hard. You do not have to be super-parent to make home life fun. Just go with what you think is fun and make adjustments to suit your child. If you are paralyzed at the thought of this, use sites like Pinterest (search your child’s grade and specific learning disability) for ideas. Once you get going, you’ll be coming up with your own family-friendly activities.

If your child is found to have a learning disability in elementary school it’s not the end of the world. Plenty of people have navigated this path. However, you will be facing hurdles and challenges that you may never have known existed. Keep your eye on the prize – a well-educated child. The rest is details. You will do what you have to do to make this happen. For some this means homeschooling. For others it means using school resources and a network of Special Education Tutoring. Your goal, as much as possible, is to not let your child’s special needs define their identity.