Posts Tagged ‘learning disabilities’

Thinking of having a baby? Now is the time to stop drinking alcohol

Monday, April 4th, 2016

2015D015_3603_rtYou’ve probably heard that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby. But did you know you should also stop drinking alcohol before trying to conceive?

It can be difficult to determine an accurate date of conception. It takes two weeks after conception to get an accurate pregnancy test result. This means that you may be drinking alcoholic beverages during the early stages of your pregnancy, before you learn you are pregnant.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a range of serious problems including miscarriage, premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and stillbirth. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) states that alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities.

FASDs can be costly, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The lifetime cost for one individual with FAS in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASDs. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $4 billion annually.

The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable. If you stop drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy, you can prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and other conditions caused by alcohol.

So if you are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant, steer clear of alcohol. If you have problems stopping, visit us for tips.

If you have a child with FASD, see our post on how to help babies born with FASD.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Prematurity, learning disabilities, and ADHD

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

birth announcementPremature birth is a leading cause of lasting childhood disabilities. October is Learning Disabilities and ADHD Awareness Month – a good time to become familiar with the effect prematurity can have on learning and behavior.

Of course, many babies who are born prematurely do very well. We hear stories of preemies who had a rough start in life, spent days, weeks or even months in the NICU and years later have no serious issues to report. But, some preemies will have long-term challenges with learning or behavior.

LD and ADHD

Learning disabilities (LDs) are persistent difficulties in reading, writing and/or math skills. They are not the same as learning differences. In order to help your child with learning struggles, it is important to first understand what LDs are and are not.

Kids with LD see the world in a slightly different way. Check out this post which describes a great resource from Understood.org to give you insight into your child’s world.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors or be overly active.

What are the numbers?

  • Globally, 5 million babies are born too soon every year.
  • Babies born prematurely are more likely than babies born full term to have learning and behavior problems throughout childhood. About 1 in 3 children born prematurely need special school services at some point during their school years. Learning problems may not appear until elementary or even middle school.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1 in 5 children in the U.S. has learning and attention issues. “Approximately 2.5 million students in the U.S. are identified as having a specific learning disability—such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia—and as many as 6 million students are identified as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”
  • The CDC reports that in 2012 more than 5 million children aged 3–17 had ADHD (10%). Boys (14%) were almost three times as likely as girls (5%) to have ADHD.

Resources to explore

If your child struggles with learning or behavior, where should you go for reliable information?

  •  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers articles for parents to better understand ADHD.
  • Parent Training and Resource Centers, available in every state, offer information and support to families. Find your center.
  • The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) has hundreds of easy-to-read articles on disabilities, special education and the law – including how to obtain school services for your child.
  • The Understood website provides a wealth of information and support to individuals and parents of children with learning and attention issues.
  • The State of Learning Disabilities, 3rd Edition, 2014, is a downloadable review of LD. It is available on the National Center for Learning Disabilities website where along with the statistics on LD, it describes public attitudes towards people with LD, characteristics of kids with LD, employment issues, and lots of other information.

Students with LD and/or ADHD may face challenges, but they also have strengths and may possess outstanding abilities in certain areas. Understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on proven educational methods and therapies will help your child be as successful as possible.

Bottom line

Babies born prematurely are more likely than babies born full term to have learning and behavior problems. But help is available. Check out our table of contents for more information.

And if you have any questions, email or text AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Oh to be understood!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

child learning to readHelping a child with attention or learning problems is a feat that most parents find intensely challenging. You may know that your child is bright, yet she can’t seem to keep up with her peers at school and is becoming increasingly difficult to manage at home.

Children with disabilities have a hard time expressing their frustrations, as they don’t fully understand what they should be doing. As a parent, you have expectations for your child, but you don’t see what they see. You can’t fully grasp their struggle.

In order to help your child, you first need to have an accurate idea of what she is experiencing. By getting in her shoes, even for a little while, you will develop an appreciation for her struggles, and have a starting point from which to start your journey of setting up interventions.

What if you could see what your child sees?

I’d like to introduce you to a novel web based resource for parents of children with learning or attention issues, called (appropriately) Understood. Developed by a team of professionals from the National Center for Learning Disabilities along with lots of input from parents, they created a digital resource that can show you what your child is “seeing.”

The section entitled “Through your child’s eyes” has simulations to help you understand your child’s struggles with organization, attention, reading, writing or math. Once you can see what your child sees, and feel what she feels, it will help you to find patience when you thought you had none, and find energy to create an appropriate program for her.

When my daughter first went to a school that specialized in teaching children with learning disabilities, one of the exercises the parents had to do was similar to one on this website. Even though it took place many years ago, I remember it to this day. It was eye opening and mind boggling. We parents had NO IDEA our kids were seeing the world the way they were, and were faced with such a huge mountain to climb every day. Many of us felt guilty – we simply did not know the pain our kids were in every day. But, how could we have known? Until we were shown exactly how our kids were struggling, we did not truly understand. Life changed for me after that day. I had a different perspective and attitude about my daughter’s disability, not to mention a newly discovered abundance of patience that I did not know I possessed.

The simulations on Understood will help you to see the world through your child’s eyes, so that you can develop patience, empathy and most importantly an action plan specific to your child’s needs.

For other posts in this series, see the Table of Contents.

Resilience. When struggles can be a good thing.

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

crystal ballWouldn’t you love to have a crystal ball that could show you what your child will be like when he is an adult? Would his disability define him? Would he overcome it to succeed and realize his dreams?

Last week I met several graduates of the school my daughter attended when she was a young girl. This school is specifically for children with diagnosed learning disabilities. Graduates returned to talk to parents of current students about life after school – their struggles and their triumphs. The audience was inspired by their resilience and impressed by what they overcame to be successful. Throughout the years, I have attended many programs like this one, and met countless other graduates. The positive messages that resonated from all of the graduates were that they learned valuable lessons from struggling with learning disabilities. Those lessons served them well, as they learned how to be resilient.

Resilience.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change; the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.” The ability to keep trying to succeed despite repeated failures exemplifies resilience. Getting back up after being knocked down – getting back on that horse – is resilience. The adults at this program told stories of struggles during childhood that brought tears to my eyes, but now their courage, confidence and sense of self was plainly evident. One panelist said he would not trade in his learning disability for anything. It taught him important lessons in his life; it made him stronger.

Resilience.

All the panelists mentioned that they initially did not know how to learn, study, or organize themselves due to their learning disabilities. They gradually acquired strategies and went on to be successful in high school, college and many even went to graduate schools. For example, there was a doctor, real estate developer and investment banker on the panel. They recounted their battles learning to read, write, count, add or divide. Yet when they went to high school and college, they had such good study habits and academic discipline that they did not struggle in ways that their peers did. One panelist recounted how her medical school classmate would “fall apart” when he got a “C” on an exam, while she knew enough to know that that one exam did not define her future; she would just pick up and keep on going.

Resilience.

This was the theme over and over again. Kids with learning disabilities work harder than those without disabilities to reach the same level of achievement. They learn early on that they may fail but if they keep on trying, they will also succeed. Often they need to be creative and use another road to get to their destination. They learn how to shift gears, ask for help, and advocate for themselves. This stick-to-it-ness helps them in all of their challenges or struggles later in life.

Resilience.

If your little one is struggling with disabilities now, know that there are many “success stories” out there. There are countless individuals who have learned to overcome their challenges and figure out a way to reach their potential. Your child may not go through the front door – but the side or back doors may still get him where he wants to be.

And, picking up a little resilience along the way will be the unexpected icing on the cake to help with the future hiccups of life.

 

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also see a Table of Contents of prior posts, here.

Feel free to ask questions. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

More resources for meltdowns

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

child having a meltdownMany parents commented on last week’s post about avoiding and handling tantrums and meltdowns in children. This week, I am referring you to a couple of sites for more info, both for young children and for older kids, too. I think you will find the information to be unique to children with special needs as their tantrums or meltdowns are usually related in some way to their underlying disorder. For example, a child with sensory issues may find getting dressed in the morning to be an uncomfortable experience (at best), which then triggers a meltdown. Likewise, the child with a math learning disability may find the very sight of a math text book extremely anxiety provoking. In other words, usually the behavioral outburst is related to the child’s delay or disability in some way. The key is to fully understand your child’s diagnosis and learn the triggers that will bring on a meltdown or tantrum.

Here is a good fact sheet which may help parents who have kids with a developmental delay or a disability.  NCLD offers info on how various learning disabilities or other diagnoses can affect behavior. I’ve even seen tantrum tracker apps which allow you to identify and track your child’s triggers and establish rewards for appropriate behaviors.

I hope one of these resources will help you to help your child. And remember, you are not alone!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

There’s an app for that

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

boy using computerThere has been a lot of response to my blog posts that focus on learning disabilities. It seems that lots of parents of preemies are struggling with how to help their child who is learning to read or write. I came across this list of apps, recommended by parents, that I thought I’d share. These apps help kids with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia in particular. Check it out at NCLD, and let me know if you can add any to the list.

Parents helping parents is key to helping our kids.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

LDs – What they ARE and are NOT

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

alphabet magnets

There are many misconceptions about learning disabilities (LDs), which often affect preemies. Here is a quick review of LDs – first, the misconceptions, and then the truth.

LDs are NOT…

• the result of laziness.

• caused by a child’s home environment or cultural factors.

• the same as autism.

• the same as an intellectual disability (formerly called “mental retardation.”) In fact, persons with LDs have average or above average intelligence, and some are gifted!

• all the same. There are various kinds and degrees of LDs (mild to severe) and a child can have more than one kind.

• curable, and a child will NOT outgrow them. But they are treatable and most kids that receive appropriate educational interventions and supports overcome obstacles.

• associated with blindness or deafness.

LDs ARE…

• often unidentified or under-identified. Many students (as much as 15%) struggle in school as a result of having a learning disability that is not diagnosed or treated.

• prevalent.  Almost half (42%) of kids receiving special education services are children with learning disabilities. Roughly 2.4 million children in public schools in the U.S. have been identified as having LDs.

• more common in boys. Two thirds of students identified with LDs are boys.

• treatable. Through appropriate educational programs, kids with LDs are able to learn in school and succeed in life.

• brain based disorders, and often co-exist with attention problems.

• often seen to run in families.

The key to success is…

• getting a diagnosis as early as possible.

• getting help and support in place. “Specific learning disability” is one of the 13 conditions that qualifies a child for special education and related services.  (The other 58% in special ed have the remaining 12 qualifying conditions.)

• providing positive reinforcement so that a child’s self-esteem is not damaged.

• understanding your child’s diagnosis so that you can be an effective advocate for him. Arm yourself with information. See prior posts for general info on LDs, and specific info on dyslexia, dysgraphia and even dyspraxia and CAPD (cousins to LDs).

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Source:  Data for this post provided by NCLD’s 2014 publication of “The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Emerging Issues.”

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What is dysgraphia?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

chld-in-schoolPremature birth can lead to long-term challenges, such as learning disabilities.  Dysgraphia is a learning disability (LD) in the area of writing. It is a processing disorder, not just a problem with penmanship. It could mean your child has trouble holding a pencil or pen, forming letters and numbers, or spelling correctly. It can also mean your child struggles to organize his thoughts in his head and put those thoughts down on paper. Written work may be unclear and unorganized. In short, dysgraphia includes difficulty in all of the aspects of acquiring and expressing written language. Although dysgraphia may affect many preemies, it is also seen in children who are born full term.

Understanding writing

Writing involves a complex series of steps.  First, a child must learn how to form letters and understand combinations of letters and how they form sounds. Then he must learn how to put them all together in a coherent way using paper and pencil. The paper/pencil part requires eye/hand coordination and a certain amount of muscle strength and dexterity. And then there is another aspect to writing – organizing ideas in his head and being able to transfer his thoughts down on to paper. Whew…that is a lot of stuff going on just to write a few paragraphs on a piece of paper!

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), dysgraphia can be due to visual-spatial processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the eyes see) or language processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the ears hear).

Because writing depends so much on interpreting and using language, many children with dysgraphia also have other learning disabilities, such as dyslexia (reading), or other language impairments. Some may have attention problems, too. If your child has more than one challenge, the act of writing can become overwhelming. (And he is surely not going to like doing it.)

What are the warning signs of dysgraphia?

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia because often children with an LD (or LDs) are mistaken for being lazy or unmotivated. The symptoms of dysgraphia vary widely depending on the age of your child. NCLD provides lists of signs or symptoms by age group, from very young children through adults.

How is dysgraphia treated?

Unfortunately, dysgraphia (like other LDs) is lifelong. But, fortunately, there are different treatments that may help a child overcome obstacles.

  •      A child may benefit from occupational therapy, as it may help increase hand coordination and muscle strength to improve writing stability.
  •      A child may also benefit from specialized instruction in school (through special education). Specialized writing programs can help a child with letter formation. Other programs help with topic and paragraph organization (such as graphic organizers).
  •      There are also ways around the problem – such as learning to type on a computer or boy on computerusing voice activated computer software which types a child’s words. Many children with writing problems find using a laptop or other computer to be the ticket to success for them. (My daughter started learning keyboarding skills in first grade (as part of her IEP), as a result of her dysgraphia. The fluent sentences that emerged from the computer shocked her teacher so much that she thought that I had helped her with her work! We were all amazed at what my daughter was able to do once we shifted all her written work to a computer.)

Where can you find more info?

If you suspect that your child has dysgraphia or any kind of LD, speak with your child’s pediatrician. You can also ask that your child be tested through your local school system. Of course, there are professionals who can test him outside of school, too. Getting a clear diagnosis and help as soon as possible is very important.

NCLD provides a list of helpful writing resources,  including a Resource Locator,  specific to your location and type of help needed.

Bottom line

With any disability, it takes time to find the right treatments to put in place. Then it takes lots of patience and tons of practice. During this time, your child may not want to have anything to do with drawing or writing. I can understand this, can’t you? I don’t like being forced to do things that are particularly hard for me.  But, hopefully, with the right therapy and program, and tons of positive reinforcement, your child will begin to overcome or learn to compensate for his challenges.

The sooner the disability is diagnosed and treatment is targeted and begun, the sooner your child can improve. As with any disability, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the happier your child will be.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What is dyspraxia?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

child using forkDyspraxia is a complex motor skill disorder that interferes with the activities of daily life. It can be mild or severe and affects every child differently. It is also called developmental dyspraxia and developmental coordination disorder.  It affects boys more than twice as often as girls. Dyspraxia is a lifelong disorder that can be managed but not cured.

What are some warning signs?

In babies and toddlers, signs of dyspraxia include delays in reaching developmental milestones, such as not rolling over or crawling, and later having trouble learning to walk. In young children, some of the signs of dyspraxia include being clumsy, having trouble using utensils to eat, being unable to tie shoe laces, ride a bike or catch a ball, having difficulty with speech and not completing tasks.

As you can see, dyspraxia does not have one specific sign or symptom. Having trouble talking is very different from not being able to catch a ball. But, all of these symptoms share the common basis of planning and carrying out a motor task. But, just to muddy the waters a bit, some children with dyspraxia still achieve major developmental milestones. (Are you confused yet? Wait, there’s more.) Yet, other children may have some of the signs or symptoms of dyspraxia but they are due to another diagnosis entirely. (Think of a runny nose…it could be due to a cold, the flu or allergies. The symptom is the same for each diagnosis.)  So…

How can you tell if it is dyspraxia or not, and what should you do?

In order to know if your child’s symptoms are due to dyspraxia, a developmental delay, a vision problem, or a different diagnosis entirely, it is important that a professional evaluate her. First, discuss your concerns with your child’s pediatrician at an office visit. He may recommend an additional evaluation by another expert. In addition, you can have your child evaluated through the early intervention program in your state for babies and toddlers, or through the special education system for children age 3 and older.

How is dyspraxia treated?

The kind of treatment a child receives depends on the type of symptoms and severity she is experiencing. Treatment  should be individualized. For example, if a child has trouble speaking (can’t form words properly, has trouble with the volume of her voice, etc.), then speech therapy would probably be appropriate. If a child has trouble with buttons, zippers, using a fork or knife, brushing teeth, is extra sensitive about hair brushing, or tags on clothing drives her to distraction, then occupational therapy may be helpful. If a child has trouble with moving around (she bumps into things, seems uncoordinated or clumsy, has trouble riding a bike, and generally has a tough time negotiating her space), then physical therapy may be in order.

In many cases, a child needs more than one kind of therapy in order to overcome obstacles. And, as a child grows and develops, the therapy needs to be adjusted to address her current issues and age.

It is worth noting that children with dyspraxia are often challenged by having other disorders at the same time, such as a learning disability, a speech and language disorder and/or attention problems. This is why it is important for a child to be diagnosed accurately and to receive appropriate treatment as early as possible.

Good company

shoelaces undoneDaniel Radclliffe, the actor who plays Harry Potter in the film series, has openly discussed his dyspraxia. He has trouble with handwriting and tying shoes, and admits he struggled in school.  Evidently, he has been able to focus on his gifts and talents to become a world famous actor. (Or perhaps there was just a little bit of magic thrown in?) But seriously, hard work and perseverance are always factors in learning to be successful despite a disability.

Where can you get more info?

You can learn more about dyspraxia and other learning disabilities at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).  They have a short video that is helpful in understanding the different facets of dyspraxia. The NIH also has information on dyspraxia.

Bottom line

Although dyspraxia is a lifelong disorder, it can be managed through appropriate treatment. If you are concerned about your child’s development, be sure to speak with her health care provider or ask that your child be evaluated. Intervention at any time, is valuable.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What is dyslexia?

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

ABC'sDyslexia is perhaps the most commonly known learning disability. Usually people think of dyslexia as reversing letters (d for a b) or having trouble learning to read. But dyslexia is much more complex than just switching letters or not catching on with reading.

Dyslexia is a language based learning disability, meaning it involves all aspects of acquiring and processing language. Learning to read is one aspect of processing language. It involves recognizing letters, breaking down sounds and learning how to put them together to form words and sentences. Then, once an individual can identify words, there is the more complex task of understanding the meaning of those words and sentences. Other forms of processing language include understanding the spoken word, understanding abstract meanings or nuances (such as jokes), being able to organize your thoughts to write clearly and fluently, spelling correctly and even speaking easily.

As with other learning disabilities, dyslexia is not a sign of laziness or low intelligence. An LD person thinks and processes information differently than a non-LD person. Dyslexia is a neurological (brain) disorder that occurs in people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds.  It also occurs in individuals who are exceedingly talented in a particular area. For example, there are many people with dyslexia who are gifted in areas that are not language based, such as sports, computer science, math, acting or art. Countless extraordinary and famous people have dyslexia.

Dyslexia does not go away. There is no pill to cure it. It stays with a person throughout life. However, it can be successfully managed through identification and treatment. If you think that your child is struggling with learning to talk, understanding language, learning to read or with schoolwork, do not hesitate to seek help. The sooner your child gets help, the sooner she can start catching up. And, it is important to get help as soon as possible so that her confidence and self-esteem are not damaged.

To learn if your child has dyslexia or any other kind of learning disability, ask that your child be evaluated through the Early Intervention system (birth up to age 3) or through your local school district (age 3 and older).

What treatment helps dyslexia?

If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia through a formal evaluation, then she will probably qualify for special education services. These services will be geared to address your child’s unique disability. For example, if your child is having trouble decoding words, the school will target an intervention to address this difficulty. If your child is having difficulty with writing, the intervention will focus on writing. Usually the intervention involves help in more than one area (reading, writing, comprehension).

An individual learns in a variety of ways – through hearing, seeing, touching or feeling, or using her body. A child with dyslexia usually learns more easily through materials that are provided in digital or auditory modes. Acquiring information through different paths helps your child to learn and remember material.

In addition to different types of teaching methods, there are modifications and accommodations that can be put in place in your child’s classroom to help her learn. For example, your child may receive extra time on tests, books on tape, or other support. With appropriate treatment, kids with dyslexia can learn to read and write well. And, as I indicated in my blog post on learning disabilities, scores of famous and successful people have dyslexia.

Where can you find support and more info?

There are several organizations that provide support and information about dyslexia and other learning disabilities. I highly recommend visiting NCLD  where you can view or download The Dyslexia Toolkit. This step-by-step guide will help you to identify and treat dyslexia at any age, and provides tips for living and learning with dyslexia.

When my daughter was first diagnosed with LD, I attended an info session for parents. During the session, the class was given materials that were intended to show us what it feels like to be in our children’s shoes. It was hard knowing that our children were suffering in ways we had not imagined. But, it also made us better parents – empathetic parents. Once we got this message, advocating for our kids became a clearer mission.

Bottom line

Dyslexia is a lifelong condition but it need not define your child. If you suspect language challenges in your child, request that your child be tested. Then, work with your school system to get her the appropriate help she needs to enable her to reach her potential.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.