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How Learning Disabilities Affect a Parent’s Emotions

When a child struggles in school, their parents experience a range of emotions -- frustration, anger, hopelessness, and guilt.

In the beginning, we feel the problems in school have to be because the child is not trying. We fuss at them and hope they will be able to succeed if they just settle down and work harder. Our frustration with the child and the situation can lead to anger. We get mad at the school for not providing the best education, the child’s teacher for not knowing how to teach our child, and the child because -- well, they have to be doing something wrong, right?

This frustration and anger can continue for several years before we finally realize, "Maybe my child has a real problem. Maybe this is not her fault." When this realization is confirmed (through testing or meeting with learning specialists), the guilt and hopelessness set in. First of all, typically one parent or the other also struggled in school. This parent tends to deny the problem saying something like, "I made it just fine. She just needs to work harder." The other parent wants to figure out what the problem is and to seek help. This parent feels tremendous guilt because they did not believe their child had a real problem soon enough. The parents must figure out a way to work together to get help for their child. Thank goodness, after a little time this is what usually happens.

Here is my advice. Don’t beat yourself up! We do our best as parents and that’s all we can do. Children are resilient. The child will be very relieved that finally someone recognizes that they need extra help. They will forgive you for not knowing sooner. Move forward from here without feeling guilty for taking so long to get to this point. And, there is help for struggling students. Turn your hopelessness into hope and take action to change failure into success.

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#2 Livia McCoy 2010-09-22 20:34
Thank you very much, Mr. Foss. This is great information. I would recommend looking into these websites for other kinds of learning disabilities, too.

I appreciate that you took the time to share your personal experience. I especially like that your mother listened to you and recognized that you had strengths to build upon!
#1 Ben Foss 2010-09-22 01:33
Thank you for bringing up this important topic of learning disabilities among students. Too often, learning disabilities are not identified at an early age, and students don’t receive the support that they need. As someone identified with dyslexia as a young child, I can attest to the importance of having a strong family support network and proactive parents; my mom’s support and willingness to listen to me and understand my strengths has been key to my success. Personally, I have found that different forms of assistive technologies can be incredibly helpful, allowing me to access print and learn more effectively, and I’d encourage all parents of children with learning disabilities to explore these options. The National Center for Learning Disabilities has some great resources to help parents choose the right assistive technology, and you can learn more at https://www.ncld.org/at-school/general-topics/assistive-technology/choosing-an-assistive-technology. If you have dyslexia and want to talk about some of these issues, you should also check out https://www.experiencereader.com.

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