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Families and Learning Differences

It is common that learning differences run in families. It is not totally clear whether these differences are inherited. However, I have personally witnessed many, many cases of a child who has the same trouble in school that one of his parents did. This is very difficult for the parent who had the same difficulties in school. Their typical response goes something like this: “I hated school, too, and I turned out just fine! She just needs to try harder and not be so lazy.”

My advice in these situations is to focus on the child. Many parents do not realize the pain these children are in. School is different now than it was in the past. Years ago, many students would end their education at high school to start their career, or they dropped out of school and started their career early. They became successful in a variety of fields that did not require a high school diploma. Many times, this is the case with the parent who responds that they are “just fine.” They really are just fine despite how difficult school was for them. But school is different now and society’s views on education have changed.

Currently, schools are expected to prepare every child for college. All students are expected to travel the same path regardless of their interest and desires. There are few options for a student who does not intend to go to college. Even though many respectable professions do not require a college degree, schools focus on preparing students for college.

These children need to receive help to manage their learning challenges. This is why the response “to try harder and not be so lazy” is not what is best for the child.

Another scenario is that a child is struggling to succeed in school, but is interested in a career that requires a college degree. Many students who struggle in school are very, very bright. (See "Kids With Learning Disabilities Are Actually Quite Smart" to understand this better.) If these students do not receive support in school, they will not learn how to be successful in college. This is also not what is best for the child.

If your child is having a tough time in school, ask your school psychologist or principal for help. The first step might be to have her tested for a learning disability. (You also might want to check out this interesting screening quiz for learning disabilities.)

The bottom line is this—if your child is not doing well in school, she needs to get help. This is not about you, it’s about your child. Do what is best for her.

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

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