National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
The NFB was founded in 1940 by individuals who were blind and demanded equal access to everything their sighted peers could access. Today, the NFB not only continues to fight for civil rights, but also creates and implements cutting edge methods for teaching individuals of all ages with a visual impairment. Affiliates are found in all 50 states as well as at the local level. Parents can seek help through the NFB to learn more about teaching their child how to gain confidence and independence. Families can seek reassurance by connecting with other blind individuals who have mastered independent cane travel and activities of daily living.
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
The CEC focuses on the educational aspect of raising a child with a disability. While this organization primarily involves professionals in the field of special education, parents can be active at the national, state and local level. Parents can connect with other families and professionals in the field to access information about special education law and how their child will receive a free appropriate public education individualized to their needs.
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY)
NICHCY provides information for families who have a child with a disability, serving children from birth to early 20s. Parents will find an abundance of information regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the impact it has on their child’s schooling. Families can also access information on how to care for their child at home and connect with other parents and children with similar experiences.
The Autism Society was founded in 1965 by professionals and parents who had direct experience involving children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One of the focuses of the Autism Society is to support parents in teaching their children appropriate social skills and self-advocacy skills. This organization encourages parents to get other family members involved by creating a circle of support around the child. The Autism Society is based out of Maryland, but there are state and local affiliates throughout the nation to support parents and children.
TASH has been supporting individuals with disabilities and their families for more than 35 years. The purpose of this organization is to create a world where children with disabilities can experience life without barriers. Developing full inclusion in schools and communities is a primary focus of TASH. Parents can receive support through TASH by participating in their multiple trainings, which demonstrate how to teach children self-advocacy skills. TASH is also available to assist parents in assuring that their child is treated as equally as their non-disabled peers.
Explain what a learning disability is. Clarify that it doesn’t have anything to do with how intelligent she is. Help your teen understand that a learning disability affects the way the brain receives, processes or stores information. Name some famous people that she’ll recognize who have also learning disabilities.
Get your teen help at school, if he needs it. There may be only certain classes that give him trouble. Talk to the school about scheduling your teen time with a tutor or developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for him. An IEP will define his academic strengths and weaknesses and will provide an outline of a plan to help him succeed in his goals.
Focus on your teen’s strengths. Avoid having negative expectations of what she can accomplish. In an article for WebMD, Robert Evans, an author and clinical psychologist, points out that protecting your teen from failure and disappointments prevents her from experiencing opportunities for learning. Don’t send the message that you view her learning disability as a roadblock to success or else, she might begin to feel the same way. Tell your teen she’s unique and that her uniqueness is one of the things you love most about her.
Give your teen responsibilities. Communicate the message that you know he can do it. He won’t learn unless you allow him to try. Your teen will likely do better if you help him feel good about himself.
Teach your teen that mistakes help her learn. Otherwise, she will be afraid to try again. Allow her the opportunity to become more competent at the things she does so that she’ll gain confidence in her abilities.
Encourage your teen to come up with solutions to his problems on his own. Offer support but let him make his own decisions. Be there for him as he learns to deal with life’s disappointments and setbacks.
Look at things from your teen’s perspective. She’ll feel more secure if she knows you accept and love her for who she is. The National Center for Learning Disabilities suggests helping your teen to understand her strengths and weaknesses. She needs to know she can have control over her life. Knowing that she plays a role in the outcome of the situations affecting her may encourage her to put more effort in what she does.
Planning for your child’s life after graduation begins in high school at the latest, according to the National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities. IDEA requires “transition planning” to be a part of your child’s individualized education plan. Your child’s IEP team will consider options, including post-secondary education, vocational education or independent living. The IEP will include transition services, such as instruction, community experiences and acquisition of daily living skills to prepare your child for the transition to adulthood.
Some children with mental disabilities have work or a career as one of their life goals, and according to the Institute for Community Inclusion, employment provides children with disabilities the opportunity to build new skills, make friends and earn a living. Pay attention to your child’s extracurricular interests, or consider an internship, course or volunteer activities that teach vocational skills. The Institute for Community Inclusion also suggests asking your network of friends or neighbors for job leads.
While college is not right for every child, some individuals with disabilities thrive in the post-secondary education environment. In college, children with disabilities can improve a skill in which they already excel, such as computer technology. This education can lead to employment after graduation. According to the Institute for Community Inclusion, many schools offer programs, such as classes for groups of individuals with disabilities, or special allowances for individuals with disabilities, such as more time to take exams.
Group Homes or Independent Living
The Social Security Administration provides financial assistance to individuals with disabilities, which could help fund your child’s room in a group home or independent living facility. Disability.gov offers a search engine to help find suitable housing. Your child might be able to live mostly independently, so some housing options offer minimal support and activities. Other housing options, most likely group homes, offer full-time support for those individuals who cannot live independently.
Adult Community Services
Many adults with disabilities lack recreation time after those support systems are removed after graduation. The National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities offers a list of recreation activities in which you can help your child get involved after graduation, such as Disabled Sports USA, the nation’s largest year-round sports and recreation activities organization, and the United States Adaptive Recreation Center, which works with rehabilitation centers, parks and recreation departments to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Check your local park or activity center for a schedule of events.
Communicate With Educators
Each child has strengths and talents, no matter the disability. It is the parent's responsibility to provide information to educators concerning learning style, personality traits and the child's personal preferences. Maintaining constant contact with educators helps parents form a partnership that encourages open communication. Communication need not be formal. It could include a daily or weekly note, stating progress. This update lets the parent know which skills she can emphasize at home, to support learning happening at school.
Participate in the IEP Process
The parent has a direct responsibility in planning the education of her child. An individualized education plan is formed to ensure that each child is taught appropriately, keeping specific needs and goals in mind. It is important that the parent is knowledgeable of the educational jargon used in the meetings to understand the complete significance of the IEP goals. She should question anything not understood and not agree to or sign anything without full understanding. The parent should keep copies of the IEP and refer to it regularly. She has the right to ask for revisions to the process if she feels that the plan is not supportive of her child's learning.
Help Develop Self-confidence
Do not allow your child to focus on her weaknesses. Have a discussion about what she does well and even form a list. Work on activities or hobbies that your child excels in, so that she can feel successful. When a child struggles in school, she can doubt herself and feel withdrawn. Encourage her to talk with others who have similar challenges so she knows that she is not alone.
Encourage Healthy Lifestyle
To have full concentration, a child needs plenty of sleep, a balanced diet and adequate exercise, advises Gina Kemp, M.A., of HelpGuide.org. Depleting your body of sleep makes learning difficult. Children require more sleep than adults, requiring eight hours and more, depending on age. Start your child's day with breakfast and keep his body moving through exercise to boost his mood and create energy for the learning process.