Archive for the ‘Help for your child’ Category

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.com.

Holidays :) or :(

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

family eating mealFor parents of kids with special needs, just getting through a routine day is often very challenging. If you throw in changes to routine, you could really be asking for trouble. But, it is springtime, and that means certain holidays are here – Passover and Easter. Are you traveling to visit grandparents or hosting family at your home? Eating new or different foods? Have a surplus of candy and chocolate at your disposal that may have  behavioral or digestive effects on your child? Are there unrefrigerated boiled eggs lying around the house tempting hungry kids? What do these changes mean to your child and are you ready to handle them?

No two kids are alike. Some manage the changes well and even blossom with the unexpected shifts in routine. Other kids have the opposite reaction and find that all these changes in their typical day are stressful and anxiety provoking. If this is the case for your child, here are some tips from parents to help get you through your holidays:

• Have a calendar where you clearly indicate what changes are upcoming (dinner at Aunt Joan’s, going to Church or Temple, wearing the new dress, eating chocolates), etc.

• Plan ahead so that your child knows what is coming next, especially if you are in someone else’s home or in a different town or city.

• Set up a reward system for positive behavior (such as putting a sticker on a chart for desired behaviors (sitting still, listening, etc.).  Every gold star counts! Be sure to let your child know when he has done something good and when he has earned his “prize.” Lots of praise works wonders.

• Only take your child to places you know he can handle. Holidays are not the time to spring unexpected excursions on your child. If you really want to fit in new experiences, don’t cram in too many at once.

• Build in quiet time wherever you are. Take along your child’s comfort toys/items so that he can be soothed as well as possible when away from the comfort of his own home. Often bringing your child’s pillow along can also work wonders.

• Bring along favorite snacks and food. Sometimes just the change in diet will cause constipation and intestinal distress, which will then cause your child to not be at his best. If you can keep his diet somewhat consistent, you are doing everyone a favor.

Remember, when you are stressed or anxious, your child will feel it and react. Be aware of how you are feeling and try to take a moment to assess your situation. Ask yourself – is this the right thing to do for my child and our family?  Then, trust your gut and do what works well. Chances are the result will be a happier child, which always makes for a happier family and a happier holiday.

Got any tips you can share? We’d love to hear from you.

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.com.

IEP reviews in April

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

meetingIf your child has a disability and has an IEP, you may already know that April is usually the month when mandatory yearly reviews and IEP updates happen.

An IEP is short for Individualized Education Program. It is both a process and a written educational plan for a child with a disability,  age 3 and older. It is a document that lists all of the educational services that your child will receive, if he qualifies. Here is a quick review and resources to help you with the process. (See prior posts, for info on IFSPs for babies and toddlers.)

The IEP is:

INDIVIDUALIZED – specific for your child’s needs. It is not one size fits all.

EDUCATIONAL – it should look at three main areas of your child’s life:  the general education curriculum, extracurricular activities and nonacademic activities.

A PROGRAM or PLAN – all of the services your child will receive are laid out and detailed in writing.

What’s in an IEP?

The IEP may include special education, related services and/or supplementary aids and services. The IEP is first based on your child’s “present levels” which is a snapshot of your child’s function. In other words…what he is able to do now as compared to his non-disabled peers. Then, based on his present levels and his delay or disability, the IEP sets measurable annual goals.

The IEP should specify:

• Who will provide the service (eg. the speech therapist, regular ed teacher, special ed teacher, reading specialist, physical therapist, etc.).

• What kind of service will be provided, such as curriculum modifications or adaptations, the types of related services or aids- (eg. specialized reading curriculum, speech therapy etc.).

• Where the service will be implemented (eg. the regular ed classroom, playground, counselor’s office, etc.).

• When parents will receive reports on how well your child is doing. By law, you need to receive progress reports at least as often as children without disabilities. Often a school system will send home the IEP progress reports with Report Cards.

• When the goal will be achieved (eg. by the end of the marking period or by the end of the year).

• How the goal will be measured and how you will know the goal has been achieved (eg. a benchmark, such as a test score that shows if the goal has been reached).

Remember, an IEP is a living document that can be changed or updated by the IEP team, of which parents are members! It must be reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, but it can be reviewed and updated more often if necessary.

Need more help?

A great place to go to understand your options and how to prepare for IEP meetings is on NICHCY’s website. In particular, you can find guidance on how an IEP team can write IEP goals. Keep in mind that NICHCY’s site will only be up until September 2014. Fortunately, you can find help by visiting your state’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI), which is an information resource for parents of children with disabilities. Every state has at least one PTI. Each one has a different name. For example, one of the PTIs in California is named Matrix Parent Network and Resource Center while the PTI in New Hampshire is called the Parent Information Center. Whatever the actual name, each is commonly known as a PTI.

Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs). CPRCs do the same work as the PTIs, but they focus on reaching underserved parents of children with disabilities, such as those living in a specific area in the state, those with low income, or those with limited English skills. Locate your state’s Centers  and read more about how PTIs and CPACs can help you.

You can also find excellent guidance on how to write IEP goals at Wrightslaw.

Lastly, review previous News Moms Need blog posts to zero in on where you need a refresher. Here is a Table of Contents of many prior posts, including several on IEPs.

Bottom line

April not only brings showers for May flowers; it is the month when most school systems begin reviewing and tweaking IEPs. With the resources in this post, you will be prepared and ready to play an active role in the process.

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.com.

Don’t delay with delays

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

learning to walkEvery 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect. Many other babies experience delays or disabilities as they grow up. In fact, “as many as one in four children through the age of five are at risk for a developmental delay or disability,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.  The sooner a child is identified as having a condition that requires treatment, the sooner he may start receiving appropriate interventions and begin improving.  This sounds logical, right? Yet, many children with developmental challenges somehow don’t receive the help they need until much later.

When my daughter’s speech delay was evident, I asked her pediatrician “Should we wait a year and see if she grows out of it?” Thankfully, he said “Why would you wait?” His attitude was that if we started right away, there would be a chance that this small problem would not become a bigger problem later.  He was right.

If your child has a broken leg, would you wait to have it set? Of course not. If you did not intervene with the cast and crutches, your child would continue to suffer and perhaps get worse. The same is true with other types of disabilities or delays – early treatment is essential for improvement.

Good news: more help is here

The Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!  initiative was launched last week. It is a federal effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families, and the providers who care for them. Yes, screening and intervention processes have been in place for years in the U.S. However, this initiative features a toolkit with an array of “research-based screening tools” to help pediatricians, parents, social workers, case workers, early care and education providers find help at the local level. The toolkit has resources to raise awareness about healthy development, recommended screening and follow-up practices. The Families page has info on developmental milestones, how to find services in your local area, tips and resources on positive parenting, and other helpful topics.

This initiative comes on the heels of the newly announced increase in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) rates. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that indicate ASD rates have risen to 1 in 68 children aged 8 years (which is up from 1 in 88). The CDC says that most children with ASD are diagnosed after age 4, even though ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

What’s a solution?

Early diagnosis and early treatment.

As parents, you know your child best. If you have a suspicion that something is not right, don’t wait. Speak up and tell your child’s pediatrician. Learn about developmental milestones and see if your child is on track. If not, say something.

The Early Intervention program in the U.S. is here for babies and toddlers up to their third birthday. The Special Education program takes over for children ages 3 and older. The key is getting babies, toddlers and children identified as early as possible, and starting intervention. Find your local program for children up to their third birthday and request that your baby/child be screened for developmental delays or disabilities without a referral from a provider. And it is free to you. If your child is age 3 or older, request a screening from your child’s school.

Throughout my daughter’s childhood, I heard “Don’t wait” so many times – from doctors and specialists to special educators and therapists. As a result, we jumped on the therapy/intervention path right away, as each issue surfaced, and tackled each problem one by one (or often two by two). I am glad that I had the influence of professionals to prod and guide me along the way. The efforts certainly paid off for my child.

Bottom line

If you need to get help for your child, you now have more than enough resources to get going. The Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! initiative is there to set young children off on the right foot, and the Special Education program is there to continue to help kids up to age 21.  Hopefully, your child’s first steps will soon become leaps as you see him thrive. So, don’t delay with delays.

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 – send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Kids with challenges zoom on souped up kiddie cars

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

tot in carThere are times when I see someone doing something wonderful to help toddlers and young kids with special needs and I just HAVE to speak up and tell others. Today, I experienced such a moment.

There are all kinds of delays and disabilities: gross motor, fine motor, speech, non-verbal, social, hearing, processing, learning, and the list goes on. Here is something new for tots with gross motor disabilities (problems using large muscles of the body such as the legs to walk, crawl, sit up, etc.).

At the University of Delaware, Dr. Cole Galloway, a professor of physical therapy and a scientist, teamed up with his colleague, Dr. Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering, with the goal of increasing exploration in children with special needs. They take basic ride-on cars available at toy stores, and adapt them to suit the particular needs of a child with motor disabilities. The result is a specially powered kiddie car that a child is able to ride.

Why is this so wonderful?

The efforts of Drs. Galloway and Agrawal have enabled children with gross motor disabilities to zoom around on these powered cars and play with classmates the same as any non-disabled child. In other words, for part of his day, a child with motor limitations can now play and compete with peers on equal footing.  The result is a child who suddenly sees himself on a par with the kids in his class or his neighborhood. He is not “different” when he is in his car. The self-esteem and social connections that develop as a result of his new experiences are profound. Of course, the added fun to his life doesn’t hurt either!

This idea is changing the lives of these kids. Literally. The video (below) describes how these adapted cars enable children to increase their mobility as well as their socialization.

PT on the car

Another cool benefit of this kind of mobile car is that it can augment a child’s specific physical therapy (PT) needs. For example, if a child has trouble keeping his head up due to his disability, powering the car by pushing a button with his head can be a fun way to work on this physical therapy goal. Talk about a motivator!

Do it yourself

The best news yet is that parents can change ordinary ride-on cars into personalized motor cars themselves, by following the instructions Drs. Galloway and Agrawal have created.  They are freely sharing this information and have made it as easy as possible to “do it yourself.”

So, watch this video (with some tissues ready), and then, pass it on (with a pair of pliers) to parents you know with little ones who struggle with motor issues. Thanks to the genius of these professors and their open hearts, kids with special needs can be just “kids.” At least for a little while.

 

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 - send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

What is dyscalculia?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

math bead boardPrior blog posts have focused on the different kinds of learning disabilities (LDs) that often affect preemies (as well as children born full term). Today’s post focuses on a learning disability in math, also known as dyscalculia. Although it is not noticeable in babies or toddlers, your preemie may still be affected by this kind of LD, so it is good to know about it and keep an eye out for warning signs.

Every child has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning. But some have more intense problems (learning disabilities) in a particular area such as reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia) or math. For my daughter, her most difficult struggle was in math. “I hate math! Why do I have to do this?!”  I can’t tell you how many times I heard these words from my daughter. I can’t say I ever loved math, but I just didn’t understand the intensity of her dislike. But once she was diagnosed (through testing) with a math LD, it all became clear to me.

What is a math disability?

The experts at NCLD (National Center for Learning Disabilities) explain it best: “Individuals with dyscalculia have significant problems with numbers: learning about them and understanding how they work. Like other types of LD, the term dyscalculia does not capture the specific kinds of struggle experienced in such areas as math calculations, telling time, left/right orientation, understanding rules in games and much more.”

Dyscalculia is not a one-size-fits-all disability. There are varying degrees (mild to severe) and various kinds of math difficulties that may be present. No two kids with dyscalculia are exactly alike.

Similar to the other kinds of LDs, dyscalculia does not go away. Your child will not “outgrow it.” It is a lifelong disability; however, it CAN be managed. With the right kind of teaching methods, supports and/or accommodations, your child with dyscalculia CAN learn math.

Early warning signs of a math learning disability include difficulty…

• recognizing numbers or symbols

• remembering your phone number

• counting

• sorting items

• recognizing patterns of numbers

Later warning signs include difficulty…

• telling time

• knowing left from right

• estimating

• visualizing a number line

• counting by 2’s, 3’s, etc.

• reading a map

• memorizing multiplication facts

• counting change

• keeping score in a game

• experiencing intense anxiety when doing any kind of math work in school or at home

• retaining information (learning a concept one day but not recalling it the next)

• understanding word problems

• understanding formulas

See NCLD’s warning signs by age (from young children through adults).

Is a math LD common?

Although you may never have heard of dyscalculia, the NCLD reports that it is the next most common form of learning disability after dyslexia. As many as one in every seven kids may have a math learning disability.  That’s a lot of kids!

What can help your child?

Knowing what kind of learner your child is can make a huge difference. For instance, if your child learns best through visual and kinesthetic teaching, then seeing and touching/feeling or manipulating math items will be the best way for her to learn a concept. If a child learns best through auditory modes, then be sure that the teaching method includes verbal instructions. Many kids with LD (like mine) learn best through a combination approach – visual, kinesthetic and auditory. Attack the senses from all angles to help her understand and internalize the information presented.  The good news is that once she learns the concept the way her particular brain learns, she is unlikely to forget the information. (Yay!) Here are other strategies that may help:

• Getting extra time on tests or eliminating timed tests

• Using manipulatives (such as a bead counting board, magnets in the shape of numbers, or any other kind of object that your child can touch, hold, feel and work with.)

• Drawing pictures of word problems

• Using assistive technology (such as a calculator or a specialized math computer program)

As with other LDs, getting a clear diagnosis is key in knowing how to help your child. You can either ask the school district to test your child, or have her see a specialist for private testing. Once you have the results you will know where to focus treatment. NCLD has a full page of resources that may help.

Keep in mind that a child with a math learning disability may also have dyslexia or dysgraphia or other disorders that complicate learning. When this occurs, it becomes even more challenging for your child to learn. For instance, how can a child do a math word problem when she struggles with reading and understanding language? For this reason, getting help as early as possible and monitoring progress is very important.

Bottom line

Usually, a learning disability in math can be managed successfully. It takes getting the proper diagnosis as early as possible, getting the right program in place, continually advocating for your child, and providing plenty of positive reinforcement.

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

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.

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.com.

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.com.

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.com.

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. We watched a well-known video that clearly brought the message home.  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. (I urge you to watch this timeless video.)

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.com.

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.