Advice for Parents with Children Facing Learning Differences: 4 Tips for a Productive School Year

When you're the parent of a child with learning disabilities, you can feel a little lost. There is so much to remember, document and schedule: meetings with teachers, appointments with providers and activities for your child. And you must juggle all this with your other family and professional commitments. Stack all this on top of the importance of keeping up with the news and developments relevant to your child's condition. How can you do it all? The professionals at The Gow School, a private school for learning disabilities in NY, are happy to share the benefits of their experience with parents.

As experts with years (sometimes decades) working with children with learning disabilities and their parents, we have seen what works and what doesn't. Here are some of our tips for parents who wish to be more productive in the new year.

Important Recommendations for Parents from the Private School for Learning Disabilities in New York

As a parent of a child with learning differences, productivity might not be at the top of your list – you may be struggling just to keep your head above water! But following these tips designed for people who face the same challenges as you can help reduce stress and overwhelm by giving you more control and enabling you to prioritize what is most important to you. It’s important to have a plan and to set achievable goals. Here are four tips that should be part of your plan. 

Maintaining Document Organization Is Key for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities

Any parent can tell you that raising a child comes with an astonishing amount of paperwork. Parents of children with learning difficulties must contend with substantially more documentation than typical parents do. Knowing what to save and storing important information is essential to make it easy to retrieve documents when you need them.

When you have a child with learning disabilities, you have many documents to keep track of, such as IEPs, report cards, medical records, etc. Because it can get so overwhelming, the best way to tackle the challenge is to keep everything organized.

Documentation is an important part of advocating for your child. You must know their rights, ensure their needs are met and track their progress. You should also stay familiar with the resources available to you and your child.

Standard school-related records to save include the following:

  • Report cards

  • Standardized testing or assessments

  • Awards and recognition

  • Attendance and health records

  • Behavior reports 

  • Correspondence with teachers, counselors, or administrators

Records to keep include these:

  • Individual Education Program (IEP)

  • IEP progress reports

  • Notes from IEP meetings 

  • Records of correspondence and conversations IEP team members

  • Contact list for IEP team members, teachers, doctors, counselors, etc. 

  • Copies of evaluations done outside of the school

Effective Strategies on How to Organize Important Documents from a Private Boarding School in New York

The best way to organize important documents for your child is to find a system you will use. Don't be distracted by methods that purport to be the best way if you're likely to become frustrated or procrastinate updating your records.

  • Binder. If you’re a hands-on person – someone who tends to print things out rather than read them online, this might be the ideal choice for you. Hole-punch items or put them into page protectors. Commit to printing emails or other online correspondence to store them in the binder.

  • Online. There are many apps and platforms that make it easy to keep all your documents in one place. The advantages are that you can't lose them. In many cases, you can search for specific documents with keywords. You may even be able to access them on your phone, so they are always with you when you need them. The disadvantage is that you need to commit to scanning any hard copies to upload them to your storage system. Be honest with yourself regarding how likely you are to do so.

  • Document Box. If your child has a learning challenge that includes executive dysfunction, such as ADHD, you may be familiar with the concept of doom boxes – basically throwing unrelated items into boxes or bags to get them out of the way. It's easy, but it's nearly impossible to find things when you need them. There is a way to incorporate the ease of this method without being completely disorganized. Designate a box or bin for essential papers and place it in a convenient spot. Every time you get an important document, it goes in the box. If you're always putting the latest items on top, you can easily access the most current ones. Important papers don't get lost. They may take a little while to find, but they are definitely in that box somewhere. You can do the same online by emailing information to yourself that you save in a file or adding relevant tags.

  • Keep it all Together.  The most important thing is that it’s all in one place. If some are in your email and others are stacked on your desk, you’ll never know where to look. Organize it in a way that makes sense to you, chronological, alphabetical, with tags if stored online. Consider where you are likely to look for things to make them easily retrievable. Don’t make categories too narrow. You may not categorize it in your mind the same way when you need it as when you store it. 

1. Set up a Meeting with Teachers: Reevaluate Academic Plans & Therapies

Get your child off on the right foot in the new year by meeting with their teachers. It's about halfway through the school year, making it the perfect time to reevaluate the curriculum. Review what's working and what is not. Set up a meeting with your child's teacher to strategize. Set an agenda to be followed during the meeting, so nothing is missed. Be sure it covers academic plans and any therapies and write down questions you may have. Review your child's IEP and bring it with you to discuss your child's progress.

2. Enroll your Child in a Special Athletic Program 

Athletics are a valuable part of education for children with learning differences. If your child is not currently involved in sports, think about enrolling them in an athletic program. It's an excellent way for them to burn off excess energy, make friends and learn to be part of a team. 

There are many options for the kinds of programs they can choose, from running for more independent children to soccer for those who enjoy being part of a team. If they have issues with focus, sports that keep them moving, such as soccer or hockey, might be a better fit than baseball, for example, which allows plenty of time for minds to wander.

Sports can boost self-esteem and foster a sense of mastery. For children with language-based learning disabilities, being outside or on a playing field can be a welcome relief from the frustration they often feel in the classroom. If you are considering a private school for learning disabilities in NY, ask about their athletic program.

3. Stay Current and Communicate with Teachers at the Boarding School

Being proactive can make all the difference in your child’s success. New developments occur all the time. It's important to stay informed about the latest research and strategies, so you can advocate for your child and help them reach their full potential. Read up on the latest studies, attend conferences, and speak with other parents. Bookmark websites or blogs from experts in the field. 

By learning as much as you can about your child's condition, building a support network, advocating for your child, and keeping communication open with their educators and counselors, you can support your child to reach their full potential and navigate through the challenges that come with it.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Remember to make time for yourself. “Put on your own oxygen mask first” isn’t just for airplanes. While caring for and advocating for your child is important, it’s exhausting and mentally draining. When friends and family offer help, take them up on it! Tell them what you need. Most people won’t know on their own and are looking to you for guidance on how they can help. Whether you need to go for a walk, spend a few hours in a coffee shop with a book or would like to get away for a weekend with your spouse, it’s likely someone is willing to pitch in. 

Need more Advice? Connect with a Boarding School for Learning Disabilities in New York 

Your child is unique. Meeting their needs requires an approach that keeps the individual in mind while leveraging decades of success in helping children with learning difficulties reach their true potential. At the Gow school, your child need not feel singled out or “less than” because they are in a learning environment designed to remediate their learning disability while focusing on their strengths and considering their interests. Our academic programs have the strength of 95 years of experience while incorporating the latest research and best practices to help each child succeed. 

At the Gow school, we consider an athletic program an integral part of academic success. Sports give students with learning disabilities an opportunity to excel outside the classroom and build healthy habits that can last a lifetime. 

Our goal is to offer a wide range of sports and activities to cater to the interests and abilities of nearly every child. Whether a student is inspired by the highly competitive nature of varsity sports or prefers to enjoy their athletic activities for their own sake, Gow has a program they can try. Our coaches are experienced in working with children with learning disabilities. They focus on building sportsmanship and confidence while teaching what it means to be part of a team. Our athletic programs for special needs students are a source of pride for us and an aspect of the holistic Gow education that our alumni look back upon most fondly.

Need an evaluation for your child? Learn about our approach to learning disabilities, or contact us!