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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[NOV. 18, 2005]  Q: My son has always struggled in school, but this year -- fifth grade -- things have been especially difficult. He spends hours on homework but still says he doesn't understand. His grades have dropped dramatically. Still, he has real abilities -- he can take things apart and put them back together with no trouble. How can I help him before he decides he hates school?

A: Your child may have a learning disability. Often, children whose school performance doesn't match their ability have an unrecognized learning disability.

Contact your school and request that your son be evaluated to see whether he is eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA. This federal law guarantees many rights for children with disabilities, including the right to have this evaluation at your request. Don't take no for an answer.

The school will give your son a series of tests. Your son's teacher will make some observations. Someone will probably interview you, too. Then the school will share the results of their findings with you in a meeting.

If your son is found to have a learning disability, you and the school will work together to develop an Individualized Education Plan, an IEP, for your son. It should spell out specific goals and how you and the school will work together to achieve them. The IEP meetings are a good way to build a home-school team so your child can be successful. If your child has no disability, you will also learn good ways to help him.

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Meanwhile, you need to help your son focus on the things he can do. You may also want to help him think about how he does learn best. If reading things is tough for him, how can you help him learn what he needs to? Can he get some of his school assignments on tape?

You may also want to join a parent group. There you'll meet parents of other children with disabilities. You can share your feelings with other parents who have "been there, done that." You can also learn how other families have solved similar problems.

It's not that your child can't learn; he may simply learn in a different way. By working together with your school, you can get your son back on track.

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.


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