Jane Ross, M.S.
Founder and Executive Director, Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities

With my son struggling in school, I was clueless. It took years for me to learn what it means to be dyslexic and unable to read; how a smart kid can appear to be hopelessly lost in school, what it takes to get your head around the issues and get the help your child needs.

It is critically important to reassure parents that these kids with learning disabilities are smart and can learn; that they often possess unrecognized talents that can help them thrive as adults.

Below are some rules of the road to help parents of children with these invisible disabilities:

1. Trust your instincts.
Although his teachers said my son was fine, I knew in my heart that something was wrong: He skipped words while reading, spelled words differently each time he wrote them and couldn’t subtract to save his soul.

2. Have confidence in your child.
I knew my child was smart. But like many children with learning disabilities, he has strengths that aren’t necessarily valued in the classroom--visual, spatial and musical abilities, good interpersonal skills and a terrific sense of humor.

4. Believe in them.
Don’t panic in viewing your child’s standardized test scores. The highs and lows reflect the uneven profile of her strengths and weaknesses.

3. Get your child tested.
Even if school administrators discourage you (“she’ll be out of the classroom for hours; you can’t change your mind; you don’t want him to be stigmatized”), testing is critical if you suspect something is wrong. Neither you nor your child's teachers can help you if you don’t know what the problems are.

5. Become an expert.
The professionals who assess your child must provide a full explanation of his or her weaknesses as well as their strengths, since an accurate diagnosis is key to getting the right help. It’s your job to ask questions, get a full explanation of unfamiliar termsand make sure the report includes specific recommendations that can be included in your child’s educational plan.

SEE MORE: Daymond John: Gifted With Dyslexia
 

6. Prepare for action.
Once you know what she needs in order to succeed in school, do everything in your power to ensure she gets it. Parents, more than anyone else, determine whether a child with learning disabilities will succeed.

7. Support your child’s strengths.
Music is something my child loved and was a life preserver. The best predictor of a child’s success is not grades or aptitude scores; it’s the energy and commitment he devotes to activities he cares about. Help him pursue his passions, whether building with Legos, experimenting in the kitchen or collecting bugs.

8. Kids learn if they can.
Kids with learning disabilities are neither lazy nor unmotivated. They can’t do better simply by trying harder. They need specific instruction, as well as assistive technology that will allow tem to access grade-appropriate content.

9. Setting the record straight.
One misconception it’s time to lay to rest is that reading and doing well in school equate with intelligence. Children with learning disabilities may struggle in school, but are no less intelligent than other children: They are simply wired differently.

10. Offer praise for what your child does well.
Kids with learning disabilities are generally creative and resourceful. Praising them for what they do well will help build confidence in their abilities. Many of our most innovative thinkers—scientists, inventors, performers and entrepreneurs—have learning disabilities. With your love and support and their own hard work, there is nothing these kids cannot achieve.