Are you worried that your teenager may be dealing with a learning disability? Are they really struggling when it comes to school work? Before delving into the signs and symptoms of this problem, let’s find out more about this challenging issue. If you already know your teen has a learning disability, we will cover what you can do to help, also.

What is a Learning Disability?

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In layman’s terms, a learning disability definition is this: a neurological disorder that can occur if a person’s brain is “wired” differently. Kids with learning disabilities are often just as smart, or even smarter than their peers. But, they might have difficulty with reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, remembering, or organizing information if they are trying to figure things out by themselves or with conventional methods.

Diagnosing a Learning Disability Can Be a Challenge

A learning disability isn’t something curable. It’s a lifelong process. But with the proper intervention and support, a teen with a learning disability can do better in school and find a successful career later in life.

Diagnosing learning disabilities can be a bit tricky, because many symptoms are part of normal behavior for younger children, according to MomJunction. But once a child enters middle or high school, the increased academic pressure may make the signs more noticeable.

These suddenly glaring signs mean that diagnosis as a teenager is more common than you think. In fact, rates of diagnosis for AD/HD go up in the teen years, not down.

Worried That Your Teen Has a Learning Disability?

It is normal to worry about your kids. But if the signs are adding up and they are struggling, sometimes we just need to know for what to look.

Here Are Six Signs Your Teen Has a Learning Disability:

1. Sometimes a child with this problem doesn’t like to read or write

This can be because he has trouble comprehending what he’s reading and this makes it difficult to put his thoughts on paper in an orderly way, according to TeenHelp.

2. Short attention span

In this case, a teen may have trouble focusing on one job at a time and may have difficulty sitting still to listen to a lecture or do homework.

3. Your teen may have trouble remembering lists of words or numbers

She may have a hard time remembering math formulas and tables or may struggle remembering words that have unusual phonetic patterns.

4. Sometimes a child with a learning disability may have difficulty discriminating between letters, numbers, or sounds

He may mix up numbers or letters and may have trouble processing what he hears.

5. Following directions may also be challenging

A child dealing with this disability may find following instructions difficult, possibly because she has trouble focusing, or memory problems get in the way. Struggling in this way may mean she’ll have trouble understanding and carrying out instructions.

6. Eye-hand coordination problems may also be present

This extra awkwardness can make it difficult for a teenager to complete school projects — especially those that involve fine motor skills.

learning disabilities in teens: Photo of young man struggling to read something on his cell phone.

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How an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Can Help

There are two learning disability plans that can be beneficial for your teen. If your kid needs special education and you request it, the school must, by law, enroll them in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This crucial legal document spells out what your teen’s learning needs are, the services to be provided by their school as well as how their progress will be measured.

This video gives an overview of what an IEP is.

What Is An IEP?

Under a federal law called the Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA), public schools must create an IEP for every child who receives special education services. Children from age three through high school graduation and even up to the maximum age of 22 (for those who haven’t graduated from high school) may be eligible for an IEP.

This legally binding document addresses your child’s learning issues and includes goals aimed at those specific needs. And your child’s school must provide everything it promises. The plan should address a child’s strengths, needs, and progress as they make their way through their education.

For teenagers, an IEP can them to better understand and manage learning and attention issues while they are still in high school. The IEP must also include a transition plan to prepare for life after high school.

Time For Team Spirit

Teenagers attending an IEP are set up with a team that sets clear goals to help them move forward. It’s even a chance for members of the community to become involved — including vocational counselors and other mentors who can help your teen find an effective way to deal with learning disabilities.

When your child graduates from high school, they’ll get a document that lists what they need to do well in the future. Called a Summary of Performance (SOP), it’s provided by the IEP team, and it includes:

A summary of your teen’s academic performance.

A summary of functional skills he’ll need for everyday life — things he’ll need to learn so that he can live independently. This includes skills like dealing with everyday life, for instance.

They’ll also recieve recommendations that can help him achieve his goals.

But if your child has a learning or attention issue, it doesn’t automatically mean that she needs special education training. Instead, she may be best suited for a 504 plan; we’ll get to that next.

How To Obtain An IEP

  • If you’re worried that your teen has a learning disability, you first must request an evaluation. These are generally done by the school psychologist and other professionals who will give your child some tests. They may also watch your child in the classroom. Evaluations can also be requested by a doctor, counselor, or a teacher.
  • The IEP team, which includes parents and school officials, will then decide whether your teen needs special education services to learn the current general education curriculum, Understood reports. According to the IDEA, 13 disabilities may qualify a child for special education. If the IEP team decides your child needs these services, an IEP plan is the next step. But if your teen is found ineligible, a 504 plan could be your next step.

What’s A 504 Plan?

These plans are designed to help kids with these issues learn alongside their classmates. And they do this by removing barriers that prevent learning. Covered by different laws, 504 plans work differently, yet still achieve the same goals: Helping your teen be successful in school.

Covered under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act, these plans give kids the support they need by preventing discrimination against them and thus protecting their rights.

However, unlike IEPs, 504 plans don’t provide instruction, because they aren’t part of special education. Instead, they provide kids with learning disabilities the same access to education as their peers. And they do that by providing a few accommodations — giving kids a bit of extra time on tests, for instance. Or the chance to leave the classroom on short breaks. Some students might be provided with speech-language therapy or classes on study skills.

In general, schools usually produce written 504 plans, despite there being no requirement for one. There are no rules set in stone regarding what 504s should look like, or even what they should include. The only thing schools must put in writing are their policies on such plans.

Obtaining A 504 Plan

Obtaining one of these plans is a more streamlined process. Unlike IEP plans, kids don’t need an evaluation, although many schools still do this. Here, however, schools review information from several sources, and this may include a medical evaluation. They may also review test scores, grades, and teacher evaluations.

Parents and schools can request these plans through a school district 504 coordinators, either way requests must be in writing. Then school officials will meet to determine whether a child qualifies, and what support is necessary.

Talking to Your Teen About a Learning Disability

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It’s important to let your child know that having a learning disability has nothing to do with intelligence. It just means that they learn things differently, and they are in the company of some pretty important people — like Winston Churchill and Alexander Graham Bell (who invented the telephone).

And whatever you do, give her time to adapt to this situation. Don’t rush her into learning things all of a sudden. Talk to her teachers about her progress. This can help you match symptoms to the problems she’s having. With time and a bit of planning, you can help her on her way.

Another way to help? Teach her to become her own advocate. Encourage her to talk to her teacher if she needs a little more time to finish homework. A teen who becomes her own advocate is a teen who may well become confident and self-assured. A good step towards dealing with a learning disability.

And lastly, did you know that you can even test yourself for a learning disability? If you want to do that, just go here.

Featured image CC by 0,  by geralt, via Pixabay

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