Learning Disabilities Expert Forum
Learning Disabliity?
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Questions in the Learning Disability Forum are being answered by medical professionals. Topics include: Assessment and Diagnosis, Behavioral Issues, Emotional Development, Family Issues, Language-Speech Issues, Living With Learning Disabilities, Parenting, School Issues, Social Development

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Learning Disabliity?

My 12 year old son has always had problems with his fine motor skills.  His writing today is like that of a much younger child.  His spelling is still a problem.   Even after repetitive studying in various ways, writing, saying out loud, looking at words etc and finally getting them all right, he will test and then miss quite a few.  He is what I would call a dreamer.  He plays beautifully and has an imagination that puts him in the moment.  He is generally a happy child that gets along well with people, although he can be shy and slow to speak out or ask questions.
If he doesn't get something he will call himself stupid or says his brain hurts.  He even tells me he heard his brain pop and since then he can't think. I sometimes think he is just being adverse or stubborn to work that may be tough for him.  I know he struggles and gets frustrated, but eventually he will get things.  He may forget them the next day, but he gets it at the time.  This year he has completed 6th grade with 3 A's and 4 B's.  But they are just grades easily given by some teachers that I don't think give a true picture of what is actually going on.  I'd like to get him tested, but do no want him labeled and then put in some special program.  Is there a way to get accurate and real testing to discover if there may be some underlying factor that is contributing to his struggles without school and government agencies getting involved?  I'm not sure where to start and am a little concerned about opening Pandora's box.
Any suggestions?  
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Hello,
   the issues you are describing are typical for what parents describe when children have learning or attentional disabilities. Many bright children with disabilities can keep up until they hit middle school, and then the frustration builds until it becomes an impediment. If he has been in an elementary school that includes 6th grade, and you are already seeing problems, it might make sense to get some testing done prior to his having to cope with the changing classes and higher expectations for personal organization he will find in middle school.

   As far as 'opening Pandora's box' goes, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about what exactly special education services are designed to do. The law that governs special education service provision is designed to support a child's progress (not ultimate best achievement ever, just progress) with the lowest level of services possible. It sounds like if you son were to be found eligible for services, that he would do fine with some simple classroom accommodations. A child is never placed in a special program without parental consent, and schools must err on the side of keeping a child in the regular education setting whenever they can. Special programs are expensive for schools, so they are in no hurry to place a child in them unless it is truly warranted.

   A child's eligibility for special education services is determined by a series of steps that include preliminary meetings, assessment, and evaluation of present level of performance. This process can take several months to complete. Given that his grades are so good, the school staff may even not agree that he needs an assessment. Under the law, you have the right to obtain private testing by the qualified assessor of your choice. A licensed psychologist or doctor of education can provide psychological testing services. I recommend private testing when it is within your financial means, as it can provide far more detailed and helpful information than what school systems can typically provide. I have a post up that describes private assessments and the reasons you might choose to seek on instead of going with a school assessment. I also have a post up about ADHD that you may wish to read as well. Check out the website www.ldonline.org for additional information about assessment and advocacy.

Finally, if his handwriting is not great, summer is a terrific time to buy some typing software and have him learn to touch type.

Best Wishes
Rebecca Resnik
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Richmond Hill Psychology Center
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