After the Diagnosis: Next Steps
If your child was just diagnosed with a learning disability or a special need of any kind, there can be a myriad of feelings, to deal with such as shock, concern, fear, relief, confirmations, anger or sadness, to feeling overwhelmed with further questions-the biggest of which is, “Now what?”…
After receiving a diagnosis, following these next steps can be helpful for you and your child.
Learn all you can about your child’s diagnosis, while recognizing that your child is more than the particular diagnosis or label.
Nobody loves your child more than you or wants to see him succeed and meet his full potential more than you. By learning about your child’s diagnosis and different abilities, you can grow in understanding how to better support him, as you continue to be your child’s fiercest advocate and loudest cheerleader.
Investigate treatment options, such as therapies, interventions, and possible medications.
A great place to start is your child’s pediatrician or the diagnosing professional. You may also want to consider seeking holistic treatments by working with an integrative physician. There are more and more types of therapies available for various disabilities and special needs. Many therapy treatment options exist–from art and music therapy, pet and equine therapy, to behavioral and cognitive therapy, in addition to more “traditional” or standard speech/language, vision, physical and occupational therapies.
Seek support for your child and the family.
You can find parent and children support groups, such as Decoding Dyslexia and Eye to Eye Mentoring, as well as national charitable organizations, such as Scottish Rites, Easter Seals and the ARC that offer parent and family resources, supports, directories, grants/scholarships, etc. Also, non-profit organizations such as Joni and Friends, provide resources, a directory for disability ministries across the country, and family camps.
Talk with your child about his diagnosis and teach him to self-advocate.
Your child needs to understand that his diagnosis does not define him. There are many bright and successful people with disabilities. In fact, it is estimated that 1:5 people have a learning disability. Help your child come to understand what his difficulty or disability is and how it may impact him, but also teach him ways to work around it. Also, help your child recognize the ways he is smart and what are his areas of strength. The book, 8 Great Smarts, by Dr. Kathy Koch is a great resource. Self-advocacy is an important, empowering life-skill. Resources such as The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss, Yale Center for Creativity and Dyslexia, LDAdvisory, and Understood.org are a few examples of places to find resources to educate your child and teach him how to advocate for himself.
Make a plan for reasonable accommodations for the student and discuss these with your student and other adults/teachers, such as those in your community of faith, coaches, music teachers, and co-op leaders/teachers.
Accommodations level the playing field and help students to take in information or show forth what they know. Some common accommodations are extra time, use of audio books, dictation or oral assessment, or frequent breaks, to name a few. It is a good idea to keep a written record of the educational accommodations you will be providing to your student, in your home school file.
Be encouraged that you are your child’s best teacher, and home education is an excellent individualized educational plan.
While home education, due to its very nature, is an individualized educational plan, for homeschooled students with special needs, drafting a written, student education plan can be wise. True North Homeschool Academy Special Needs Advising and HSLDA’s Special Needs Educational Consultants, hslda.org, can help families with this and provide templates for how to do so. Additionally, their special needs consultants can help make sense of the diagnostic assessment reports and help you the parent-teacher come up with a customized educational plan. Lining up classes, such as those offered through True North Academy, can be a great way to customize your child’s specialized home education.
- Kathy Koch, Celebrate Kids, https://celebratekids.com/meet-dr-kathy/
- Yale Center for Creativity and Dyslexia, http://dyslexia.yale.edu/success-stories/
- 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential, by Zan Tyler, https://www.amazon.com/Tools-Cultivating-Your-Childs-Potential/dp/1935495437
- “Parent Pep Talk:Dealing with Your Child’s Diagnosis”, https://www.understood.org/en/family/taking-care-of-yourself/dealing-with-emotions/parent-pep-talk-coping-with-your-childs-diagnosis
Faith’s own learning struggles and diagnosis of dyscalculia compelled her compassion for other bright but struggling students. A fifteen year teaching career before she became a homeschool mom included both public and private schools, tutoring, and working as a reading specialist. Her specific area of expertise is the identification and remediation of reading difficulties.
As an extroverted-introvert who is a lifelong learner and an avid reader, her 2008 transition to homeschooling her own two children was a natural one. Faith currently applies her passionate advocacy for special needs students as she speaks at homeschooling conferences across the nation and internationally. She also serves as a Special Needs Consultant for Home School Legal Defense Association in addition to having her own in-home, private practice as an educational diagnostician.
Faith holds the following credentials
- B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from West Virginia University
- M.Ed. in Reading from Shenandoah University
- certification as a trained dyslexia intervention specialist through the National Institute of Learning Differences (NILD)
- certification in Equipping Minds Cognitive Curriculum
Faith’s articles have been published in several national homeschooling magazines, and she has been the guest of several homeschooling podcasts.