If your child struggles at school, they might have a learning challenge and you might have to become one of their biggest advocates. Julie Ogata from ParentMap offers ways you can help.

What are some of the signs your child might have a learning challenge?

I think one of the strongest indicators is your gut instinct. Parents know their child best and if you see them trying hard to read and write and struggling. There might be some decoding problem or working memory issues.

One sign: A child might see a word and be able to read it one time and see the same word a sentence later and act like they ve never seen it before.

Children with learning challenges are often labeled as lazy or not trying hard enough. Doing homework can be a struggle because they re exhausted just trying to make it through their school day. They work harder for less output.

Another sign could be that they have behavior problems at school because they re frustrated with learning and they re acting out.

Learning challenges affects about 1 in 10 children and many of these children are very smart with above average I-Qs.

What can a parent do to help their struggling child?

The best thing to do is advocate for them, communicate with the teachers and be on top of what rights you have in educating your child.

Remember though that teachers are dealing with larger class sizes, so it s hard for the teachers to give lots of individualized instruction.

Your child also needs to be tested. School districts do testing, but there are so many cutbacks and testing is expensive. You might have to really advocate to get your child tested. You can also test your child privately.

What legal rights do children with learning challenges have?

There are federal laws that ensure educational services to all children with disabilities.

There is something called the Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a legal document that outlines the specific needs, learning goals and learning plan for your child.

There is also a 504 plan which is a list of accommodations for a student so they have the same opportunity to perform at the level of their peers.

These accommodations can include priority seating at the front of the class, more time to take tests or have someone there to read test questions to your child.

What tips do you have for parents trying to advocate for their child?

Keep a file. I would keep a file with all report cards, progress reports, samples of your child s work and correspondences with teachers. This way you have organized information to show specialists, administrators and other teachers.

Really know your rights. There are many agencies to help you navigate state laws and get advice. Some are listed on

Have your child tested. You can t have a game plan for advocating without knowing what the challenges are first

Get extra help. No matter how well you work with your child s teacher, you might need extra help from a specialist or tutor. Teachers can only do so much and they have large classes. Many are not fully trained to work with all learning challenges.

For more information on this topic, go to the ParentMap website.

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