parenting a child with learning disabilities. when to change schools

School is supposed to be a healthy enriching environment for our kids. They are supposed to learn, be challenged, grow, and have fun. This is not always the case with children with learning disabilities or children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or trauma earlier in life.

What’s a parent to do when homework is a battle; getting ready for school is a fight; your child’s teacher reports that the classroom has become a near constant place of frustration? Your happy child comes home each day feeling dejected and stupid. What in the name of all that is holy are we parents suppose to do?!?

You meet with her teacher; you have her tested; you meet with the “exceptional children” team; you set up rewards systems; and still you want to pull your hair out on a daily basis.

When our kids struggle with either academics or behavior at school, our first thoughts should not be to change school. No, first we should work with the school and our child to make this current school a good or better fit. At what point, however, do we throw in the towel and accept that a change is in everyone’s best interest.?

The Beyond Consequences Approach to School

When I first interviewed Heather Forbes about her book Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control, we discovered that we both had dealt with learning differences (also known as learning disabilities) in our kids, and Heather had also experienced behavioral difficulties.

I mentioned that nothing in parenting had brought me closer to my knees than navigating the school system with a child with learning disabilities. She sighed and agreed. But she then went further and wrote a book on this topic to help other parents– Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approaching to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom.

Helping Kids With Learning Disabilities

I jumped at the chance to interview Heather Forbes again on the Creating a Family show about Helping Kids Who Struggle in School. Again, we found common ground as moms of kids with learning disabilities or kids with behavioral difficulties. We have both sent our kids to a number of different schools, and have also home schooled our child/children for a period of time.

Treat Schools in Your Community as a Buffet

As parents of kids with learning disabilities, Heather and I viewed the schools in our community as a buffet that we freely chose from based on what we thought our kids needed.

No doubt there are advantages to the continuity of staying in one school—

knowing the teachers and knowing which teacher might work best with your child,

the school and teachers knowing your child and you,

continuing friendships from year to year,

teaching our kids that we don’t quit and run at the first sign of difficulty,

the cost associated with private schools,

the time and lifestyle commitment of homeschooling, and

the huge convenience of having all your kids in the same school or school system for drop offs, pickups, and school breaks.

I didn’t take lightly the decision to switch schools or to homeschool. In fact, I agonized over whether we were making the right decision. But in the end, both Heather and I agreed that there were four signs that helped us know that the time had come.

4 Signs That Your Child with Learning Disabilities Needs to Change Schools

  1. Listen to your gut. Are you dreading picking your child up from school? Do you want to scream when you get another note from the teacher? Is your heart breaking for your child on a near daily basis?
  2. Listen to your child. Don’t rely on his words—kids often speak louder with their actions than with words. Pay attention to his behavior. Is your child miserable? Does he hate school? Is he able to hold it together in school, but fall completely apart when he gets home?
  3. Listen to the school. Do they seem willing to work with you to help your child? Does his teacher seem to dislike him? Is the school willing and able to incorporate some of what you’ve learned about the best way to help your child or do they want to make your child fit their rigid mold? If you’ve had educational testing, do the results fit your child or are they off the mark?
  4. Put your family first. Are school issues interfering significantly with your family life? Does your child and family have time for afterschool fun activities? Are homework battles sucking the joy out of parenting?

How have you approached schooling with your child with learning disabilities or behavioral challenges? Help others out by sharing your experience in the comments.

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Image credit: Barron Fujimoto