My Child Doesn’t have an LD, Now What do I do?

Sherri Frohlick, M.A.
Wishing Star Associate

The most common reason children and adolescents are referred for a psycho-educational assessment is because they are struggling to perform at age-or-grade level standards in the classroom. Comprehensive assessments for these types of referrals typically include measures of thinking and reasoning skills (cognitive ability), academic performance (academic achievement), executive skills (ability to monitor and manage one’s own self, emotions and belongings), how the visual and motor systems work together (visual-motor integration) and emotional development (e.g., feelings of anxiety, stress, sadness, aggression). In many cases this testing reveals a large discrepancy between a child’s general ability to think and reason (cognitive ability) and their academic skills, or significant differences in terms of ability level amongst the various cognitive abilities. If this difference is large enough, children qualify for a designation of “Learning Disability” that is recognized by the governing body for education (in BC, The Ministry of Education) and allows them to receive extra help and accommodations for their specific learning needs. Accommodations might include no time limits on tests, use of a calculator on exams and use of a scribe for written assignments and tests. These are determined by the psychologist performing the evaluation based on individual test results in concert with the policies associated with whichever school/school system the child is enrolled in.

It is also possible for children to struggle with learning but for their test data to not match up to the required criteria for an LD designation. This does not mean that your child is NOT struggling, but more so that the numbers don’t match up in a way that “officially” requires the ministry of education to provide them with the appropriate accommodations in the classroom. When this occurs, it can seem to many parents like their child is being lost in the “system.” And in fact, they often are. These children also need extra help and support in the classroom and beyond to learn to their potential and thrive. The problem is how to get it, given that the school systems is not then mandated to provide it.

Some schools with extra resources may be able to offer “non-official” extra support to students who are struggling (e.g., time with resource teacher, gifted curriculum), while some simply don’t have the funding or staff. In those circumstances it is important for caregivers to be advocates for their child by closely monitoring their progress, at the school or in the local community (e.g., occupational therapy, private tutoring, counselling for emotional issues related to school performance).

For many parents, this is the time that they also begin to consider their options outside the traditional public education system. For example, many districts now have “alternative” schools available within the public system that sometimes offer more flexibility around meeting the individual needs of the child, including schools based on outdoor education, fine arts, and the like. Other options might include those within the independent system. Often these options are much more costly making them an unlikely possibility for many families. However, some schools have programs for grants and funding available, and so it is always worth a phone call or two to understand fully what the costs are. Finally, some parents will also consider the advantages of home schooling when working to advocate for the individual needs of their child. The home schooling world is full of numerous options presently in terms of highly specialized program design, opportunities to connect with other learners in person or in the virtual world, and the like.

Beyond all of this, one of the best things you can do for your child who is struggling is to communicate that you just “get it” and are “on their side.” When children know “the big people” are on top of things they feel less anxiety and are more likely to come to you and rely on you for help when they need it. This will help you better understand their particular challenges and what you might need to do to help them. Addressing their challenges without overemphasizing them goes a long way to bringing a child emotionally to rest – something so significant for the developing child.

So, if you are caught in this situation remember that not having an LD designation is not the end of the line for your child. It just requires a different kind of attention to your child’s learning, a lot of advocacy and community connections, and careful communication with your child in terms of the next steps forward.

This blog posting is not a form of psychological counselling, advice, therapy, or assessment and should not be used as such by any individual. This blog posting is provided only as an article intended to encourage thought and discourse. For specific psychology related services, please contact an appropriate healthcare provider.