How moms with learning disabilities make it work
Dr. Lee Ann Grisolano | 05.15.13
Life is about moving beyond the challenges.
Women with learning disabilities see the world differently, but their lives progress the same way as anyone else’s. They grow into adulthood to reach the same milestones, such as marriage and children, as other people. The difference is that their learning disability doesn’t stop just because they become a Mom. But there is no reason a developmental disorder needs to hold anyone back. Life is about moving beyond the challenges, and for some Moms that means coping with learning challenges.
A Little about Learning Disabilities
A person designated learning disabled is someone who has a significant problem with one or any combination of various types of mental processing, such as language, retrieval of information, reading, writing or math. This individual may have a hard time reasoning out problems, or easily understanding what others are saying to them.
The exact cause of learning disabilities is poorly understood, but there is a clear neurological component. The trigger may be genetic, a trauma, or an anomaly such as poor brain development in utero. “Learning disability” is a broad category, and the population of those who have been identified as having a learning disability manifests a wide variety of characteristics. In other words, two people who have a learning disability can experience very different challenges from one another.
Intervention is the key to success when it comes to conditions that fall under the “learning disability umbrella.”
Parents, pediatricians, behavioral health specialists, or educators may see signs of a problem and will hopefully seek out or request a neuropsychological assessment to pinpoint breakdowns in cognitive processing. Interventions, such as special education, and accommodations and modifications in the regular education curriculum, can lead to improved academic achievement. Exciting new ways of facilitating brain development, like cognitive rehabilitation and other types of therapy, combined with more traditional approaches to remediate delays in skill development, are also showing promise.
Finding the right tools is an essential part of coping with life as a Mom.
Adults with Learning Disabilities
The impact of a learning disability lasts throughout life. The same things that made grade school a challenge can interfere with an adult routine as well. Little things like helping a child with his or her homework can make it a real struggle.
The process of managing the condition doesn’t change just because the body gets older or the affected individual becomes a parent. The same method that fosters learning in school can help manage adult life. Finding the right tools is an essential part of coping with life as a Mom.
Building a Toolbox
Whether dealing with learning challenges or not, Moms create a system that helps them manage their time, develop relationships, and learn new skills and information. Part of that process is finding the right group of tools to enhance the routine. Post-It notes, or a small notebook with Scotch tape, and pens kept in the glove box of a car can be used to jot things down so they won’t be forgotten during those hectic afternoons when there is so much to manage and remember.
Technology is perhaps the best friend of a mother with a learning disability.
Technology is perhaps the best friend of a mother with a learning disability, offering assistive programs that can make the load lighter. Each day, advances in technology create new tools that are able to assist adults dealing with learning issues. Software applications downloaded onto a computer or smartphone can be critical for those who face neuropsychological challenges in adult life. There are programs designed to deal with reading, writing and other disabilities. Speech recognition software, for example, can be a valuable asset to help keep tasks organized. Other computer tools that come in handy include:
- Talking calculators – for quick reference while helping with homework, or to figure out which brand offers the best deal at the grocery store!
- Predictive software – offers a list of words to choose from based on a partial sentence or spoken word
- Programs that type dictation based on oral language
- Computer timers – essential for prompting Moms to leave where they are and pick up and drop off the kids on time!
- Electronic to-do lists and reminders – for helping to keep a busy family’s schedule straight.
A learning disability may be a setback for a busy Mom, but it does not have to define her.
One of the hardest things for any Mom to do is to accept that she can’t do everything. For Moms with learning disabilities, who have often spent years of feeling less than perfect compared to others, it can be even more tempting fall into a trap of overcompensating by trying to take on the impossible.
It is important to take a step back and know when it is time to ask for help. A Mom with a math disability, for example, might need to enlist the help of an older sibling who achieves well in math or a tutor to help with another child’s math homework. Another Mom whose learning disability makes it hard to stay organized and manage her time well may need to rotate with other Moms to carpool so that she can juggle many responsibilities and make sure her child makes it to dance practice on time. A Mom with a reading and/or writing disability may not be the best person to proofread writing projects, and this task may be best left for Dad or a close friend whose gifts are more consistent with that kind of school assignment.
A learning disability may be a setback for a busy Mom, but it does not have to define her. Women with learning disabilities have dealt with plenty of difficult issues by the time they become Mothers. Figuring out ways to manage the condition while she balances life as a Mom, is just one more challenge that, with the right tools and perspective, she can overcome.
Dr. Lee Ann Grisolano
About Dr. Lee Ann Grisolano
Dr. Grisolano is a pediatric neuropsychologist who specializes in helping children and their families conquer problems with learning, attention, behavior and emotions. She is also a certified school psychologist who understands the many ways in which neurodevelopmental disorders can create challenges that are barriers to a child’s learning and development.
Dr. Grisolano has extensive clinical practice in school psychology, neuropsychological evaluation and behavioral assessment. She is an experienced college professor, published researcher and accomplished presenter.