3 Apr :Research indicates that parental reaction to the diagnosis of learning disability is more pronounced than in any other area of exceptionality. Consider: if a child is severely retarded or physically handicapped, the parent becomes aware of the problem in the first few weeks of the child’s life.
However, the pre-school development of the learning disabled child is often uneventful and the parent does not suspect that a problem exists. When informed of the problem by elementary school personnel, a parent’s first reaction is generally to deny the existence of a disability. This denial is, of course, unproductive. The father tends to remain in this stage for a prolonged period because he is not exposed to the child’s day-to-day frustrations and failures.
Research suggests that the parent of an LD child goes through a series of emotions before truly accepting the child and his problem. These "stages" are totally unpredictable. A parent may move from stage-to-stage in random. Some parents skip over stages while others remain in one stage for an extended period. These stages are as follows:
DENIAL: "There is really nothing wrong!" "That’s the way I was as a child–not to worry!" "He’ll grow out of it!"
BLAME: "You baby him!" "You expect too much of him." "It’s not from my side of the family."
FEAR: "Maybe they’re not telling me the real problem!" "Is it worse than they say?" "Will he ever marry? go to college? graduate?"
ENVY: "Why can’t he be like his sister or his cousins?"
MOURNING: "He could have been such a success, if not for the learning disability!"
BARGAINING: "Wait ’till next year!" "Maybe the problem will improve if we move! (or he goes to camp, etc.)."
ANGER: "The teachers don’t know anything." "I hate this neighborhood, this school…this teacher."
GUILT: "My mother was right; I should have used cloth diapers when he was a baby." "I shouldn’t have worked during his first year." "I am being punished for something and my child is suffering as a result."
ISOLATION: "Nobody else knows or cares about my child." "You and I against the world. No one else understands."
FLIGHT: "Let’s try this new therapy–Donahue says it works!" "We are going to go from clinic to clinic until somebody tells me what I want to hear.!"
Again, the pattern of these reactions is totally unpredictable. This situation is worsened by the fact that frequently the mother and father may be involved in different and conflicting stages at the same time (e.g., blame vs. denial; anger vs. guilt). This can make communication very difficult.
The good news is that with proper help, most LD children can make excellent progress. There are many successful adults such as attorneys, business executives, physicians, teachers, etc. who had learning disabilities but overcame them and became successful. Now with special education and many special materials, LD children can be helped early.