Learning and attention issues affect one in five children, but often go undiagnosed for years. This can be heartbreaking for parents and confusing for their children. It may seem like all of their classmates are reading and writing better than they are, or being accepted into their peer groups effortlessly.

Without a proper diagnosis, a child suffering from a learning or attention problem may seem “lazy,” “unfocused” or “difficult.” It’s important for parents to understand and not ignore the troubles their children may be having; not to think they will outgrow them. Seeing a child struggle and not knowing to how to help is frustrating. However, a new website, Understood.org, helps identify and better manage learning differences or attention problems.

Roughly 15 million children suffer from an attention or learning issue and too many of them fall through the cracks. On top of struggling with the condition itself, the children can face ridicule by their peers and dismissal by teachers who don’t take the time to understand their unique challenges. The result: a confusing situation for parents and students alike.

Understood.org makes finding the resources to help a child grow academically, socially or emotionally easier and offers step-by-step guidance for comprehending their problems. Your child may have trouble paying attention, holding conversations, or finishing school projects. Maybe reading, math or writing is difficult. A learning or attention issue can manifest itself in many ways, and to varying degrees of severity.

Be on the Alert

Key junctures in a child’s life serve as pressure points that can spark or illuminate a problem. Monitor your child’s behavior at these milestones carefully if you suspect she may be struggling. Watch out for warning signs, such as a change in attitude about school, homework struggles, or general communication issues. These junctures include, but are not limited to:

  • Starting school
  • The Elementary-to-middle-school transition
  • The Middle-to-high-school transition
  • Graduation (and onward to college or entering a career field)

If you sense your child may be having difficulties at one of these points or anytime, visit Understood.org to figure out what the problem might be and what to do next.

On the site, parents can chat with experts and join with other parents whose children have similar challenges. In short, parents can select their child’s problem if they know it, enter grade in school and find answers in the form of tested, expert direction. For example, for a child in grade 3 who can’t complete his assignments, the site recommends his work be divided into smaller chunks; that the child has breaks — easy to implement changes that make huge differences. In a section called “Through Your Child’s Eyes,” children give first-hand accounts of what it was like to live with, for instance, an attention disorder and be picked on by classmates.

Teaming Up for Help

Experts from15 top-notch non-profit groups, all specialists in dealing with learning and attention concerns, answer parents’ questions and help them think through and plan what steps to take. This could include suggestions for working with your child and child’s teacher to managing ADHD and making friends, just to name a few.

Opening up a dialogue can be helpful and beneficial for teachers too; from their point of view it’s useful when they have insight into each of their students’ worlds. The more they know about a student, the more options will be available for reaching and out connecting with your child. A teacher can then suggest ways to tackle an assignment that involves your child’s particular interests — trains or dinosaurs or archeology, that they would have been unaware of if you never reached out. Forming a partnership with children’s teachers is reassuring because the children feel that the adults in their life are working together to support them and have their back.

Students with learning disabilities can go on to lead successful and happy lives, but they need the right coaching at home and in school. If you suspect that your child is struggling in school because of such a condition, don’t be afraid to reach out to their teacher. In this day of email and social-networking, it’s never been easier to start a dialogue with your child’s teacher.

A child with attention or learning challenges can learn to cope, even thrive in the world and go on to do great things when the problem is recognized and addressed. Understood.org helps end a child’s being targeted and labeled—or overlooked—and sometimes tormented in what for many children with ADHD and learning differences feels confusing, unintelligible or hurtful.

For more detailed information, visit www.understood.org

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