At a glance
You get to decide who knows about your child’s learning and thinking differences, and how much they know.
Talking with others about your child’s issues can help things go more smoothly for him.
Discussing your child’s issues can help you find support you otherwise might not have known existed.
Deciding whether to tell other people about your child’s learning and thinking differences is like most other parenting decisions: It’s a personal choice. Maybe you just want to talk with his teachers and with your closest family members and friends. Or perhaps you want to make your child’s issues more widely known.
Whatever you decide, remember that it’s up to you what you’re comfortable sharing and with whom. As you make your decisions about discussing your child’s learning and thinking differences, it may help to know that there can be benefits to talking to other people.
1. Talking with others can help things go more smoothly for your child.
By sharing information about your child’s learning and thinking differences, you can give other people information that will help them understand how to work with your child and help him succeed. For example, if your babysitter knows in advance that your child has trouble taking turns, she may be better prepared to help him if he has a hard time playing board games with his siblings.
Passing along bits of information about your child can be helpful in many situations, such as when he gets invited to ride with a friend to a soccer tournament. If you know your child melts down on long car rides, you may want to mention to the driver that letting your child listen to his iPod can help keep him occupied. This can make the trip easier for everyone.
2. Talking with others can demystify your child’s learning and thinking differences.
Your child’s issues are a private matter. It’s up to you to decide whether to discuss them with other people. However, if you hide information about your child’s condition from others, this may make him feel as though there is something to be ashamed of, which obviously isn’t the case.
Depending on your child’s age, you might discuss with him how much detail he wants to share about his learning and thinking differences and with whom. The same is true when it comes to talking about the tutoring, therapy and other services he receives. As he gets older, you’ll definitely want to keep talking with your child about these things and respect his wishes.
It may be useful to script some scenarios with him so he’ll have a better sense of how these conversations are likely to play out.
3. Talking with others can help you feel less isolated.
Parenting kids with learning and thinking differences may add a layer of complexity to everyday routines. Not telling anyone what you and your child are going through may make you feel as if you’re carrying around a heavy secret. That’s a lot for one person (or family) to bear.
If you decide to talk with other people about your child’s issues, you’ll be sharing part of your life that they may not know. The people you talk to may be curious. They may be understanding. They may be moved that you’ve confided in them. And your frankness may make them feel comfortable telling you about their own issues, too.
4. Other people can be a sounding board for your decisions.
“My best friend has no experience with what I’m going through,” you might think. “Why ask her opinion?” But even if you don’t think a friend or relative knows anything about a particular choice you’re trying to make, she may know something that can make your decision easier.
Perhaps the friend you confide in can connect you with a family who’s been in a similar situation. Or maybe she’ll ask questions you hadn’t thought of. Getting an outside perspective can help clarify your thinking.
5. Talking with others can help you let off steam in a healthy way.
Voicing your emotions to other people can help you keep your cool when your child forgets his math book again. Talking with a friend or relative can help you take a breather and react more calmly at home.
6. Talking with others can open the door for them to offer you support.
Once people know the sort of challenges your family is experiencing, they may look for ways they can help you, whether or not you ask them directly.
For example, if your sister-in-law knows that therapy runs late on Wednesdays, she may realize that that’s a great night to drop off a meal for your family. Or your best friend might choose the weekend after a stressful IEP meeting to make a movie date with you.
Your friends, relatives, school and community are all rooting for you and your family. And while it may feel awkward at first, there are ways you can talk with other people about your child’s issues. The more they know about your journey, the better they’ll be able to support you along the way.
Speaking about your experiences with your child’s learning and thinking differences can give friends and family the chance to help you out.
People may be able to offer more support if they understand what you and your child are experiencing.
As your child gets older, it’s a good idea to discuss with him how much detail he wants to share about his issues and with whom.
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About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former Community Manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Mark J. Griffin, PhD was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.