Explaining learning difficulties to your child

Neuropsychologist Karen Schiltz, PhD, shares advice for parents on the best method for explaining your child's learning disability or difficulty to him or her
How To Explain Learning Disabilities and Difficulties To Your Child
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Explaining learning difficulties to your child

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How do you best explain to your child that they have a learning difficulty? You know, we all have difficulties, we all have weaknesses. There's little problems and there's big problems. I think with children we should not use labels, we need to tell them what they're really good at. If your child has had an assessment, you'll understand all of their strengths. This is very important for a child's confidence and self-esteem. If they have trouble with reading what I would say is, "You know, your brain just processes things differently. We're going to help you so that your brain is more efficient when you read." But I would also tell them, "You know, you're really good at math." Or, "You're very bright, you're very, very good." And I would also say… sometimes I use metaphors – I tell parents, “Tell your children, 'you're like a Ferrari, but one tire is not working too great – the Ferrari can't go as fast as what it could be.'" Use metaphors for your children. Look beyond the label – don't use labels for your children, because they won't understand them and it truly won't be helpful.

Neuropsychologist Karen Schiltz, PhD, shares advice for parents on the best method for explaining your child's learning disability or difficulty to him or her

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Karen Schiltz, PhD

Neuropsychologist

Dr. Schiltz is a clinical psychologist, licensed in the state of California. From 1985-1987, she completed a post-doctoral residency in clinical neuropsychology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine within the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. She received her doctoral degree in psychology in 1984 from the American Psychological Association accredited California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles. Dr. Schiltz has conducted a private practice specializing in the clinical and forensic neuropsychological assessment of children, adolescents, and young adults since 1988. She has held an appointment as an Associate Clinical Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine within the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, since July of 2004. She also held an appointment as an Assistant Clinical Professor within the same department from September 1993 to July of 2004. Dr. Schiltz has been a clinical supervisor within that department since August 1993 to the present time. Her faculty duties at UCLA include lecture presentations in the field of pediatric neuropsychological assessment, attentional disorders, accommodation assessment guidelines, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dr. Schiltz has written numerous articles on regulation and selective neurobehavioral disorders. In her 24 years of clinical work with children, adolescents, and young adults, she has emphasized the critical importance of integrating neuropsychological assessment findings to the application of accommodations to the classroom and home environments in a “user-friendly” manner. Dr. Schiltz supports a comprehensive team approach in the assessment and remediation of children who struggle with cognitive, learning, behavioral, social, and emotional difficulties. She sees a variety of students who are referred subsequent to or in the process of being diagnosed with a suspected learning disorder, attentional and concentrational compromises, suspected social communication disorder, memory disorder, neurotoxin exposure, scuba diving illnesses, seizure disorders, traumatic brain injury, cognitive changes due to medical illness or surgery, substance abuse disorder, pervasive developmental disorders, high cognitive ability profiles, among other neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions. Her experience has come from assessing children and working on intervention teams both in the hospital units as well as university and private-practice based settings.

In addition to her private practice and academic supervisory duties, Dr. Schiltz has written, co-written, and/or presented over 81 papers, manuscripts, and publications. Her book, Beyond the Label, was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. The book, along with coauthors Amy M. Schonfeld and Tara Niendam, helps parents and educators recognize the warning signs that may indicate a potential problem with a child and explain how to find the best help. Throughout the book, the authors stress that by focusing on behaviors and not labels, parents will be able to better understand the whats, whys, and hows of a child's learning and emotional challenges.

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