Working with people with so-called “learning disabilities” is a passion of mine. I prefer to call them learning differences, since I’ve seen time after time that once these conditions are properly addressed, people can thrive in work, school, and life.
Over the past 10 years in my Silverlake therapy practice I have developed a passion for those living with differences. As challenging as it is to be neurodivergent or to have a neurologically atypical child, it contributes greatly to the richness of our society. That said, neurodivergence is by no means easy, and our world hasn’t caught up. Often the strengths of folks who are different aren’t celebrated. Instead, children and adults are constantly taking jabs and hits to their self-confidence. I believe that working on a small scale with this population can begin the process of making society as a whole more accepting of children and adults with neurodivergence. The more that individuals advocate for themselves and believe that being different is normal, the more “normal” traits and characteristics associated with neurologically atypical brains will become.
Addressing Learning Differences
I am actively involved in staying current with research for adults and children who experience the following conditions:
- Specific Learning Disorders such as: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia
- Sensory Integration Disorder
- Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders
- Impulse Control Disorders
- Language Processing Disorder
Having one or several of the above challenges wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t live in a world where we must adhere to structure and different environmental conditions in social environments such as school and work. This demand to learn in school or perform well at a job can cause people with a more atypical brain structure to experience the following conditions:
- Oppositional Behaviors
- Debilitating Procrastination and Avoidance
- Low Self-esteem
- Feelings of Worthlessness
- Addictive Behaviors
- Constant Career or School Changes
- Lack of meaningful relationships
- Debilitating feeling of being directionless
Parents of Children with Learning Differences
For parents whose children experience a difference that impacts social and learning development, the stress level increases. Parenting is already a very difficult job, and when you add in the worry about your child’s current or future well-being, it can increase anxiety and lead to states of depression.
Waxing and waning between feeling like “everything will be okay” to “oh no nothing is okay”, takes its toll on the individual being and on a relationship. At times I work with one person to help them navigate the parental demands and other times I support a couple.
Parents not only need a nonjudgmental place to release the tension, but they often need information. They need help understanding how their child sees the world, how their unique brain structure impacts behaviors and cognitive function, and how to emotionally support their child’s self-esteem and emotional development while at the same time structuring their child so they can be successful.
While I do not currently attend meetings at school. I am able to help parents to support their child with school activities and demands, in addition to giving suggestions for accommodations and general knowledge of the student services process. I can guide parents into helping their children develop better executive functioning skills.
Treating Adult Learning Differences
While research is currently identifying more of the abovementioned atypical neurological conditions during early childhood, in the past this was not the case. Many adults are experiencing mental health challenges as a result of undiagnosed learning challenges, or instances of neurodivergence. Often adults are aware of low self worth, or symptoms of anxiety or depression, but don’t understand they may have other conditions that play a role in how they are treated.
I help adults understand how their way of learning or processing information intersects with their identity and the way they are/were related to by others. Having a deep knowledge of these learning conditions helps me to treat anxiety and depressive symptoms more effectively.
Learning Differences in Children
I work with children individually and in family sessions when they experience emotional and mental health difficulties as a result of learning disabilities and processing disorders. In other words, I can help children feel better by working with them to change their behaviors so they can be more successful with friends and at school. Neurodivergent children often need multiple services to support them. I will collaborate with other professionals like Educational therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Neuropsychologists, and Behavioral Interventionists so that the needs of the whole child can be addressed.
If you are just starting out in the process and don’t know where to start, please feel free to reach out for a consultation. I do tend to lean towards mental health as being one of the last services added, since we hope the other services support the child enough that mental health services are not needed.