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Lazy or Learning Disabled?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My son (age 9 1/2, entering 4th grade) is being tested for learning disabilities. My husband is totally against it, saying that it only give kids a crutch and schools an excuse to drug them. He feels that my son is just lazy and could read and memorize his math facts if he wanted to, he just doesn't want to. I on the other hand I struggle with my son each night to get through his work (both school work that was not completed during school and homework). I have noticed that he reads the first sentence well and then we go down from there. He will read the word 'left' instead of 'felt' and really seems to struggle with the little words (like on and it and the) but breezes through the big one (wheelbarrow). Anyway, how do I help my husband so that he will not constantly give my son the idea that he is lazy and he should be as smart as his friend (currently reading three grade levels above average) if he only tried. Getting my son the help he needs will be done with or without my husband's input, but I would like this to be a team effort.

A: Your son needs his parents to be his champion in all he does. From your description of his observable difficulties, I'm heartened he will be evaluated for any learning disabilities he may have been silently suffering through. If your learning is constantly sabotaged by things within you that you can't identify, trying harder and harder and getting the same disappointing results can be discouraging--you feel helpless and hopeless.

I don't know what your husband's conscious and unconscious reasons are for insisting that your son is a lazy kid who won't try his best. His attitude can and will deeply affect your son in a most profoundly negative way. I would ask him to accompany you to an educational psychologist, one who is known for not putting every kid he sees with learning disabilities on drugs. Let him present his concerns while you also present yours. A skillful therapist will be able to work with your husband's fears and opinions while not making him feel like an insensitive, unsupportive parent. My guess is that he has to work some issues out about his son not being the young man he wants him to be; these issues may come out of your husband wanting your son to be like him, a boy/man who got where he is by working hard and never giving up. Here's hoping he'll go with you, even if he initially wants to go just to give one of those drug-giving shrinks a piece of his mind. In my practice, I've always said to spouses, 'I don't care what gets him/her in here as long as they come. Then it's up to me to make things work out for the best.'

My best hopes for your son getting the help and support he needs and for you and your husband to find unity for the good of your boy. Update me if you have the time.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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