It’s the start of the school year again! Where did the summer go? Most children look at this time with a mixture of sadness and excitement. But some children (and parents) dread this time of year. They're the ones who struggle in school, the ones with learning disabilities.

Parents need to know that they can play a significant role in helping their child who has learning disabilities to succeed. Here are eight ways you can support your child:

Be Positive:

Parents need to have an objective and positive view of their children’s disability. We all know people who struggled in school, but once they left, soared professionally and personally. Your academic career does not define you. This attitude will spill over to children. This will help your children know that they can find their talents, and with persistence and support they can achieve their dreams.

Be The Champion:

Children with learning disabilities often suffer from low self-esteem and shame. They need parents to help build them up from the inside out. They need their parents to be their champions. Children who have parents who offer ongoing support and encouragement are the ones who are more likely to overcome their disability.

Parents want to let their child know that they are a person worthy of respect, separate from their performance in school. They can do this by pointing out their strengths and helping them pursue their interests, and believing that their child will have a bright future. They can also serve as a safe base for when other people may shame and tease their child.

Help Children Identify an Interest or Hobby:

Children with learning disabilities need something to do that is pure pleasure for them, an outlet where they are immersed in their strengths and interests. For example, it could be drama, art, music, an interest in animals or insects, sports, science or computers.

This allows a child to shine in at least one area outside of academics. They can see themselves as a multi-faceted person, not just bound by their difficulties in school.

It might take a while for children to find their interest. We can encourage children by exposing them to different activities and be patient as a child finds their way.

Treat Children with Respect:

Parents can help children view themselves as people who are valuable and deserving of respect. They need be treated as a person with many dimensions, letting their strengths not their weaknesses define them as a person.

Parents can guide children to make decisions, involve them, and take their opinions into account. They can be included in discussions about where to vacation, dinner choices, and what chores they should be responsible for.

At the dinner table, invite their involvement in the discussion and encourage them to share their opinions and take them seriously.

This shows children you value them and is a great way to help them set the stage for their future when they need to stand up and be heard.

Role Model:

Parents can help children find a role model or a mentor. Ideally, this can be someone who has a learning disability and was able to succeed despite their challenges.

Focus on Perseverance and Effort:

Children with learning disabilities are so often criticized and put down. It is helpful for parents to praise children, with a focus on a child's ability to work hard, put in effort and persevere.

Studies have shown that children who are praised in this way are motivated to learn and will challenge themselves academically, even if they struggle. They tend to feel that they have control over their intelligence and by increasing their effort they can succeed in school. This can be a huge boon to the struggling student.

Take Time for Yourself:

Depending on the nature and severity of your child’s disability, you might be spending an inordinate amount of time managing your child’s school life. Many parents feel so much stress because they feel they are their child’s caregiver, case manager, tutor, advocate and lawyer, all wrapped into one.

There are times when you just need to take a break. You can’t do it all. The best thing for your child is to have a calm parent. That means that you need to take care of yourself. Go out, take a walk, meet with friends etc.

Enjoy your Child:

Children are children and they need to enjoy their childhood. And parents should enjoy their children. Don’t make every vacation day a long series of tutoring sessions and weekends into catch-up time for homework. We need to find a balance between helping our children with their school work and delighting in their accomplishments (however small they might be!).

Here’s to a great school year!