Learning Disabilities


There is no cure for a learning disability...


You do not outgrow it; but, it is never too late to get help.
Most people with learning disabilities learn to adapt to their learning differences,
and they learn strategies that help them accomplish their goals and dreams.


  • Learning disabilities are problems that affect the brain's ability to receive, process, analyze, or store information.
  • There are many kinds of learning disabilities. Most students affected by learning disabilities have more than one kind.  Certain kinds of learning disabilities can interfere with a person's ability to concentrate or focus and can cause someone's mind to wander too much.  Other learning disabilities can make it difficult for a student to read, write, spell, or solve math problems.

What Are the Signs of Learning Disabilities?
  • Learning disabilities typically first show up when a person has difficulty speaking, reading, writing, figuring out a math problem, communicating with a parent, or paying attention in class.
  • Some kids' learning disabilities are diagnosed in grade school when a parent or a teacher notices a student cannot follow directions for a game or is struggling to do work he or she should be able to do easily.
  • Other children develop sophisticated ways of covering up their learning issues, so learning disabilities don't show up until the teen years.

Dealing With a Learning Disability
  • Once an expert has pinpointed a person's particular problem, he or she can then follow strategies or take medicines to help cope with the disability. Some students who have been diagnosed with a learning disability work with a special teacher or tutor for a few hours a week to learn special study skills, note-taking strategies, or organizational techniques that can help them compensate for their learning disability.
  • If you have been diagnosed with a learning disability, you may need support just for the subjects that give you the most trouble. Your school may have a special classroom with a teacher who is trained to help students overcome learning problems.
  • Some schools develop what is called an Individualized Education Program (or IEP), which helps define a person's learning strengths and weaknesses and make a plan for the learning activities that will help the student do his or her best in school.
  • Medication is often prescribed to help some students, as with ADHD.

  • “Children with learning disabilities who know a lot about their families, tend to do better when they face challenges,” according to Sara Duke, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities. 

    The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative, according to Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University.  Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Fivush tested this hypothesis, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

    Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?  “The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

    Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.

    First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you...”

    Second is the descending narrative:  “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”

    “The most healthful narrative,”
    Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

    Children who have the most self-confidence
    have what Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.  Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

    The bottom line:  If you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.   (Source:  The Stories That Bind Us,” by Bruce Feiler, The New York Times, March 15, 2013)

What You Can Do
  • Do not make assumptions without professional diagnosis.
  • Search for educational opportunities outside the traditional systems (internet, university continuing education workshops, summer programs through school districts, etc.).  Parents and teachers can explore different possibilities to evaluate children and adapt programs to their learning preferences.
  • Keep the emphasis on how we learn and process the information best—not disabilities. 

  • Teach children with learning disabilities about their family's histories.  Children with learning disabilities who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges."  (Source:  "The Stories That Bind Us," by Sara Duke, psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, The New York Times, March 2013)    (see the Family History topic on this site.) 

  • Teach Family History to Children.  "Research shows that children who know where they came from are more resilient.  They are able to handle problems, do better in school and better socially, because they know they are part of something larger than themselves," said Helen Jackson Graham, English professor.  Helen is the Houston area Freedmen's Bureau coordinator, and has 20 years of experience in African American genealogical research.  Nurture the interest and collaboration of genealogical and family history research.  Linking to other families sometimes brings you right back around to your own family.  Help them recover their historical memory.  Help them recognize they are part of one human family.  Help them discover who they are, where they came from, discover their family stories, and to feel connected and bound to their families through generations.  (Source:  Reuniting the Black Family:  Volunteers Index Freedmen's Bureau Records, by Linda Talbot, LDS Church News, November 4, 2015)    


Visit one of the genealogy libraries in Spokane County (listed under the History topic) to receive personal help and learn research skills.  





  • Recognize that each individual has different strengths and challenges.  Emphasize personal growth.  Promote individuals comparing themselves to themselves, rather than comparing themselves to other people. Find something the child does well—a talent, or an area where they excel.  
  • All disabilities can be tested (through the schools), but some schools lack the funding to test them.  There are many institutions which can assist in evaluations.  Search for educational opportunities outside the traditional systems (internet, university continuing education workshops, summer programs through school districts, etc.)
  • After a professional diagnosis, resources are available to address the specific needs of the individual.  
  • Offer respite care to the parents.
Local Organizations
Additional Resources
All Our Children
(509) 464-5595; (509) 464-5599 (fax)
Email: mailto:aoc@allourchildrenwa.org  
http://allourchildrenwa.org 
The Mission of All Our Children is to work in cooperation with public schools and other organizations to meet the needs of children with disabilities

College Support for Students with Disabilities
Outlines legal rights and where to find assistance on campus.
http://www.onlinecolleges.net/for-students/students-with-disabilities/

Eastern Assistive Technology Resource Center
(800) 214-8731 (V/TTY); (509) 328-9350 (V/TTY)
Email: mailto:Spokane@seals.org  
http://watap.org

Spokane County Parent Coalition
(a program of The Arc)
320 E. 2nd Avenue
Spokane, WA  99202
509-328-6326
(509) 328-6342 (fax)
(509) 252-1565 (TTY)
Lance Morehourse - Coordinator
Email: lance@spokaneparentcoalition.org  
http://www.arc-spokane.org/Parent_Coalition_copy
A network of about 1,500 parents in Spokane County supporting a child with an intellectual or developmental disability.  We offer information about resources in the community, education about matters that are important to families, a strong advocacy effort, and leadership training for parents, self-advocates, caregivers and others.

Spokane Guilds' School
(509) 326-1651; (509) 326-1658 (fax)
Spokane Guilds' School provides evaluation, assessment, and early intervention services for children birth to three with developmental delays.
Winston Center for Attention, Language and Learning
Central Office in the University District
528 E. Spokane Falls Blvd
Spokane, WA
(509) 465-1252
North Spokane Office
605 E. Holland Avenue, Suite 202
Spokane, WA  99218
(509) 465-1252
http://winstoncenter.com/A comprehensive evaluation treatment center for children and adults with learning disorders.  Winston Center offers psychiatric, psychological, mental health, and learning disability therapy and advocacy services.  The services include psychological evaluations, dyslexia advocacy, ADHD, family therapy for newly diagnosed children, language and learning intervention, and services to examine organizational development and executive functioning.