For Friends and Family

Friends of Quinn is an online community that offers resources and support for young adults with learning differences, as well as for the people who love them. Founded by Quinn Bradlee, filmmaker and author of A Different Life, a book about growing up with LDs, our mission is to connect the LD world.

Do They Have LDs?

What to Do if You Think Your Child Has a Learning Disability

Parents can be the first line in determining if a child may have a learning difference. The good news about learning differences is that scientists are learning more every day. But what should a parent do when they see their child struggling and aren’t sure of the reason why?

1)    Educate Yourself: Learning differences come in all shapes and sizes.
 A child can struggle with reading, writing, mathematics or have trouble with abstract concepts. Children can have difficulties processing visual or auditory information. When parents see their child struggling with schoolwork, it is important to find out about the different types of learning disabilities and how each one can impact a child’s learning.

Although there are a number of different learning disabilities, all with different characteristics, there are also common signs. Parents should review not only the general signs of learning disabilities, but should read information on specific learning disabilities. View LDOnline’s thorough list of common signs of LDs.

2) Meet with the Teacher: They can help at home too!
Set up a time to meet with your child’s teacher. Teachers can provide a great deal of information on how a child is doing in school since they have the opportunity to observe them in a number of different situations and can offer insight on the quality of a child’s work. The difference between how a child performs in class and how they perform. Homework can be completed without time limits while class work must be completed within time limits; comparing and viewing work completed under both these situations can offer additional clues into difficulties a child may be having.

Teachers can also institute strategies to help in the classroom based on specific problems as well as provide ideas for parents to help children at home. While teachers can provide information on how your child is doing in school compared to other students, they are not empowered to officially diagnose learning disabilities.

3) Requesting an Evaluation: Evaluations come in all shapes and sizes
A parent has the right to request an evaluation of their child for learning disabilities. This request must be in writing and should be directed to the principal of the school. (If your child is in a private school, you are still eligible for an evaluation to be completed by the school your child would attend, if he or she attended a public school).

School Evaluations
A request for an evaluation should include:

  • Your child’s name, age and grade

  • Your specific request (such as “I am requesting the school district evaluate my child for learning disabilities.”)

  • Why you are requesting an evaluation

  • Examples of your child’s work

  • Any additional information you believe would be helpful


Once the school receives your request for an evaluation, the school is required to respond and let the parent know if they believe an evaluation is warranted. If an evaluation is deemed necessary, special education professionals will complete it. If an evaluation is not considered to be necessary, you will receive information regarding the reasons for the denial, as well as information on how to appeal the decision.

Private Evaluations
Parents have the right to have a private evaluation done at any time. There is no guarantee that a school will provide special education to a child based on the results of a private evaluation.

4) Developing Strategies for Success: A two-sided approach
Based on specific areas in which a child is struggling, parents can work together with teachers to help develop strategies to support a child’s success. Many teachers are willing to make modifications and accommodations in the classroom, even before an evaluation is completed.  
Some strategies in the classroom can include:

  • Giving oral tests rather than written

  • Providing a word list to help with spelling

  • Providing extra assistance in reading or math

  • Allowing extra time to complete class work or tests

  • Allowing every other problem to be completed for homework


Parents can help children at home by:

  • Complimenting children on effort

  • Helping to develop the child’s strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses

  • Providing reading or math tutors if necessary

  • Providing help with homework on a daily basis

 

Helping Teens with LDs

Tips for Helping a Teen with Learning Disabilities

Teens with LDs can struggle in and outside of school. In addition to daily frustrations with homework and school work, they may also suffer from low self-esteem or have problems with social relationships. As a parent of a teen with a LD you can help by being supportive and encouraging as you watch them find their own way in the world, as well as getting to know the specific learning disability your teen is struggling with.

Strategies for Supporting Your Teen

Tips for understanding and engaging in their LD

1.    Learn all you can about the specific LD. Learning Disability is a general term and encompasses many different types of LD. Some of the main types of LDs are associated with a person’s ability in the areas of language, math, reading, information processing (visual or auditory). Although there are a number of common symptoms, each type of LD provides unique difficulties and challenges to individuals. Please visit our section on Types of LDs to understand the symptoms and strategies of support.

2.    Talk with your teen openly and honestly about their LD. Engage in regular dialogue about the problems they may be experiencing and most importantly, ask for their input on what steps they think can be taken to help overcome the difficulties and what you can do to support. It is important they feel empowered to contribute positively and constructively.

3.    Involve your teen in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process at school. As they enter high school have your teen start sitting in on meetings. As with the above tip, your teen’s input into their own IEP can help create a specialized and effective strategy. This process will also prepare them for years beyond high school, when they will need to become their own advocate.

4.    Observe your child completing homework to determine what helps them the most. For example, do they work better on a computer rather than writing work by hand? Would books on tape help for reading assignments? What about a tutor to help with certain subjects? Open a discussion with your teen about which accommodations could help them best.

5.    Talk with the teacher about which accommodations and modifications are working in the classroom and which accommodations are not working. This information can be used to adjust the IEP for the following school year, or before if needed.

Tips for Homework

1.    Teens with learning disabilities can be easily distracted or can have a hard time focusing on completing homework. Creating a quiet place to do homework, free of distractions and clutter. Be sure to turn OFF the television.

2.    Help teens plan. High school students with learning disabilities may face problems planning for long-term projects. Use a large calendar to help them plan the project in steps/setting realistic goals. For mid-term or final exams, ask the teacher for study guides several weeks in advance to help your teen study for the test in increments rather than trying to study in one to two days.

3.    Focus on what they did right. If your teen brings home a test with only a few questions answered correctly, be sure to point out what they did correctly on the test. Go over the correct answers and try to build on the reasoning used to solve them to work out other problems.

4.     If your child is consistently frustrated, talk with the teacher. There may be some modifications teachers can make to homework.


Social and Behavioral Tips

1.    Make sure there is down time. Teens with LDs can feel pressured to keep up with classmates or feel burned out from the amount of effort it may take to complete class work and homework. Make sure their daily routine includes down time and activities for fun. This can include time in the evening for them to do things they enjoy, whether it is playing sports, listening to music, getting together with friends or simply being with the family.

2.    Develop your teen’s strengths--embrace the postive. No matter what difficulties a teen may have (as with all teens there are many), they also have areas where they can excel. Use these areas to help focus a teen on the positive. even encourage them to join clubs or other activities that accent those strengths. Of course, your providing them with positive feedback as they do their homework, chores, etc. will be invaluable to their self-esteem.

3.    Interact with your teen on a daily basis. Set an example by interacting with the people around you and have friends over to your home. The more social and interactive you are with your teen and with friends, the more practice you will be giving your teen in proper social interaction and etiquette.

4.    Role-play social situations, such as shaking hands or making eye contact when you speak with someone. Observe your teen for discomfort in social interaction, for example, not allowing for personal space or interrupting others when talking and use role-playing to strengthen these skills.

5.    Include your teen in decision-making. Teach them to analyze choices, look at the pros and cons of each decision. Create and provide choices to help them practice making choices and problem solving.

6.    Employ behavioral modification techniques and strategies at home to help improve specific behaviors and to strengthen other behaviors. Place a high emphasis on positive reinforcement rather than punitive measures.

 

Getting a Diagnosis

A learning disability is a gap between intelligence and abilities or achievements. This means that a child has the intelligence to complete the work but for some reason or another, has not mastered the skills necessary to complete the task. For example, if a child in fifth grade has normal intelligence but is reading only on a third grade level, there is a two-year discrepancy between intelligence and skills.
Teachers, or parents, can request an evaluation of a child for learning disabilities. If the teacher requests the evaluation, the parent must give their authorization for the evaluation to be completed. Requests are made when a child experiences difficulties in one area or another in the learning environment, such as in language skills or mathematics.

Response to Intervention
In recent years Response to Intervention has been used to evaluate a student’s response to specific learning techniques. Performance is monitored and evaluated based on how the student responds to different educational approaches.
This method may be instituted before any formal evaluations are completed, but after either the teacher or the parent has brought the challenges the child is having to the attention of the school. A meeting including educational professionals, such as special education teachers, school psychologists, teachers, administrators and the parents will be called. During the meeting, parents and teachers will indicate what difficulties they have seen in the classroom and at home. Strategies will be developed to help a student compensate and overcome weaknesses. For example, teachers may decide to give tests orally rather than written tests, or tutoring may be provided.
Once the strategies have been put into place, the student will be monitored. If the student’s work improves, strategies will remain in place. Monitoring will continue to determine if strategies should be modified as the child continues to improve. Sometimes, modifications are enough to help a student succeed in the classroom.

If no improvements are seen, a formal evaluation will probably be requested.
Formal Evaluations
A number of educational professionals are normally included in the formal evaluation. Based on the weaknesses noted by teachers and parents, there can be:

  • School psychologist

  • Speech and language specialists

  • Special education teachers

  • Teachers


In addition, parents are an important part of the evaluation process. Parents have a wealth of information about their child, their development and their educational history. Interviews with the parents to find out problems with homework, health history, cultural background and other pertinent information are an integral part of the evaluation.
The team of personnel will also review:

  • Health history and developmental milestones

  • Results of any vision and hearing tests

  • Educational history

  • Report cards

  • Attendance records

  • Discipline records

  • Reports from other professionals, if there have been any


Many times, the team will conduct interviews with current teachers or request a written report regarding behavior in the classroom, social interactions and school performance. Sometimes team members will observe the child in the classroom or on the playground to view how the child interacts with other children and how they function in the classroom.
Testing is also an important part of the evaluation:

  • IQ testing

  • Standardized testing to compare the child’s performance with other children their age and grade

  • Performance tests to measure mastery of skills


These tests provide educators and parents with information on a child’s strengths and weaknesses and help to plan strategies to help the child succeed and to set realistic expectations and goals.
Follow-Up
Once the testing is completed, a meeting will be set up with parents, teachers and school personnel to discuss the results and to organize a plan. Strategies discussed will be specific to the individual child’s needs.
Regular follow-up and annual meetings will help to make any modifications or adjustments to the educational plan and help to insure the success of the child.

 

THE PERFECT SIBLING

What does it mean to be “The Perfect Sibling”?


Learning disabilities take a toll on everyone in the family. We know generally how people living with the difference are affected, and we often hear about the parents. What you don’t hear is the story about the siblings. Whether you are older or younger than your sibling who has a learning difference, you will be affected. 

 

Here is a letter from Ryan Kelley. Ryan is the older brother of Dillon Kelley, who has been video profiled on FriendsOfQuinn.

 

Dear FriendsOfQuinn,

    My parents are Lisa and Michael Kelley. I have a brother, Dillon, who is eighteen years old. Dillon has an intellectual disability called Fragile X syndrome, which is a genetic mutation of the X chromosome resulting in mental retardation. Because of my mother's relationship with Quinn, I've come to view him as my older brother as well. I was always excited to hear that Quinn would be visiting us for the weekend, or that we would be going to D.C. to visit the Bradlee house. I even discovered a passion for filmmaking as a result of seeing how much Quinn loved to make movies. Many of Quinn’s behaviors and characteristics are similar to those of Dillon. While both Dillon and Quinn are older than me, I know that both are at an intellectual level that is well below that of an eighteen and twenty-nine year old, respectively.

    This is something that I have lived with for my entire life, and despite the difficulties we have had to face as a result of it, my only reflection on being Dillon's brother is positive. It has given me both the inspiration to make the best out of our situation, as well as the determination to make the world a better place for others like us: the ID community and their siblings.

    The reality is that most people aren't like us (Quinn, Dillon and me). Most people don't have the kind of support that we have, or as strong of families as we have. Most siblings, like me, are much more negatively impacted by their situations than I am or ever have been. This knowledge also has inspired me to want to help other people like Dillon and Quinn and I, and other parents like my mother and father and Quinn's parents, in a way that will bring support and a sense of security to those many people out there who don't have those luxuries already. I have been working with a group of eight other siblings of teens and young adults with disabilities to create a sibling-run organization focused on support. Our goal is to find as many ways as possible to help siblings and parents of teenagers and young adults transitioning from school to employment.

    My first project in that respect has involved working with the Saint Mary's County Public Schools system to establish a pilot program for me to go to school with Dillon to be his "social coach". The goal for this pilot (aside from the personal motivation of helping my brother through his final year of high school) would be to create a federal government-sponsored "buddy" program in which high school seniors and gap year students have the option of spending a year being a social coach, friend, and mentor to an intellectually disabled student at their school. This project is still in its very early development phase.
    Speaking on a broader level, I have a true passion for making life easier and more enjoyable for those around me, and have dedicated myself to working very hard to eliminate many of the difficulties and anxieties that come with having an intellectually disabled child, or sibling. Having been very close to Quinn and the Bradlee family over the years, I was very excited to learn about the creation of the Friends of Quinn website. I know that the potential for this website is huge- a social connection and resource "hub" for families of intellectually disabled youth would be life-changing for families like mine.
    As “the perfect sibling”, I have come up with a few things that I would like to implement to improve the lives of families, especially siblings, dealing with learning differences.
    The first is to have a heavier focus on the unique bond and connection between siblings and between parents of people with disabilities. The idea that we are not alone, that somebody else has walked the path that we might now be facing, and that there is a single place we can go to seek support from people in our same situation is very empowering and encouraging. For siblings specifically, this simple comfort could be the difference between a meaningful and compassionate relationship with their brother or sister, and simply "checking out" and neglecting their brother or sister entirely.
    The second is a network of partnerships with programs that actively support youth with disabilities in their school or early career years. In other words, Friends of Quinn has the potential to be a single destination for families to seek both support and assistance in school and transition into work. This website could have the ability, for example, to determine what programs (public and private) your child or sibling is eligible for, and it could also be your way into these programs. A partnership with LinkedIn and other service providers could facilitate employment options for the ID community that do not currently exist.

    The third is a greater presence in schools and youth groups across the country. Even having Quinn travel to high schools around the U.S. and speak about what the website is capable of doing would generate huge publicity. This is important because I firmly believe that there is an enormous potential to change the lives of tens and probably even hundreds of thousands of people through the use of this website.
                

Sincerely,


Ryan Kelley

 

THE CLASSROOM

The term “learning disabilities” covers a broad array of difficulties and challenges for children in the classroom. There can be problems in reading and other language based academics, mathematics or study skills and organization.
Strategies and accommodations in the classroom to help a child with learning disabilities succeed should be targeted specifically to the weaknesses and areas of challenge for the individual child. Normally, a meeting with teachers, parents and other school personnel will discuss what accommodations may help a child and how the school can implement strategies to help.


Many parents, however, don’t know where to start in asking for modifications or accommodations in the classroom. The following list should be used for guidance and to help parents begin to think about where their child is having problems and what type of accommodations can be included in the classroom.


Accommodations for Reading

  • Use highlighters for underlining key concepts in books or in notes

  • Use books on tape when available

  • Allow for extended time to complete assignments or tests

  • Provide outlines of material to be read

  • Provide extra assistance in reading instructions or directions for assignments and tests

  • Read tests to students or read certain sections of the test


Accommodations for Writing/Spelling

  • Allow for tests to be tape recorded rather than written

  • Supply the student with prewritten notes or have someone take notes for the student

  • Supply the student with written assignment sheets, rather than having them copy assignments from the board

  • Allow for extended time to complete assignments or tests

  • Shorten assignments to allow students time to complete

  • Provide students with spelling/word lists when completing writing assignments

  • Allow students to use an electronic spell checker

  • Allow students to either print or write in cursive, whichever is easier and more comfortable

  • Provide proofreading before completion of a writing project

  • Have student dictate assignment and have someone else write it

 

SIGNIFICANT OTHERS

Dating and beginning a new relationship is scary, for everyone. For those with learning disabilities, the prospect of becoming involved with another person can be extremely frightening. You may have low self-esteem, having felt "different" or felt like an outsider most of your life. You may have trouble with reading social cues, have trouble following conversations or finding the right words to express what you think. All of this can create fear, sometimes so much fear that avoiding relationships altogether sounds more appealing than forcing yourself to meet new people, develop new friendships and above all, become romantically involved with someone.
 
At the same time, we all want someone to love, someone to spend our life with. Choosing to avoid relationships, although easier and more comfortable, may make us lonely and miserable in the end.
 
The following are tips to help you:
 
Think about how your learning disability may impact your date. Communication is key. Explain what your date should expect. For example, if you have dyslexia, will reading a menu be difficult? Do you take a few minutes to collect your thoughts before answering some questions? You don't need to go into great detail or explain everything about your disability, only those things that may affect the date. As your relationship continues, keep up the communication, explaining what he or she can expect and how he or she may be able to help.
 
Be interested in the person you are with. Asking questions about interests is a good way to start a conversation. Many times this can lead to finding out what you have in common or what activities you both like. Showing a genuine interest in the other person helps to break the ice. Be armed with questions such as: What books do you like to read? What is your favorite television show? What do you like to do on weekends?
 
Remember, everyone is nervous in the beginning of a relationship. Sometimes, when you have learning disabilities, it is easy to believe you are the only one nervous, but the truth is, everyone is nervous when first getting to know someone. It can be easier for extroverts to make conversation but that doesn't mean they don't also worry about the other person liking and accepting them. Take it slow and relax.
 
Take time to check your appearance. To many people, appearance is equated with beauty, but appearance means so much more. People are attracted to those that smile and look confident and happy. Make sure your real personality shines through; whether or not you are physically attractive will have little to do with if you appear attractive.
 
Use active listening. We are often taught active listening skills in elementary school and they are just as important as we get older. Make sure to listen to what your date is saying. Conversation is the act of listening and sharing. It becomes much easier if you are interested in what the other person says and build upon their words.
Talk about your interests and passions rather than your disability. Although you may want to briefly explain how your disability impacts certain parts of your life, talking about your interests and what you feel passionate about will create more interesting topics of discussion and may lead to finding out about shared interests.
 
Don't use your learning disability as an excuse. People that like you will accept you, learning disability and all. Accept who you are, strengths and weaknesses and take responsibility for yourself. If you accept yourself, others will too.
 
Avoid meeting his or her friends on the first date. A first date is meant to get to know one another, not to meet all his or her friends. You will be nervous enough with just one new person to meet and talk with. Suggest a venue where you will be able to talk together without running into your friends or theirs.
 
Ask about the date ahead of time. Find out as much information as possible to avoid embarrassment or being uncomfortable. For example, will you be eating on the date? If not, you may want to eat a meal first so you aren't starving the whole time. Are there any special clothes or special items? If you are going to see a movie or play, you may want to make sure you have your glasses with you, if you are going ice skating, you will need warm clothes and gloves. Take time to find out in advance to save yourself from feeling uncomfortable later.
 
Be comfortable with saying "no." If something makes you feel uncomfortable, no matter what it may be, don't do it. This could be an activity that you would prefer not to participate in or it could be sex. No matter what, you are entitled to not do anything that makes you uncomfortable.
 
Being involved in activities in your community, volunteering, joining a club or taking a class can help you to meet people. The good thing about this is you have a starting point from conversation. You already have one thing in common. Being involved also makes you more interesting. It gives you interests to talk about.
 
The most important thing to do on a date is: Have fun and enjoy yourself!!ave someone else write it

Friends of Quinn

Friends of Quinn is a program of the National Center for Learning Disabilities and is dedicated to providing resources for young people with learning differences

Contact us at: info@friendsofquinn.org