Ask Tatiana: My high school daughter was just diagnosed with a learning disability…?

Dear Tatiana,

My high school aged daughter was just diagnosed with a learning disability. She is devastated. How can I help her feel better?


Heart Broken Mama


Dear Heart Broken Mama,

It is normal for a child (and their family for that matter,) to grieve the diagnosis of a “learning disability.” Typically, a lack of understanding and education regarding the diagnosis tends to feed negative beliefs about self and what the future may hold.

The reality is that “learning disabilities” are more about a need to “learn in a different kind of way,” than an inability to do something.  Most adults and children who have brains that work in a “different kind of way” have strengths that dramatically out weigh those who have brains that work in a “typical” kind of way. The very brain that may make spelling difficult or math challenging is the same brain that may give someone unbelievable abilities in the areas of creativity, problem solving and higher-level intuition and so on. The list of successful and prominent figures in history and modern times with learning disabilities is tremendous. It does not come down to good or bad or right or wrong, just different. Learning disabilities are not uncommon. One in ten individuals have a learning disability.

It is important that we acknowledge how difficult some tasks must have been for her and how challenging it is to go through school and life with an undiagnosed learning disability. It is normal for her to be angry, sad and scared. Don’t minimize how painful it must have been. However, stay strength focused. Ask your daughter to make a list of what she does well that is unique to her. Ask her if she would trade that brain to have it work in a “typical kind of way.” Review her neuro-psycho-educational testing with her and make sure she understands where she shines first. Help her understand where she may need extra support and how you and the school are going to provide that to her. Have her share with you what she is willing to do to meet her unique learning needs.

Finally, remind her of this, if you learn to celebrate your attributes, some day you will be grateful for your unique brain. You are not going to want to trade it. When you get there, you’ll be responsible for helping others with newly diagnosed learning disabilities learn by sharing your story. It takes all kinds to make the world go around and we need her unique brain because no one else can play her part.


Tatiana Matthews LPC
Atlanta Specialized Care

Do you have a question for Tatiana? Learn more about her Aha! Advice column here.