I am an educator with many years of experiences within the international settings and in different parts of the world. For the last few years, I have been working as a parent educator and with children with different learning abilities. These tips are based on my five years of expertise in this field.


It doesn’t matter how strong you are. When your child is diagnosed with any learning disability, you will feel angry, frustrated, mad, disappointed. Sometimes, there are even feelings of guilt, of being a victim and dismayed by what life has thrown at you. These types of behavior and feelings are totally acceptable and understandable, within the context. However, the sooner you accept and look forward, being proactive within the circumstances, the better for you and your child.

My first suggestion would be: read, research and connect with others who share similar experiences. Educate yourself and learn all you can about the particular disability. The more you know about it, the better. You will be in a better position and fully equipped to advocate for your child. You will be able to discuss and negotiate with the school knowing of what works best for your son/daughter. You will also know what rights your child has for an accommodated curriculum and what specific support to ask for. 

Second: focus on your child’s strength. Special needs kids have many positive skills and attributes and some weaknesses. Focus on what your child does best, “catch” him/her doing good and praise them about it. Diligently work on the weaknesses and remember to celebrate every time there is an achievement, every time your child has conquered a step. 

Often changing our perspective, changes the whole picture. A different ability child can be seen as a handicap and a victim or can be seen as someone whose brain is wired and works differently from others. Thus, it is fundamental to be accepting of diversity and thrive for success within individual abilities. Your child in one of a kind, a child who sees the world out of the ordinary and if you chose to go deep you may realize that your child hides wonders inside himself/herself. Usually, these kids are very artistic and creative. Their thinking level may be very high and interested in philosophical questions, how the world works, in fairness and justice and often their minds dwell in this complexity.

Third: ask for and accept help. Work with qualified personnel and implement their suggestions and recommendations. You, your child’s therapist and teachers are one team and should be on the same page, speaking the same language and reinforcing the same goals, strategies and techniques to achieve the same result - to fully develop your child’s potential.

Teach your child to set up goals and make them visible either by writing or drawing; discuss how to achieve and monitor progress. Along the way make adjustments if necessary.

Understand what type of a learner your child is. Kinesthetic, visual or auditory learner? Figuring out your child’s learning style will allow to better negotiate with schools which strategies to implement, so your child can move faster academically.

Speak, discuss and educate the emotional intelligence of your child by talking about feelings, ask questions such as “What are emotions?”, and name them.
“Where do you feel them in your body? What actions are appropriate when experiencing intense emotions? What is not acceptable?”.

Emotional intelligent kids have higher rate of success at life, when compared to those who are not able to handle their emotional state. Emotional intelligent children are self-resilient; they are able to understand their own body. They know what actions and tactics to adopt before proceeding and are able to adjust their behavior to respond accordingly and appropriately to circumstances.

Another important aspect is to teach your child about problem solving. What plan/choices your child can adopt when having an argument with another child? Examples are: walk away, cool off, talk it out, make a deal, ignore, apology. Reinforce the vocabulary and role play often with your child so your child is able to apply all these options in real life. A child that is emotionally balanced and knows how to resolve conflicts in a positive way, despite of any disability at hand, is much more successful at life and as an adult than those who are not self-resilient, and has the ability to build long lasting relationships throughout life.

Speak honestly to your child about his/her strengths and weaknesses, teach your child to list his/her favorable attributes and traits and work together on the weaknesses. A child who knows his/her talents will grow to be an assertive and confident adult, with the artistry to advocate for herself/himself (e.g.: asking for a front seat at school, asking for an oral assessment instead of a written one).

Educate and raise your child for life success, rather than school success. To succeed in life, one needs a healthy sense of the self, ability to recognize own gifts and limitations, mastery to connect with others and build constructive relationships. These abilities aren’t as easy to quantify as grades and exam scores, because they are the core of what makes us human, in all its complexity.

You have been given a brand new child, a one of a kind human being that you can raise and influence for a life time. Don’t miss the opportunity to parent a good human being who will be able to paint his/her life canvas filled with the colors of hope, happiness, strength, perseverance and determination and be the captain of his/her own life. As Ann Landers said once: “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.

Wishing you all the best in your parenting journey.

Karima Juma

The Aga Khan Education Board invites you to share questions, comments, ideas or proposals on topics to be addressed through the email: [email protected]