Caring for those in Need

Unlocking Potential

I am a firm believer that the experiences that we have in life all share a larger purpose. As I get older, the more I believe this to be true. I remember when I was a young child, I was always behind in school. I struggled to be able to understand the material, especially math. I can still recall countless times that I would be watching my classmates finish assignments quicker or sitting at the kitchen table at home, staring at my homework in the hopes that the answers would appear on the page. 

BY Gaby DiFilippo | March 2024 | Category: Vision, Hearing and Speech

Unlocking Potential

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My parents were aware of these issues, had me switch schools a few times, and always helped me with my homework. My mom was always looking for tutors, learning programs, and reading books to try and understand what was going on with me. My dad spent countless hours doing homework with me and trying to find creative ways to understand the material. My parents were my biggest advocates, they never gave up trying to figure out what was best for me.

By the time I reached middle school, my parents realized that it would be helpful for me to get an academic and cognitive assessment done. When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with a few learning disabilities. I remember feeling relieved to know that I was not “stupid” and that I just needed a different type of instruction and learning environment to be successful in school.  

After getting diagnosed and after much thought, my parents decided to send me to a special school that was designed for children with learning disabilities. Although it would have been great if done sooner, it was one of the best decisions they ever made. I began to learn different strategies for completing math problems and began to comprehend more of what I was reading. It was awesome! I was actually capable of being able to learn! I learned how to advocate for myself and use strategies that I needed to be successful in school, such as making flashcards or using dialectical programs to help with writing. 

Being in school for children with learning disabilities helped me see that I was able to learn and that I was capable of furthering my education. As a young child, I thought going to college was not going to happen. However, I was able to do it. I was able to take those skills that I learned at my school and apply them, when I was in college. I finished my bachelor’s and decided that I wanted to be a counselor, so I continued to pursue my master’s degree in counseling. Fast forward, I am in the process of finishing my PsyD in School Psychology, with the hope of becoming a school psychologist to assist children with learning disabilities.  

Being able to understand school psychology and working towards becoming a future school psychologist has helped me understand how students feel, who are struggling in school, and how to help motivate them so that they can learn. A few weeks ago, one of my teen clients came in for their counseling session and the mom asked if she could speak to me first before her daughter had her session. She discussed that the daughter had recently been diagnosed with some learning disabilities and she was very upset and worried about how her daughter would be emotionally and academically. I disclosed to her that I have a few learning disabilities and understand the struggle, but that her daughter would be just fine. She is going to get the help she needs, to build her confidence and make herself more successful in school. She can do anything even with her disabilities, and since I was studying to be a school psychologist, I could help the mom navigate any Individualized Education Program (IEP) questions, etc. 

At the end of the conversation, the mom said she was “relieved” and glad that we had a conversation. This is one of the many ways that having a learning disability has been beneficial for me in life. Having a learning disability does not mean that you are not smart. It means you just need to find strategies and ways that help you learn. Having a learning disability doesn't mean that you cannot learn. Sometimes, you just have to go a few extra steps to accomplish something, but it is possible. One might need to work harder, but you will get to where you need to go, and you can achieve those goals. You can use your voice to advocate and say what you need. Having a learning disability means that you know what hard work is, and that you never know what you are capable of doing, until you get there. You can empower your kids that they have a superpower within them and that they can do anything they want to. I am glad for my learning disabilities and all the experiences that I have had with them. Every experience we have can help guide us and make us who we are. These experiences that we have can help us with whatever we do in life.  

Developing Strategies  :  Advice for Parents Monitoring Their Child’s Learning Disability 

Earliest possible assessment is key. It helps kids understand how they learn and get them going for school. It also assists with their self-esteem. 

Observation and Communication

Parents play a crucial role in understanding their child's struggles. Regularly talking with teachers, counselors, and other professionals helps build a comprehensive understanding of the child's needs. It fosters a collaborative approach, where everyone is on the same page regarding the student's progress and challenges. 

Diligence from the Start

My journey with learning differences began with my parents' awareness and involvement. Early on, I believe around second grade, they recognized the importance of closely monitoring my educational progress. They had difficulty with payments for psychological testing and believed that tutoring and other extra support would have been helpful, until I was struggling in middle school. Their proactive approach, involving regular discussions with teachers and seeking assessments, laid the foundation for effective support strategies. Although I was happy to get an assessment finally in middle school, I encourage parents to get an assessment earlier than that. I encourage all parents to be diligent from the start, and as early as possible, get an assessment and support for your child. It can significantly impact a child's educational journey. 

IEP Meetings

Participate actively in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, where the collaborative effort to shape a customized plan occurs. These meetings provide a platform for open communication, allowing parents to share insights into their child's strengths, challenges, and preferred learning styles. The collaboration between parents and educators during IEP meetings ensures that the educational plan is tailored to meet the specific needs of the student. 

Strengths-Based Learning

Fostering a strengths-based approach involves recognizing and nurturing the unique talents and abilities of each student. Encouraging students to explore their strengths becomes a cornerstone of building confidence and self-esteem. By shifting the focus from challenges to capabilities, educators and parents contribute to creating a positive and empowering learning environment. 

Self-Advocacy Skills

Teaching students to articulate their needs and preferences is a skill that extends beyond the classroom. Empowering students with self-advocacy skills allows them to actively participate in their educational journey. This includes expressing their learning preferences, seeking additional support when needed, and developing a sense of agency over their academic path. 

Continuous Monitoring and Adjustments

Regular Assessments: Ongoing assessments are crucial for monitoring a student/s progress. These assessments serve ascheckpoints to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and support strategies. Regular evaluations provide valuable insights into a student’s evolving needs, allowing for adjustments in the learning protocol to ensure continuous support throughout their academic journey.

Adapting Strategies: The process of continuous monitoring involves not only assessing academic progress but also adapting support strategies. It requires a collaborative effort between parents, educators, and professionals to identify evolving challenges and implement effective solutions. The flexibility to adapt strategies ensures that students receive the dynamic support needed for their individual learning paths. 


Gaby is a mental health therapist for children and teens. Gaby was diagnosed with a learning disability (LD) when she was 13. She attended a school designed for children with LDs. She went from a child, who didn’t think she could learn, to an A student. She learned that her LD was a plus in life and her career. She is currently getting her PsyD in School Psychology and started her own private practice, The Helpful Corner Counseling, LLC. 

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