The expert on the phone was speaking directly to me as he reflected on how parents struggle to get information to help their child with attention and learning issues.
“It’s usually the mom who is getting a Ph.D. at home; they are reinventing the wheel all over the country,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell, founder of The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health and author of Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder. A new website called Understood is a comprehensive free online resource that would have helped immensely when we started figuring out how to help my dyslexic daughter.
Although Understood launched this fall, it has been in the works for some time; 15 nonprofit organizations joined forces three years ago to develop this site for the parents of the one in five children in the U.S. who struggles with learning and attention issues. "They pulled together extensive research from more than 2,200 parents and more than 100 experts to create a world-class website that is as navigable as Amazon or eBay," says Hallowell, one of the site’s experts.
“It is really a gift from heaven. A parent can go to the site, type in that they have a 10-year-old girl with reading issues and find marvelous video clips of children who have these issues themselves describing what it is like," Hallowell says. "The site also provides a community where they can get support from one another with daily chats and webinars with experts and chat rooms. I think it will change the whole world for these children and their parents. Not only is it free, it’s not attached to drug companies or anyone trying to sell anything. It’s almost too good to be true.”
Below are some of the site’s tools that are helpful for parents new to the learning disability planet and people who already hold “LD Planet Citizen” cards:
- Through Your Child’s Eyes: A series of interactive simulations and videos so parents can experience firsthand how smart people can struggle with a seemingly simple task when they have reading, writing, math, organization or attention issues.
- Tech Finder: Expert-approved apps and games, powered by Common Sense Media and searchable by a child’s grade and issues.
- Just For You: An opt-in system that provides additional levels of personalized content recommendations.
- Parenting Coach: Practical, age-specific strategies to help with everyday challenges, such as getting ready in the mornings and creating homework success.
- Decision Guide: Key questions to help parents think through big topics, such as whether it’s time to request a formal evaluation, let a child start dating or decide which path to pursue after high school.
- Other tools that will be online soon include an Action Planner, an Observation Journal and a School Ratings & Reviews tool that will be powered by GreatSchools and written by and for parents whose children have learning and attention issues.
As a parent of a child with learning issues, I’m glad to hear the website creators have taken the latest neuroscience and turned it into practical tips, no jargon. As a journalist who covers the learning disabilities beat, I’m glad to have a new answer for readers asking for community and more help for their children.
“It is a really good news story. I believe it can really change the lives of these kids and their parents. The beauty of Understood is they did the work for you,” Hallowell says.