Increasing numbers of children are being diagnosed with learning disorders and behaviour issues. Single parent families can struggle to cope with a child that has demanding needs but help is available. Don't get caught paying big dollars for assessments and assistance without doing some basic research first.
Single mum Kerry Thomson from Northcote in Melbourne's north used to be one of many parents who didn't believe ADD (Attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) was real.
"I was one of those people who assumed that ADD was a disease created by drug companies to sell medication to fairly normal active children," said Kerry.
"I also thought it probably had something to do with the way parents were raising their kids. Basically I didn't believe that it was real."That was until her own experience with her daughter's learning and social problems.
Kerry hit a crisis in early 2012. She just couldn't cope with her eight year old Jasmin's demanding behaviour anymore. The most difficult time of all was before school, when Kerry herself was trying to get to work as well.
"Every morning was a battle, getting ready and going to school was a fight five days per week," Kerry told Singlemum.com.au.
"And when she got to school there were incidents with other kids and learning problems."
Kerry said she never had the same issues with her teenage son Terry.
"I have two kids but Jasmin has clearly got issues that Terry just doesn't have."
"My boss has been understanding but it has really impacted my work. I have missed a lot of days because of Jasmin."
Jasmin has been diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
ADHD affects up to 10 or 11 per cent of Australian children by some recent credible estimates and means that the child has problems focusing their attention for extended periods, usually combined with hyperactive behaviours. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a related diagnosis.
The term Dyslexia is usually applied to people who have extreme difficulty learning to read and is thought to apply to up to ten per cent of all children. Dyslexia does not necessarily mean that you jumble up letters when reading and writing, as is commonly believed.
Dyslexia can also affect a person's concentration, numeracy and motor co-ordination skills. Language Learning Difficulties (LLD) is another label sometimes applied to children who are slow to pick up new skills at school.
In Australia the term SLD (Specific/Significant Learning Difficulty/Disability) or LD (Learning Difficulty) are used interchangeably and as an umbrella term for a variety of difficulties which may or may not be dyslexia, according to the Australian Dyslexia Association.
Chrissy Taylor from Melbourne's western suburbs says 11 year old son Bradley has Dyslexia but she had a lot of trouble getting any extra assistance from the school for him. Like many concerned parents, Chrissy has bought and paid for expensive assessments of her son's learning difficulties.
"We went through an assessment process that cost us $600 and I have looked into what programs the department of education has for dyslexic kids but the school really hasn't provided us with any extra support or resources.
"Bradley has an Individual Learning Plan but he has fallen behind and needs extra assistance," said Chrissy.
"I have thought about moving back to New Zealand because there just seems to be so much more help available for dyslexic kids over there than there is here in Australia."
"There is no Medicare or Centrelink recognition of Dyslexia" Jodi Clements, president of the Australian Dyslexia Association (ADA) told The Port Stephens Examiner last week. The Examiner ran a story about local single mum Kelly Oldham's financial struggles to provide support for her dyslexic daughter Ella. Kelly also suffers from dyslexia, which can be inherited, but was not diagnosed until later in her own school years.
"Parents have spent up to $2000 on testing with no real answers and no school assistance," said Jodi Clements.
The Australian Dyslexia Association says: "Please do not spend loads of dollars on any external report/s which offer no evidence based educational treatment. Remember there are no quick fixes for literacy difficulties and the earlier a child is identified the better! Contact ADA, so that we can work with you and your child's school first."
However ADD and ADHD can attract Centrelink, Medicare and other support. The best first port of call is the family GP who can refer parents to a specialist psychologist for assessment and assistance.
Kerry from Northcote has now largely got on top of dealing with Jasmin's demanding needs with assistance from a range of sources.
"We have done the rounds of GPs and child psychologists and the local council sent a social worker here to meet with us," said Kerry. "I am a registered carer with Centrelink for Jasmin now, although I am still working fulltime and I don't want to give up my job."We have a carer who comes in every morning before school to help with Jasmin and getting her ready. That has been a godsend for us," said Kerry.
"Of course Jasmin has to take her medication every day and she is getting a lot better at doing that.
"Since getting the right level of support, the whole family environment has changed for the better and that includes Jasmin's behaviour issues.
"She has a timetable that she made herself that sets out what she is going to do every morning broken down into 10 minute blocks.And after school she even doing her homework. The change this year has been amazing!"
There are ADD/ADHD support groups and services in every state and territory.
Jason Bryce is a journalist, and an Australian single parent. You can also find Jason on Twitter - @jasonbryce
Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience - he is also a single parent, and is also a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel. He has a regular weekly column in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) and writes regularly for the Business Daily section of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and many other newspapers and magazines.
Jason's personal website is www.centrelinknews.com.au...read more of Jason Bryce's Profile here
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