Website is a Digital Ally for Students with Learning Differences

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Approx i mately 4.6 m i l l ion Americans, 2.25 million of whom are children, have a learning issue. Yet, one-third of parents of children with learning challenges don’t feel equipped to help their offspring navi-gate what can be a series of daunt-ing academic hurdles.  To address this problem, last year Understood. org launched a free comprehensive resource, providing families with an-swers, tools and customizable support to help parents better understand the circumstances and needs of their child. caters to families with kids working through attention deficient disorder, as well as problems with socializing, reading, writing, and math. These modern day mala-dies have been labeled with an alpha-bet soup of Latin-based acronyms:  ADD, ADHD dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, to name a few.

“Our goal is to help the millions of parents whose children, ages three to 20, are struggling with learning and attention issues. We want to empower them to understand their children’s issues and relate to their experiences,” states the Understood. org website. “With this knowledge, parents can make effective choices that propel their children from simply coping to truly thriving.”

The project began in 2012, when a group of parents, nonprofit organi-zations, researchers and adults with learning and attention issues started envisioning a place that could help address learning differences in a new way. This team conducted research with more than 2,200 parents.  Since then, 15 nonprofits partnered to form, four of which are Bay Area-based.  Common Sense Media and the Parent Education Network are located in San Francisco.  Benetech is in Palo Alto; Great-Schools operates from Oakland. The remaining partners include Center for Applied Special Technology, Child Mind Institute, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, Eye to Eye, as well as others.

The multifaceted website contains extensive information for diagnosing and treating learning disabilities. Understood’s team of experts worked with its editors and designers to cre-ate more than 1,600 articles, decision guides, quizzes, slideshows, tips and more. Notably, the digital platform visually simulates what a child ex-periences through tools like Through Your Child’s Eyes.

The computer, tablet, and smart-phone-friendly website begins by asking parents a few questions about their child. The user then receives customized information regarding school, home, friends, and feelings. Parents can also alter a combina-tion of tools and games to customize them to meet their child’s needs. Those looking for advice can directly communicate with industry experts, coaches, as well as parents facing similar issues.

Kathryn Piscitello is one of the mothers featured on the website. Her son, Josh, has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He’s also a 2012 Allegra Ford Thomas Scholar, an award given to graduating high school seniors enrolled in a two-year college, vo-cational, or specialized program for students with learning disabilities. “Never give up hope. Educate your child about the disease. Always believe in your child. Keep hoping that it will click and not ever doubt their feelings or invalidate what they say they need…Listen to them, hear them,” wrote Piscitello.