3 ways to help parents, students and teachers cope with the challenges of learning disabilities

Learning at your own pace

No right way or wrong way to learn
No right way or wrong way to learn | Source
Everyone has a different way of learning
Everyone has a different way of learning | Source

What is a Learning Disability anyway

I would like to take a few moments to respond to a very good question asked by a fellow hubber: "What is your biggest challenge in dealing with a learning disabled child, how do you deal with it"?

I must admit that from the moment I heard the term, I have always disliked using "learning disabled" to describe the difficulties my son experienced in school or anywhere else. Although I suppose that some parents might understandably take an initial defensive stance to receiving such news, I was already quite aware that a problem existed with my son's academic progress. I witnessed such frustration at home as well, so no, I was not the least bit surprised when my son's teacher called and wanted to chat with me. Rather, I was concerned because the term "disability" seemed to imply that there was something damaged or defective that would likely prevent my son from ever learning. I can imagine the horror a parent must experience upon receiving such a call from a teacher or other school official with this news when they have no such inkling and see their child's development and academic achievements thus far as otherwise normal.

Even though I thought I was prepared for whatever explanation and alternate learning plan would likely resolve his obvious classroom inadequacies, I was not. All I could do is question my own parental inadequacies and wonder what in the world did I do to cause this "disability"? Did I give him some kind of defective DNA, did I have too many glasses of wine during pregnancy? Not read to him enough as a baby? What kind of a future will he have if he is already being diagnosed with a learning disability in the first grade? And how can a parent possibly help their child through something like this? To me, at that point, a learning disability meant an inability to learn and quite honestly, as serious as my son's problems were processing the information in class and understanding the curriculum, nothing could have been further from the truth.

I found that a learning disability is a term used perhaps a little too loosely to describe a multitude of problems learning when using traditional teaching methods. Many times, if a child has enough self-confidence and positive support from teachers and parents working together as a team, the child can receive extra one to one learning assistance for a period of time and then eventually mainstream back to their original classroom. This however, is not the most typical outcome but I am not sure that it is because of the child's learning abilities or lack thereof.

There are a few things that I noticed throughout our journey through the school district's special education maze in addition to some comments from my now grown, somewhat more learning enabled son. I will share three of the most significant challenges that parents and children face when confronted with the learning disability label and how you as a parent can help your child grow into a happy educated adult who feels good about the person they have worked hard to become.

The 3 Biggest Challenges

1. Be Positive - You are a Role Model

If and when you learn that your child is experiencing has been diagnosed with a learning disability, don't react with visible signs of anger or disappointment. If you approach this learning curve with optimism, hard work and a sense of humor, your child is likely to emulate your perspective or at least see the challenges as a detour rather than a roadblock. Whether you realize it or not, your child is looking to you for direction and will soak up your reaction and your attitude like a sponge. One of the biggest obstacles that any child must grapple with are those of self esteem, so as a parent, you need to look for any and all strengths and focus on those, however insignificant they may seem, to a child that already feels like the odd kid out, they are huge! Traditional curriculum does not provide the best learning structure for these kids, due to a multitude of reasons, so they are already aware of the fact that they are "different" and typically feel very isolated.

By the time the testing begins so the school can determine more specifically what the learning problem(s) are and arrange suitable placement including an individualized educational plan, try to be as straightforward with your child as possible. If you explain to them with confidence and hope that you want to see them get the best education possible so they can do whatever they want to do in life, chances are that they will have an easier time with the testing and any other transition at school, like moving to another classroom or communicating any changes to friends. Be an advocate for them with a positive demeanor and hope for the future and they are more likely to follow your lead. Children look to us for guidance so if you have accepted that your child has a different way of learning and that is just fine then your child will be better able to adapt to any changes in their school routine.

2. Focus on Child's Strengths to Build Success

Since children learn in different ways, find out how your child learns best. Does he or she learn by hands-on practice, looking, or listening? Many children who struggle in a class of 30, can make great strides in a smaller classroom with more one-to-one attention. This is where the testing results and a diagnoses come in, depending on the type of leaning problem that your child may have has a great deal to do with how and under what circumstances they learn best. Children with learning disabilities often excel at a variety of things so, give your child plenty of opportunities to pursue his or her strengths and talents. Again, this is why I dislike the term "learning disability" because the majority of kids diagnosed as such are actually very bright, some are even considered gifted, they just learn differently.

Encourage your child to pursue activities after school that they enjoy, and that they are good at such as after school sports, art classes, animal care, anything that will act as a confidence booster. Not understanding the material in the classroom is very frustrating to children, in addition to the fact that they are often ridiculed by classmates, further diminishing any remaining self worth. To rebuild the self esteem that is so essential to success, focus on their strengths and do what you can to reinforce all of the exceptional qualities that the child does have to even the playing field. They must feel valued in order to accomplish their learning goals!

3. Find a Support System for YOU!

That said, as a parent, you must also feel valued, like your efforts are not all in vain. In order for you to be positive and supportive to your child, you will no doubt need your own shoulder to lean on every now and then so don't hesitate to ask for help. Aside from online research and reading, talk to other parents who have children with disabilities by joining support groups or non-profit organization. Although you might feel like it sometimes, you are not alone. There are millions of children in the U.S alone that suffer from some kind of learning disability. You are not the only one ripping your hair out on a nightly basis!

Blaming yourself and trying to pinpoint the reason your child has these struggles is really not the best use of your time and energy. To a certain extent I think that we all do it, it's what parents do, however it really does nothing to help your child and it remains a puzzle that will probably never be solved.Focus your energy on learning and helping your child learn too, demonstrating that learning is a lifelong challenge for everyone. And don't forget to laugh!

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Comments 62 comments

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Teresa thank you so much for commenting. Sounds like a familiar story and thanks to all of the patience and perseverance that you and your husband have, it paid off and I think it usually will --- eventually! The results are well worth it because they will carry that self confidence with them for life! Bravo! Thanks so much for sharing this!

Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

As a mother with two children with learning differences that at various times have made life in the classroom difficult for them, I applaud your hub. My oldest son was identified when my husband and I took him for psychological testing. It was helpful to put a name to the 'difference' in brain function that made school so difficult for him. Hard work at home and tutoring from our local 'Learning Disabilities Association' has made all the difference in the world. Connor is working at university level courses in highschool (he is in Grade 11presently). He is happy and self-confident . His story was part of a hub I just completed on learning disabilities. Yours is a well written inspirational hub!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks for your visit kipronor! I am smiling now :-D

kipronor profile image

kipronor 5 years ago from Nairobi

Keep writing , Keep Smilling!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you daydreamer13! Very nice of you to stop by and leave comments!

daydreamer13 profile image

daydreamer13 5 years ago

Very well put. Excellent hub!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you so much Eiddwen, It is nice to see you! Hope you are well.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

A great hub.so very well presented and veru useful to many readers. this one must have a vote up.

Thanks for sharing Chatkath.

Take care


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks for commenting Shea, I agree, a parent must tune into their child's learning strengths! I am glad that you are involved - so many parents are not! Keep up the good work.

shea duane profile image

shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

wow, you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned your self-doubt. that still sneaks up on me soemtimes. also, telling parents to find out how their children learn... GREAT point. my son is a visual learned and knowing that has helped me so much. i try to bring in whatever visual elements i can to help him when ever possible. and i advocate for him constantly (i actually use to be nice, not anymore lol).

great hub and thanks

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

So true Kitty, I am sure if the teacher had time, I would have been categorized with some kind of disability too - I was always bored - Point is, everyone is so different and we have to remember that! Thank you so much for visiting !! Always look forward to your feedback!

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

What an awesome hub. Voted up and useful. There are many children with learning disabilities and you are correct in saying that there's no right or wrong way to learn, as long as the learning is taking place! Everyone learns in a different way, whether with or without learning disabilities. Great job.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Lynn, you are so right! I know that was one of my problems in school is that I was simply bored and with all the kids in a classroom, if the parent doesn't take a very active role in the child's learning, it's unlikely that the teacher can catch everything and it is the child that will suffer! Good thing you took such a proactive role! Thank you for your comments!!!

Lyn.Stewart profile image

Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

Loved this hub ... I know I had some doozie "talks" with some of my sons teachers as he wouldn't listen in class and was rather disruptive.

It turned out they were going over the same info more than once and my son who learnt the stuff the first time it was taught got bored and so played up.

It is hard to find the right teachers for some children as schools only cater for "normal learning" children. I would suggest all parents should be involved in their childs learning as sometimes a brilliant mind can be confused due to boredom on the childs side.

Thanks for writing this it is brilliant and gives everyone so much needed info.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you so much K9 - You are such an incredibly gifted writer that your comments inspire and humble me. I am so glad that you had a chance to come by!

K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Properly handling these three challenges you present may well help someone guide a child who struggles to new levels of success. Knowing you have lived the challenge should bring hope to those who are newly facing the realization of having to manage a learning disabled child. I had no doubt your hub would be as awesome as always, but was thrilled to find it awesomely outstanding! Hub-Hugs~


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks Kathi, hope all is well with you! As a teacher I am sure you know first what happens when parents are in denial or overreact to the term "disability" even though it is an out-dated term, it doesn't do much for the child...I appreciate your insightful comments, I definitely learned by trial & error just hoping for the best....Such is life I suppose. Good to see you!

Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

You've given parents the best sound advice anybody possibly could. Everything you said was right on the money and coming from the perspective of a parent is better for other parents than from teachers. I am a former teacher myself and I agree, there is a problem with the term "disability". It implies a finality and must be scary to hear it the first time about your own child. Kudos to you Kathy, you've done a great job as a parent!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you Kashmir! I agree, these "labels" can actually do more harm to the child as their education progresses because the "disability" term is always in their file for whoever has access. (Or at least that's the way it was). Glad you stopped in!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Svetlana-

You are right everyone does indeed learn so differently, sometimes I think it's amazing that I made it through school at all "back in the day" as my son says. I didn't have a classic "learning disability" but I had a very short attention span and was distracted easily, and I still am. I think things within the schools have improved though, depending on the district, etc. but talking about it and being aware of the differences in learning styles is the first step. "Life is an eternal school" - This is a great quote Svetlana, thank you! Best of luck to you....

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Greetings Nell! (sorry I think I responded out of order here:-) You make a good point, of course a child is going to do so much better if he gets support at home and at school, everyone working together towards a common goal! Thank you for your comments!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

So good to see you Martie, you say it so well, blaming yourself, etc. is truly such a waste of time and energy - resources are better spent moving forward with positive support. Truly amazing how many so called learning disabled children are later found to have genius potential and are above average achievers. Interesting indeed!!!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi John, thanks so much for your comments, I know exactly what you mean, my son did this exact thing when his friends would tease him and humiliate him in front of others, asking him how to spell words, etc...This is when he started hanging around with kids that got in trouble, better to be bad than stupid I guess and only complicating the learning problems.

I am glad that you somehow made it through and took a negative and turned it into a positive. I wish there was a solution to this all too common problem in schools-it is major and the cause of so many ruined egos and lives. The only thing that saved my son was participating in sports but he still has low esteem to this day because of what he experienced. I know things have improved since then so I can only hope that with more awareness, things will get even better. Best of luck with that Novel!

kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 5 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Chatkath, a very well written hub that was very informative . I think sometimes people are too quick to put labels on others who may be having difficulty with something, and those very labels can sometimes cause them more harm than anything else .

Awesome and vote up !!!

kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Yes, I have to agree - it is disability of teachers to recognize and understand that we all different. It is the Bell-shape in statistics - yes, 70% are average, some are ahead of their age, some are behind - and there you go - a label.

I don't know how to deal with you - Your Fault. It is a phenomenon, when reality contradicts theory, some deny reality and still cling to theory.

I remember when I was reading on how to deal with temper tantrums - it was said that adults have the same when they reach their limit - they scream and can hit a child out of frustration, but it is the same frustration and helplessness. If you start yelling at an adult it would not help either, all he/she needs time to cool off.

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

I love your advice: "Blaming yourself and trying to pinpoint the reason your child has these struggles is really not the best use of your time and energy." I take my hat off for you, chatkath, for supporting your child in such a positive way AND for sharing your knowledge with whoever needs to know more about challenges in dealing with a learning disabled child. There were and are many previous-disabled achievers in this world - one I personally know is today a professor in economy - a genius in his field. (Like Einstein was in his.)

johnwindbell profile image

johnwindbell 5 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

Hi Chatkath, enjoyed your hub, you covered all the bases, except for mine. My learning disability stemmed from being taunted by a bully most of my HS years. That and having a very low self esteem, which the bully didn't help one iota. I wanted to be excepted so I did bad things that my bully and his gang did. If I would have had the 'balls' I should have confronted him and had it out once and for all, so I could have gotten on with my formidable years and gotten better grades and learned more. Oh, if I would have known then what I know now! But, things always work out for the better. If I didn't have a bully I wouldn't have the inkling to use that experience for my novel.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, great informative hub, any child who needs a helping hand will always progress much better with the help at home, there are so many children who don't have this support, its amazing how confidence is built when the child knows that there is nothing wrong with them, they just need a little help, rated up! cheers nell

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

So nice to see you Sharyn! Thanks for your encouraging feedback! Hope you are well mu friend!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Svetlana, I couldn't agree more! I have always felt different - there lies the problem, ah ha, must have a disability ?? So I will be different and admit my shortcomings (lol)

Thanks for your entertaining comments!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Well greetings Epi, I enjoy reading your kind words so much, yes it was a grand moment in time when I met you Epi, who'd of thought you'd become such a great friend.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you Maggie May - so good to see you! I appreciate your comments!!

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Hi Kathy,

As with your other writing about learning disabilities, this is excellent. Very open and informative with wonderful advice that no doubt will help others. Really great job!


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

You know, Kathy, a thought struck me, when we grow up we become deluded that if we made it through school we are no longer (or never were) "learning disabled".

I dislike the word - just as you do - I am different - therefore, disabled?

As adults we are not learning disabled, but we still have our difficulties in learning - life is an eternal school - how to survive when your brain gives up or interferes so much?

In this sense all adults are learning disabled - we have more challenges yet it is hard to understand our children - I am talking mostly about my own challenges - because I understand that most "adults" hate admitting their own shortcomings.

epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

..you have such a great heart Miss K - and that is what shines through so brilliantly in all of your hub subjects - your compassion and understanding - yes it's true I do learn from you - but I am 'always' moved by you too - a great friend you are and a loyal supporter, it was a grand day when we both met!

Maggie-May profile image

Maggie-May 5 years ago from the Island of Cape Breton to the Eastern Shores near Halifax, NS

This is very informative, a nice reference guide for anyone needing advice, thanks Chatkath, superbly written,

take care,


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks Genna- So nice to see you! Yes, thankfully we have come a long way - I remember a neighbor and classmate that was kept back several grades however if one saw what this kid lived with at home they would understand why he wasn't learning. There are so many reasons why kids don't learn at the same pace and I think we are beginning to address this, to avoid further damage. So glad you stopped be to comment!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks for responding Svetlana- I know exactly what you mean, I used to get so frustrated with Nic, my son that I often blamed myself because he had so many problems. It is incredibly hard to try and teach your own child when there are problems, although, even to this day Nic doesn't listen to me as he would to someone else.(Even more frustrating)!

Maybe there is someone else who can review homework with Daniel(?) Then you can do the fun things with him, things that you and he can enjoy together so you don't have to always play the frustrated parent. It is such a daunting responsibility. Hang in there!!

Genna East 5 years ago

Superb article, Kath. I also agree with aka Professor in that the approach to these challenges has improved over the years. I also feel uncomfortable with the term, “learning disabled” in that I feel it does an injustice in permanently labeling with negative connotations.

What also impressed me was the paragraph titled, “Find a Support System for You.” This is often overlooked or neglected.

Intelligently and thoughtfully written, Kath; well done!

kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Kathy, it is all true. You can tell that I have a child who struggles. But I am challenged, too - I have a teaching disability - a lot of people suggest that I become a teacher and I ruled out that possibility in high school - I become frustrated easily.

And here we go, Daniel and I - he cannot learn, I cannot teach - I am so frustrated.

I do have to find a way - your article just reminds me that there is always a hope and many ways. Maybe I am just being impatient - maybe all it is to his disability - is that he is a late bloomer. But he barely talks - at almost eight - other children have a good command of language just repeating after adults and my son is stuck.

Thank you again for the article.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Hubs today - Books Tomorrow!

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Aka Professor M 5 years ago

Many are the stories I could tell about those "Happy Days"!

Perhaps I may turn into some into hubs later, Chatkath!

Regards Mike! (Aka Professor M!) ;D

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Greetings to you Professor M, so glad you had a chance to stop in! I couldn't agree with you more, back in the day, if you couldn't complete the grade required work they just kept you back a grade! Wonderful for the self-esteem!? There are so many different things that can prevent children from learning and stupidity is usually not the problem, although that is what so many of these kids grow up thinking when kept back a grade.

I think we still have a ways to go, however, progress has been made, that's for sure. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks for visiting Prasetio, I am sure this is something that you encounter frequently as a teacher, as there are so many different ways to teach a subject and such an assortment of learning styles. My daughter in law (ironic how she married my learning disabled son!)teaches 5th graders and I know her biggest frustration is when parents don't follow up at home & a lack of concern.

Good to see you!

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Aka Professor M 5 years ago

The ability to deal with "learning disabilities" is being handled much better these days Chatkath and I am proud to see this type of responsible approach being advocated!

The educational system was far worse in the 1950s and 1960s where the Schools and teachers were by the book and those that didn't measure up were cast aside!

I applaud your insightful and intelligent approach in writing about a very delicate subject! Thanks Again Chatkath and God Bless you and Yours!

Regards Mike (Aka Professor M!) ;D

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Nice information. As a teacher I give big attention to this topic. I know we must care and more patient in give the best learning for disabled child. Thanks for writing and share with us. Well done, my friend. Vote up!


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Nice to see you Will, so glad that you stopped by! Thank you for your feedback!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks Ethel, guess it's not just here in the states! I have a friend who substitute teaches special ed classes in England and she says too often the kids end up as a behavior problem due to no parental involvement and a lack of confidence, probably misdiagnosed from the beginning. Good to see you, I appreciate your comments!

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Voted up and very useful! Well done.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 5 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Extremely well written hub. Learning difficuloties is a term used too often I agree and so many times inappropriately

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

So nice to see your smile Audrey! While I wrote this I thought of your story/hub about the boy you took a special interest in while you were teaching and the difference it made in his life, it is amazing how certain teachers and support like that can truly make an impact on a young person's future. Students were in good hands with you! Thank you for visiting.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you always exploring, I really look forward to your comments of wisdom! Unfortunately I learned some of this the hard way but for the sake of a child's self esteem, I hope that things are slowly changing!

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Every teacher and parent should read this hub! Brilliantly written, sprinkled with jewels of wisdom and truth.

"Treat a child, not as he is, but what he can become" has always been my motto and I have never been disappointed. When we truly believe in the potential of a child, the child feels and experiences that belief, giving him the strenght and confidence to rise and conquer.

I love this hub! I will bookmark it and forward it on to friends and family. Mostly - I will live it.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Chatkath, This is a wonderful, informative hub. Some of the greatest minds in science were considered retarded in their learning ability. Your comment about the parents reaction to the news that their child has a problem, is key. Thank you for sharing your story.


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

I have heard that about Einstein b., and boys do seem to mature and perhaps progress at a slower pace, (right into manhood LOL...)

Life is a learning experience for us all, I couldn't agree more! So good to see you, I always appreciate your comments!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you for your comments acaetnna! It is always nice to hear from a teacher's perspective! I must admit, my son had some incredible teachers and I know it takes unbelievable patience to work with a variety of learning styles. You do not receive the credit you deserve!

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

It is nice to see you R. - you are always so supportive and leave such encouraging feedback. Thank you for your visit.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you Fay - how true, I know we have made some progress, but not enough! Everyone learns differently, even children and they shouldn't have to feel so isolated! I am glad that you stopped by!

b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

Einstein had Learning problems in school when he was young...Boys are sometimes slower in their progress at school...and some of the best minds of this Century were not the best Students when they were younger...Parents do blame themselves.. unfairly. You've written a Wonderful Hub Chatkath. Life is such a learning experience for both child and parents...you've covered it well.

acaetnna profile image

acaetnna 5 years ago from Guildford

As a teacher myself I found this so very thought provoking - a great informative hub - brilliant - thank you for the inspiration that you have shown to others.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Your statement, "excel at a variety of things so, give your child plenty of opportunities to pursue his or her strengths and talents" is so important! Everyone learns differently!

"I found that a learning disability is a term used perhaps a little too loosely to describe a multitude of problems learning when using traditional teaching methods." -- A little too loosely indeed!

Fabulous closing statement. Bravo to you for your encouragement and efforts with your son, and for sharing some of what you learned as he grew up.

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Fay Paxton 5 years ago

Thanks so much Chatkath for this well-written, informative hub. I find that we make a mistake by marrying ourselves to methods. It is important to keep in mind that children learn differently and to try to formulate teaching around those ways where children are most responsive.

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