Just thinking about the new school year can fill the heart and mind of any child with a sense of dread. Saying goodbye to the lazy days of summer and adjusting to early-morning alarm clocks and unprecedented loads of homework is tough, there’s no doubt about it. But for children with learning disabilities, the fear of another year fraught with setbacks and failures can be paralyzing. Here’s how you can ease those fears and improve your child’s self-esteem.
If you are the parent of a learning-disabled child, you are probably already familiar with the heartbreak of watching your child's self-esteem plummet as he struggles to keep up in class. You may feel frustrated and unsure how to help. With patience, understanding and the proper tools, you can help build your child's confidence and instill the belief that success in school and life is possible. Here are some tips that you can try to increase your child's self-esteem and self-awareness.
Overcoming the 'I can't' attitude
One of the biggest challenges to working with a learning-disabled student is overcoming the "I can't" attitude. Repeatedly failing to master tasks or skills has a tremendous impact on a child's self-worth, motivation and desire to learn.
Focus on the positive to help build self-esteem
Learning-disabled children need to be reminded that while they may struggle with reading or math, they have many academic and non-academic strengths that make them fantastic people. Sit down with your child and make a list of all of the amazing skills and talents she has, then tape it to the bathroom mirror or any place where it will be seen on a daily basis. Encourage your child to expand on these strengths by participating in activities (for example, sports, music or dance lessons, drama classes) that will let her shine and boost her confidence.
Seek inspiration from a role model
Stories abound about the challenges that many famous people have overcome in order to achieve great success. Find a role model or two who your child relates to -- a person who may themselves had learning disabilities, and tell their story, highlighting the fact that having a learning disability does not equate to failing in life.
Is your daughter an aspiring actress? Keira Knightly struggled with dyslexia throughout her childhood but went on to appear in dozens of movies, including the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
Does your son love sports? Magic Johnson endured taunts from his schoolmates over his dyslexia, but he didn't let it stop him from achieving five NBA championships.
As your child heads back to school, remember that teachers are on the front lines working with kids with learning disabilities and should be your closest allies in helping your child reach his potential. Set up regular meetings to discuss any issues both at home and at school so that you and the teacher are on the same page. Agree on a plan that can be executed at home, whether it's providing extra encouragement to complete assignments, breaking up daunting large projects into small, easy-to-complete tasks, or spending extra time every evening on reading or spelling.
Seek outside help for your child with learning disabilities
You don't have to go it alone -- there are experts in many fields who specialize in helping children, and even adults, with learning disabilities. A tutor can help your child find better ways of learning new information and provide extra help with difficult subjects. Licensed psychologists can test for disabilities or clinical disorders and treat the emotional and social challenges of living with a learning disability. For more information and resources for people with learning disabilities, visit www.ldonline.org.
If you are seeing a professional, consider asking if neurofeedback may help your child. Often when it comes to a learning disability, neurofeedback -- also known as biofeedback -- can help forge new ways of thinking and open new pathways in the brain that improve how learning disabled children process information. When selecting a provider, please be sure to use a board certified neurofeedback provider. A directory of certified professionals is available at www.bcia.org.
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