Success means different things to different people, but your hopes and dreams for your child probably extend beyond good report cards. Maybe you hope that your child’s future includes a fulfilling job and satisfying relationships, for example, or a happy family and a sense of contentment. The point is that success in life—rather than just school success—depends, not on academics, but on things like a healthy sense of self, the willingness to ask for and accept help, the determination to keep trying in spite of challenges, the ability to form healthy relationships with others, and other qualities that aren’t as easy to quantify as grades and exam scores.
For children with learning disabilities, self-awareness (knowledge about strengths, weaknesses, and special talents) and self-confidence are very important. Struggles in the classroom can cause children to doubt their abilities and question their strengths.
Ask your child to list his or her strengths and weaknesses and talk about your own strengths and weaknesses with your child.
Encourage your child to talk to adults with learning disabilities and to ask about their challenges, as well as their strengths.
Work with your child on activities that are within his or her capabilities. This will help build feelings of success and competency.
Help your child develop his or her strengths and passions. Feeling passionate and skilled in one area may inspire hard work in other areas too.
A proactive person is able to make decisions and take action to resolve problems or achieve goals. For people with learning disabilities, being proactive also involves self-advocacy (for example, asking for a seat at the front of the classroom) and the willingness to take responsibility for choices.
Talk with your learning disabled child about problem solving and share how you approach problems in your life.
Ask your child how he or she approaches problems. How do problems make him or her feel? How does he or she decide what action to take?
If your child is hesitant to make choices and take action, try to provide some “safe” situations to test the water, like choosing what to make for dinner or thinking of a solution for a scheduling conflict.
Discuss different problems, possible decisions, and outcomes with your child. Have your child pretend to be part of the situation and make his or her own decisions.
Perseverance is the drive to keep going despite challenges and failures, and the flexibility to change plans if things aren’t working. Children (or adults) with learning disabilities may need to work harder and longer because of their disability.
Talk with your learning disabled child about times when he or she persevered—why did he or she keep going? Share stories about when you have faced challenges and not given up.
Discuss what it means to keep going even when things aren’t easy. Talk about the rewards of hard work, as well as the opportunities missed by giving up.
When your child has worked hard, but failed to achieve his or her goal, discuss different possibilities for moving forward.
Strong support systems are key for people with learning disabilities. Successful people are able to ask for help when they need it and reach out to others for support.
Help your child nurture and develop good relationships. Model what it means to be a good friend and relative so your child knows what it means to help and support others.
Demonstrate to your child how to ask for help in family situations.
Share examples of people needing help, how they got it, and why it was good to ask for help. Present your child with role-play scenarios that might require help.