Reaching for Resilience
In earlier columns, I have written about the social-emotional side of learning disabilities, and drew attention to some characteristics and behaviors, also called success attributes, that have been shown to be important (even predictive) of success.
As the summer months approach, I’m sure that you are thinking about ways to ensure that your child’s time away from the classroom is restful yet productive. I’m also sure that you are hopeful that summer activities, and the inevitable distancing from a focus on the 3 Rs (reading, writing and 'rithmetic), do not undermine the progress your child made during the past school year. I’d like to offer another important ingredient to consider, namely “resilience,” that can guide your summertime thinking and planning, and help to ensure that your child is re-energized and well-prepared for the demands of school (or work, or both) in the fall.
Let’s face it school can sometimes be a stressful and tension-filled place. For students with learning disabilities, the demands of listing and taking notes in class, completing homework assignment and projects on time, meeting with teachers for extra support, and staying connected socially to peers in and out of school can be, in a word, exhausting! And that’s why building resilience is so important.
Search for a dictionary definition of resilience and you might find “the capacity of a strained body to recover after a period of stress,” “the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune” or “the process of persisting in the face of adversity.” In reflecting on the challenges faced by students with LD, it’s easy to see how the concept of resilience would apply to their everyday experiences. Dealing with uncertainty of academic status, worrying about grades and the ability to keep up with peers, measuring progress against others who seem to accomplish work with seemingly little effort ... these are just a few reasons to justify working to boost resiliency during the summer months.
By helping children to become more resilient, the goal is not to have them deny the reality of their struggles but rather to recognize their areas of special need and to help them gain insight into their talents and inner strengths. Knowing how to face up to and answer tough questions, connect with people in ways that are helpful, and deal with frustration with creativity, imagination and even humor are all ways that we can help children with LD to become more independent and enjoy success in school and in the community.
The following is a list of websites and materials that offer information about resilience and some fun and practical ways to engage your child in helpful activities during the summer months. Note: Dr. Robert Brooks (a former member of NCLD’s Professional Advisory Board) has written extensively about the issue of resilience and about the impact having LD can have on social-emotional adjustment and family functioning, particularly during adolescence and the early adult years.