School Success: So Much More Than ABC’s and 123’s
Research tells us that kids who struggle with learning worry a lot about whether they are “not as smart” as other kids, and are more likely to attribute their successes to luck than to well-deserved grades that result from hard work.
What’s a parent to do? For starters, help your child know that while grades are important, it is also important that they feel good about themselves. Sometimes, we focus so much attention on academic performance that we forget to take into account the social and emotional issues that affect the way children perform in school. With the right kind of teaching, appropriate types of support, a lot of perseverance and some serious attention to building confidence, your child will be able to rise above their worry and self-doubt and put their knowledge and creativity to work!
Scene 1: The Bus and the Tear-Stained Test Paper
Your child with LD stumbles down the stairs of the school bus on Wednesday afternoon, lugging his back pack and clutching a crumpled sheet of paper. His face is red and his forehead is sweaty and something inside tells you that this frenzy has been caused by more than just poor ventilation on the bus. Without waiting for a “hello” or a “how was your day?” your child explains feverishly that the teacher gave a surprise spelling quiz today (the word list was first assigned on Monday) and your child was the only student in class who scored less than five out of ten correct. A big Friday spelling test is only two days away, and you can feel your son’s embarrassment and panic as he worries out loud that he might do poorly again.
What do you do? Your reflex is to fly into parental hyper-mode and set up a schedule of practice so there is NO WAY that your child will not know these words by Friday! But is that enough?
Scene 2: Social Sniping Strikes Terror When Least Expected
It’s Friday, the day of the big spelling test, and your son is finishing lunch in the cafeteria, trying to stay calm and ready himself for the test next period. Just as he prepares to leave, a group of classmates ramble by and, perhaps looking his way, make comments like “some people are such bad spellers,” “these are the easiest words,” and “you’d have to be stupid NOT to get 100 percent on this test.”
Scene 3: The Bus and the Tear Stained Paper (Part II)
The confident, well-prepared child you sent off to school trudges down the steps of the bus, clearly upset, with shoulders hunched and a defeated look on his face. He shares a test paper decorated with red circles and slash marks, and greets you by saying “I don’t want to talk about it.” Only after a hug and a few quiet minutes in the kitchen pirating the cookie jar do you learn about the teasing and how overwhelmed he felt, trying to listen to the teacher and write the spelling words as they were spoken aloud but worrying instead about the students around him and how he would be the target of their teasing if he didn’t ace the test.
It’s true that focusing on academic performance is one very important part of the school success equation. But let’s be sure not to overlook the powerful impact that social and emotional issues can have on the ways that our children perform in school. No matter how well-prepared your child may be for a quiz, if he feels uncertain about how to ask for help, if he believes himself to be less capable than the other kids in his class, or if he becomes overwhelmed and needs to “regroup” or refocus because of unexpected challenges, his scores can reflect his insecurities and not his abilities!
Here are some online resources to help you understand the social and emotional side of LD, and to help you help your child learn to be strong, self-assured and successful!
- “Learning Disabilities and Psychological Problems: An Overview” discusses social and emotional anxiety in children with LD.
- “Teaching Social Skills to Kids Who Don’t Yet Have Them” focuses on social skill difficulties experienced by students with learning and attention problems.
- “Nurturing Social Competence in a Child with Learning Disabilities” discusses the nature of social disabilities among children with LD, and what, if anything, parents can do to help their children and adolescents “fit in.”
- “Learning and Teaching Social Skills: A Relationship-Based Approach” focuses primarily on non-verbal learning disabilities, yet it also provides an overview of the types of social and emotional challenges that are common to all students with LD.
- “‘Do’s and Don’ts’ for Fostering Social Competence” gives specific examples of how parents and teachers can help children with LD.