Self-Awareness and LD: Enhancing Skills for Success in Life
Success. It’s what we all want for our children. Life success has something to do with health, education, gainful employment, meaningful relationships, and becoming a solid citizen in the community. But is it within reach for those with learning disabilities (LD) and is there a way to foster it in your child? Yes!
Researchers at the Frostig Center in Pasadena, CA and at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, have conducted groundbreaking research on LD and life success. They’ve identified a number of traits that lead to life success. In this article, we focus on one: self-awareness.
Instilling Self-Awareness—First in Yourself, Then in Your Child
When you first found out about your child’s learning disability, did you shake your head in disbelief at how much time, practice, and energy it would take to help your child? This is not uncommon, says Chris Schnieders, PhD, director of teacher training at the Frostig School. Taking it all in, accepting the challenges, and acquiring an “it-takes-a-village” mentality is a first step for parents. “Self-awareness may be a key element for us all—learning disabled or not,” she says. And learning how to nurture your child’s success attributes such as self-awareness can provide a useful framework for helping your child in the long run.
Monica Gomez, a social skills coordinator at Frostig, agrees that your child’s self-awareness is a critical building block to success. She says that it becomes a good indicator of how hard he will be willing to work to overcome roadblocks—how far he will be willing to go.
A child with solid self-awareness has a good sense of his or her own physical and psychological needs and interests and abilities.1 Does yours? What can you do to foster self-awareness in your child? Here are six ideas to try.
- Acknowledge the learning disability. Gomez says to be realistic about what your child struggles with and to get the help that’s needed. Also, have a frank conversation with your child about his or her LD. Help your child “own” it rather than pretend it is something that will go away with time. Research has shown that self-awareness about LD is a critical factor to adults’ life success.
“That is very important because there are individuals who deny that they have it or think it’s only a school-age issue,” says Paul Gerber, PhD, professor of Special Education and Disability Policy at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. “They therefore don’t factor that into their lives and tend to have blind spots about what they can or cannot do.”
- Cut the LD down to size. It’s important to be open and specific with your child about his or her challenges with LD. But when your child is struggling with schoolwork and the LD seems to be taking a lead role in day-to-day life, look for opportunities to emphasize that LD is not all there is. Research backs up the importance of this perspective: Adults with LD who are successful know how to compartmentalize their LD, says Frostig researcher Roberta J. Goldberg, PhD. “They can box it and contain it, so it is a part of what they are, but not all of what they are.”
- Talk about strengths and weaknesses. When you’re talking with your child, always talk about the strengths and weaknesses (or struggles) of each member of the family, including the family dog, says Goldberg. “Maybe Dad can’t cook well, but he’s a good problem solver, or maybe your child is not so good at reading, but is a marvelous artist.” And, maybe Fido shows no mercy when it comes to cats, but is a faithful companion to humans.
To make this concept concrete for a young child, you might try a technique used at the Evergreen Elementary School in Diamond Bar, CA. There, teachers have the students outline their bodies on pieces of butcher paper. On the paper, students jot down their strengths and weaknesses, and add to it as the year goes on. This visual representation makes it easier for kids to see that they are made up of so much more than just one trait.