Your child learns differently to other children and now what do you do?
When our children perform according to our expectations we glow with pride, try not to boast, pat ourselves on the back and generally feel so rewarded but what if our child is different?
We have to face a huge roller coaster of emotions and it’s not easy. To help our child, we have to start with ourselves and ensure that we have the support necessary to carry us through many difficult days. We have to face the difficulties and then we have to be our child’s greatest advocate for, who will fight for him otherwise? Once we have accepted that there is a problem, faced the issues and enlisted our support we have to then determine what to do next.
First assess your child’s strengths. What does he do well? What does he enjoy? What are his interests? Use this to encourage confidence and to build learning. Confidence is usually in short supply for children who do not learn in the usual fashion. They never feel certain or sure of anything so, fear creeps in and confidence wanes at a very early age. When you have determined the strengths ensure that the child has the opportunity to use them. If he loves to ride bicycles, then take him bike riding. Search for opportunities where he has a chance of excelling. It’s that opportunity to excel that we all need to feel confident and children, who excel at school, get lots of positive reinforcement every day.
Make sure your child gets the same encouragement and applause for his strengths.
Use his interests for the tasks he finds difficult. Reading is a whole lot more interesting if you can read about your passion and you want to read the content. Remember to give him lots of time to play. It is through play that we learn how to navigate our way through life. Play is so important for all children but particularly for children for whom school is difficult. It is the most powerful learning tool. Children sort out their difficulties, strengths, weaknesses and limits through play. Their brains are used to sequence and to order their activities and repetition is endless. This repetition develops automatic responses and these, in turn, leave more energy for learning. Encourage your children to play. Do not intrude on playtime. Play is important. Tuition and organized learning opportunities may help your child but it is only through play that he learns to make decisions, assume responsibility and take risks.
The advice given by every teacher to read to your child is excellent but remember, you must enjoy it for otherwise you may be passing negative messages. The calm reassurance of reading together at the same time each day helps to provide a secure atmosphere in which to develop confidence. Reading together also provides for intimate moments, invaluable for learning how your child is feeling. Choose reading material that reflects your child’s interests and be ready to change when the child moves on to a new phase. Use the child’s interests to further your own knowledge and allow your child to watch you learning something new. Use your reading time with your child to develop skills he may find easy, like developing picture memory. This ability to visualize may aid your child in his work at school.
Many parents find that they need a tutor, for children who learn differently usually require a great deal of extra help. Choose your tutor carefully. Observe the tutor. Could you learn from this person? Does the tutor always explain in the same way or does she change her methodology to suit the child? Is she sensitive to the child’s needs? When he makes mistakes does she think that correcting every single one is necessary or does she select one problem area and focus on that? The tutor is very important for building confidence for you do not want your child to think he is inferior in school and then, must be really abysmal if he cannot understand from the tutor either.
For children encountering difficulty in school the world is full of fear. Fear of failure is ever present and they know that each day will hold some humiliation. They may, face endless corrections, not be able to read the instructions, lose their books, kick the ball into their own team’s goal, not understand instructions in time such as ‘before’ and ‘after’, the list is endless and it happens day after day after day. They need support, that only understanding parents can provide, to ensure that, in spite of early difficulties, they will achieve their potential. To provide for accommodation in schools and to tidy up the whole area of learning difficulties children are assessed and diagnosed with names like ADHD, ADD, and Dyslexia but, no matter into what category the child fits, the task of the parent is the same. Provide love, care, reassurance, consistency, build on their strengths, advocate for their rights, build confidence and remember to alleviate the fear that is ever present when there is no certainty.
Published in: ABWM April 2005