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Category Archives: Learning Disabilities


Motivation: Lessons From the Olympians

The following note was written by a youngster with a learning disability.

The Way I Learn and What I Think About It

By: Jason, Age 12

Motivation

I would like to express my thoughts and feelings about learning differences. I’m learning disabled. I learn best by using my body, saying what I need to learn verbally, and making songs to help me. Sometimes it is hard for me not to doubt myself. Some of my strengths are I am strong in English. I’m good with other people. Also I am good in many physical activities. One of the downsides of learning differently is that it takes me a lot longer to do or learn things. I think being LD means that it takes someone a little longer to learn some things than another person. Also I think it means the teacher needs to find other ways to teach you. People with learning differences are the same as everyone else, but when it is time to take a pencil, paper and do their work they may need help from a teacher, and someone else may not. If you are LD, you can reach your goals; you just may need to try a little harder.

Jason’s story could be repeated by all of your children I am sure. If anyone ever says a learning disabled child is lazy then they have never attempted to understand what it is like to hold focus while their mind is racing off at super speeds, or following a twisted path such that at the end you can’t remember where you began or listening to the teacher talk and not understanding what she has said, or starting off down the hall on an errand and remembering only the last instruction, or having to think if the letter b is the one that has the stick that goes up & ball to the right or the ball that goes down or the stick that goes down or … or….. This is why it takes longer! Your children try harder and experience fewer successes than their non learning-disabled peers. When you ask them what they like about school they often have to think. We all must play to their strengths and give them credit for their successes.

How far would our Olympians have gone if we constantly pointed out their shortcomings? Imagine the lessons that these athletes could teach us all:

  • Alex Bilodeau: It’s about inclusion and being totally inspired by his brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy.
  • Joannie Rochette: The courage to keep chasing your dream amid great adversity.
  • Jenny Ciochetti and Ryan Blais, the bobsledder and aerialist who both fell painstakingly short of making the Olympic team but still came to support their teammates.
  • Clara Hughes: How finding your passion can rescue you from a dead end path.
  • Jasey-Jay Anderson: Never give up. Stay true to yourself.
  • Brian McKeever: Refusing to let a disability define you. Handling a setback with class.
  • Jon Montgomery: ADHD perseverance, dedication and focus despite impulsivity.

In this last term of the year, we have to encourage every student to find their own personal, inner Olympian so they are able to successfully reach the finish line of the academic marathon.

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee”— Marian Wright Edelman


What to Do If You or Your Child Is a Perfectionist

Make a Schedule and Time Limit for Homework Completion

Learning strategies

Many perfectionists are also procrastinators. Why? They fear failure and put off starting until they are “in the right frame of mind”. Help your child by setting a beginning time as well as an ending time in sufficient advance of deadlines so that they are able to chunk their work into small pieces. This reduces the fear of failure and gives ample time for those perfect ideas to percolate. Teaching routines is important but help them to understand that their habits should not be so rigid that they can’t be changed.

Allow for Down Time – Do Not Over Schedule

Having no down time can overwhelm children. Feeling overwhelmed can spiral perfectionism out of control. Many kids with perfectionist tendencies can cope on their own while others only need a few events to trigger great anxiety. Having too much on their plate can instigate these feelings.

Respond to Worst Case Thinking

Perfectionists are color blind: they see the outcomes in black and white. Their attitude is all or nothing. Help them to consider alternative outcomes such as: “What would happen if the teacher didn’t agree with the points in your essay?” Discuss the possible outcomes from varying perspectives. They will see that imminent disaster will not occur.

De-emphasize all A’s

Instead of only focusing on the mark, comment on the amount of effort that went into achieving the grade. Help kids to understand that they can feel satisfied when they feel they’ve done their best, not necessarily the best! We all know good marks are necessary for the competitive admission policies to university and college but study habits, perseverance and work ethic are more important life skills than the number of A’s.

Mistakes are Learning Opportunities

If work is perfect all the time, kids are not challenged. Explain that there is usually more than one way to do most things. Give specific praise.

Model Healthy Excellence as well as Coping Skills when Dealing with Disappointment

Take pride in the quality of your work but don’t hide your mistakes or be constantly self-critical. Model the lessons you learn from mistakes. Humour always helps. Congratulate yourself when you’ve done a good job by letting your children know that your own accomplishments give you satisfaction.


Why Study Habits Are Important

Why Study Habits Are Important

Our son started to struggle at school in grade 2. The local public school felt that his struggles at reading and writing were the result of pressuring high achieving parents and perhaps if we relaxed, his learning would come along just fine. However, the academic timeline puts children into grades. Achievement and self-esteem do matter. Therefore we took matters into our own hands and had a private psychological assessment done. The conclusion was he had several learning disabilities as well as attention deficit. According to the assessment, not the teacher, at the end of grade 2 he was already 2 grades behind, and the school had no plan to help him catch up in the missing skills; all they could provide was a 40 minute group remedial class a few times a week.

We decided to send him to private school where he would have a small class, no behavioral distractions and a structured curriculum. Reasonable daily homework was part of the daily expectations from grade 3 to grade 8. The teacher marked it, and it was always accounted for. Assignments were corrected, and corrections mattered, so incorrect ways of doing things were never allowed to continue.

What was the value of this structure you may wonder? The resounding answer is discipline, the ability to set priorities and complete tasks; the old-fashioned notion that work comes before play and that true success is earned at the end of a job done well.

These steady work habits slipped somewhat when he reentered public high school at grade 9 due to the inconsistency of the public school homework pattern. There was either no homework or too much. My observation is that over worked teachers frequently, do not return the assignments in a timely manner, so the students miss out on the essential feedback necessary to learning. As a result, these students are unable to manage their time, set priorities or even realize the value of education in their life.

Our son is now in first year of University, and in conversation last night he told how his residence was emptying out already, with kids who could not cope with the work load of university. They were not prepared for the work load and independence. They had not been taught how to set priorities, manage time and work independently. A recent news report suggested that only 25% of those who enroll in university or college complete their courses. Whether or not that statistic is totally true I don’t know, but, I do know the drop out rate is very high! That is scary! Good study habits lay the groundwork for successful work habits as an adult.



Procrastination – What, Why & How

Procrastination

Procrastination Assessment

Sure, we all put off a few unpleasant tasks, but psychologists say that some of us poison our success with chronic procrastination. Is your child a chronic procrastinator? Try this simple quiz to find out…

They procrastinate excessively if you agree with five or more of the following statements:

  1. They often put off starting a task they find difficult.
  2. They often give up on a task as soon as they start to find it difficult.
  3. They often wonder why they should be bothered doing a task.
  4. They often have difficulty getting started on a task.
  5. They often try to do so many tasks at once that they don’t finish any.
  6. They often put off a task in which they have little or no interest.
  7. They often try to come up with reasons to do something else.
  8. They often ignore a task when they are not certain about how to start it.
  9. They often start a task but stop before completing it.
  10. They often think that if they ignore a task, it will go away.
  11. They often cannot decide which to begin first.
  12. They often find their minds wandering off to other things.

Why Do Students Procrastinate?

There are many reasons why students procrastinate. Here are the most common reasons:

  1. Perfectionism: A student’s standard of performance may be so high for a task that it does not seem possible to meet that standard.
  2. Fear of Failure: A student may lack confidence and fear that he/she will be unable to accomplish a task successfully.
  3. Confusion: A student may be unsure about how to start a task or how it should be completed.
  4. Task Difficulty: A student may lack the skills and abilities needed to accomplish a task.
  5. Poor Motivation: A student may have little or no interest in completing a task because he/she finds the task boring or lacking in relevance.
  6. Difficulty Concentrating: A student may have too many things around that distract him/her from doing a task.
  7. Task Unpleasantness: A student may dislike doing what a task requires.
  8. Lack of Priorities: A student may have little or no sense about which tasks are most important to do.

How Can I Help My Child Overcome Procrastination?

Here are some things you can do to control excessive procrastination.

  1. Motivation and Positive Self-Talk. “There is no time like the present,” or “Nobody’s perfect.” “The sooner I get at it the sooner I’m free” etc.
  2. Make a schedule of the tasks you have to do and stick to it.
  3. Prioritize the tasks you have to do.
  4. Set clear goals and be specific with time. Set a timer.
  5. Work on tasks at the times they are most alert and positive.
  6. Break large tasks into small manageable parts.
  7. Work on difficult and/or unpleasant tasks first.
  8. Work on a task you find easier after you complete a difficult task.
  9. Work on tasks as part of a study group.
  10. Get help from teachers and other students when you find a task difficult.
  11. Find a good place to work on tasks.
  12. Eliminate distractions that interfere with working on tasks.
  13. Set reasonable expectations that you can meet for a task. Don’t be a perfectionist!!!
  14. Take breaks when working on a task so that you do not wear down.
  15. Rewards when the task is done.


LD/ADHD Memory Tips

Improving memory

LD/ADHD and Working Memory

We all worry about failing memories and rely upon organization and mnemonic tricks to help us stay on top of everything. However, your learning disabled child will struggle even more. I’m sure there are times when you must think they are purposely ignoring you or they got distracted. In truth, it might be their memory that got in the way.

LD and ADHD students often have a weak working memory. This memory is different from the immediate short term memory. Working memory is the ability to hold something in one’s conscious thought and manipulate and use it at the same time. Students who have slow processing speed and written language difficulties also struggle with working memory. Working memory allows students to follow directions, to remember a question while raising their hand to answer it, and hold on to the new information they need to apply to the work. In reading, working memory aids our comprehension, making it possible to organize and summarize the text and connect it to what we already know. In writing, it lets us juggle the thoughts we want to get on paper while keeping the big picture in mind.

LD/ADHD Memory Tricks

  • Make certain they have a quiet study space that is theirs. The material they need to learn must be the most interesting thing around.
  • Aim for comprehension before memorization.
  • Learn using as many senses as possible. We retain:
    – 20% of what we read
    – 30% of what we hear
    – 40% of what we see
    – 50% of what we say
    – 60% of what we do,
    – 90% if we involve 3 or more senses
  • Mnemonic devices such as :
    – Visualization
    – Mind Maps and chunking information into meaningful categories
    – Rhyming Sentences (every good boy deserves fun)
    – Acronyms (HOMES for the Great Lakes)
    – Rhymes and alliteration (30 days hath September…)
    – Jokes
  • Don’t study for longer than 1 hour at a time – take SHORT BUT REGULAR BREAKS . Studies have proven that we remember more of what is studied at the beginning and end of a session so have as many beginnings and endings as possible.
  • Start to prepare early as the brain needs time to consolidate the information. Cramming works for very few.