Walking In Their Shoes

shoe5 Things Parents and Teachers Should Know About Their Struggling Learner AND 5 Ways to Support Them

We recently held a Simulation and Strategies Event at Stowell Learning Center, Chino.  The parents and teachers who attended got the opportunity to see what it might feel like to be a student in class with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, or attention deficit.

Going through the activities was an emotional experience for participants as they realized the excessive amount of effort, attention, and energy it took to try to listen to a lecture when they couldn’t hear all of the words clearly or read in front of their peers when they couldn’t decipher many of the words.  They felt embarrassed and frustrated when they put a lot of work in on a paper, only to realize that they had done it all wrong because they did not pay close enough attention to the directions.

Here are some of things the parent and teachers walked away with:

  1. When you struggle to listen or read, it will affect your attention. Even if you start out trying your very best, eventually, you will probably shut down, give up, or find your attention drifting.
  1. It takes an excessive amount of energy, motivation, and attention to compensate for a learning challenge. It is almost impossible to maintain this level of mental focus indefinitely, causing students to become fatigued, tune-out, have inconsistent performance.
  1. Laziness, and lack of effort are NOT the reason smart students struggle in school.
  1. Loss of attention and motivation are often symptoms of a learning challenge but not the real issue.
  1. Nobody wants to fail. Our struggling students actually work very hard to cover and manage their difficulties.  Because they are often quite bright, they may be able to compensate just well enough to make it look like they can do the work better than they actually can.  This is confusing to parents and teachers, as kids seem to get it one day and not the next.

Here are some ways parents and teachers can support their struggling students:

  1. Learning differences are painful and require a great deal of extra effort to perform, cover up, and cope with. RESPECT the effort!  Instead of saying, “Quit whining.  Just do your homework.”  Try, “I’ll bet you’re tired from working so hard all day.  How about if I help you get started on the first problem.”
  1. Don’t tell them to “TRY HARDER.” Validate what they’ve done and then move on.  Even if the child has gotten only one problem done in 20 minutes, say, “I’m proud of you for getting started.  Let’s take a look at the next problem.”
  1. De-Stress the Task. Sometimes, students look at an assignment and they are so overwhelmed.  They don’t know where to start.  Even if they know how to do it, they feel like they don’t because it looks too hard or feels like too much.  Invest time in teaching them to locate, read, visualize, and analyze the instructions.  Help them see how the page is organized so that they can think about just one section at a time.
  1. Get their Attention. Be sure you have the student’s attention before beginning verbal instructions.  Get eye contact.  Say, “I’m going to give you some instructions.  Are you ready?
  1. Break the cycle of being stuck. “Just Do It” doesn’t always work.  If students are stuck, pushing on will be counter-productive and will extend homework out forever.  Go shoot some baskets together.  Chase the dog for 3 minutes. Do a minute of deep breathing.  Drink some water.  Do something to help them get unstuck – to shift their mental and emotional focus – before trying to move on with the task.

If you have a smart but struggling learner, the best gift you can give them is to correct the underlying processing learning skills that are actually at the root of the problem.

For 30 years at Stowell Learning Centers, we have helped thousands of children and adults with learning and attention problems to dramatically improve or completely and permanently correct their challenges by identifying and developing the weak underlying processing learning skills and remediating the reading, writing, spelling, or math skills that were lagging.

Bright children and adults with learning disabilities or dyslexia, or those who just have to work harder and longer than their peers can become comfortable and independent learners.

Do you have a child, teen, or adult in your life who is struggling with learning?  Give them the GIFT of change.  Here’s what to do:

JOIN US for a FREE Information Night.

If you’re feeling alone as a parent trying to help your struggling student, we have a FREE parent support group (P.E.A.C.E.) that’s just for you.

For information and RSVP go to www.learningdisability.com

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Speak to a Learning Specialist to learn more about the results from students and parents at Stowell Learning Centers.