Parents understand that their children are much more than their learning difficulties. They possess a wide range of talents and skills. However, children with learning disabilities often struggle to see themselves the way their parents do, as they spend a significant amount of time in academic settings that constantly remind them of their learning challenges. As a result, their self-confidence and self-concept may suffer.
Tana Coleman, MA, MEd, an educational specialist at the Child Mind Institute’s Learning and Development Center, emphasizes that a child’s entire self-concept can be affected by a learning disability. Children may question their worth and wonder why certain tasks are harder for them compared to other children.
Some may even believe that they are not smart. In addition to focusing on academics and learning techniques, educational specialists at the Child Mind Institute assert that addressing self-concept and self-confidence should be a priority when working with children who have learning problems.
If you have already had your child evaluated, established a plan of assistance and remediation at school, and regularly checked in to ensure its implementation, you can concentrate on boosting your child’s confidence both inside and outside the classroom. Here are some strategies you can employ.
Start by actively listening to your child to understand how they feel about themselves. Pay attention to their concerns about disappointing you or questioning their own worth. When they express negative self-talk, reframe their thoughts and provide positive reinforcement.
For example, if your child says, “Ugh, I’m so stupid,” during a math assignment, respond by highlighting their strengths and progress: “I don’t think you’re foolish at all. I’ve noticed how carefully you approach problems, and you’ve shown great fluency in recent activities. You’re doing well.”
Provide context and a different perspective on challenges.
For instance, if your child feels inadequate because they require specific learning aids, such as noise-cancelling headphones or additional time on tests, compare it to wearing glasses. Explain that everyone needs tools that work for them, whether visible or invisible, and discourage comparisons to their peers.
Discuss your child’s diagnosis with them, emphasizing that it does not reflect their intelligence. Give them the vocabulary to express their strengths and struggles and help them understand how their learning profile may differ from that of other children.
Praise The Process
Instead of focusing solely on outcomes or grades, praise the effort and problem-solving skills your child demonstrates during their academic pursuits.
Encourage a growth mindset that promotes ongoing self-improvement and effort rather than solely seeking perfection. Remind them that trying their best in any endeavor is enough.
Promote Personal Development
Help your child see themselves as more than just their learning disability by fostering their personal interests and talents. Provide opportunities for them to explore activities unaffected by their learning challenges, such as dance, sports, music, scouting, art, chess, or robotics. Consider their existing interests and strengths when choosing activities.
Keep It Relaxed And Leisurely
Allow your child to have a say in the activities they participate in, focusing on leisure and enjoyment rather than competitiveness. Emphasize effort and growth rather than solely focusing on results or winning. The goal is to find activities that bring them joy.
Encourage A Sense Of Community
Help your child feel valued and connected by involving them in meaningful ways at home and in the community. Allow them to contribute, facilitate connections with peers and family outside of school, and encourage participation in volunteer work or faith-based programs.
These activities can enhance their sense of self, provide them with valuable roles, and develop their leadership and social skills.
By implementing these strategies, you can support your child with learning disabilities in building their confidence, developing a positive self-concept, and recognizing their value beyond their academic challenges.