This morning Bonnie Terry, owner of Bonnie Terry Learning center, spoke to parents about ways to overcome learning disabilities, such as ADD/ADHD and dyslexia, at St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church in Granite Bay. “The most important thing our kids who struggle with academics and learning disabilities need to know is that their brain is not broken,” she said. “We know that through neuroplasticity the brain is regenerating itself, so there are things that we can do to make that work for you to succeed in academics.”
According to the CDC, the American Psychiatric Association five percent of youth are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and in the United States some rates in communities are higher. And by our own daily experience in the network culture, the diminished ability to maintain focus and concentrate is increasingly common as more and more children find themselves challenged and stressed beyond reason to succeed in academics and contend with the “always on” texting and social media culture of their peer communities.
The most important insight Terry offers to help parents and educators engage the intellect and will of a child struggling to learn academics is the power of the mind over the brain, or mindset (a set of attitudes and expectations that guide your response to what is happening).
According to Terry, mindset is the most crucial foundation for learning. If you have a mindset that says “I can’t because of my disability”, or if you have a mindset that says “I can find a way to succeed with help” – this ultimately determines whether the skills and tips will work for the child because the mindset impacts the motive to learn or to give up. In this regard, parents too must be careful about the mindset they bring into this struggle of their child, because the child looks to the parent for cues about how to respond when they feel like they are failing.
Over ten years of fieldwork and research about family life in the network culture has reinforced that this confidence about your struggling child’s capacity to overcome the challenge cannot be faked and it is easy to believe that there is no hope when all you as the parent witness and experience is frustration, withdrawal or hostility, and failure. So the best way to impart your wisdom, your truth, about your child’s capacity to learn and overcome the current struggle is to focus on the thoughts that bring about peace and empower others. These are the eternal truths of your chosen faith, be it Christian, Judaism, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist, starting with the mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible. Every human being already has been given a spirit of power and love and sound mind, and fee will by one God, One Creator of Humanity – regardless of race or creed. Therefore an atheist can stand in the public square and declare “there is no God” because a handful of people believed that God said they have this freedom of thought and speech. And this is power that can never be taken but is so easily surrendered to the bully, the drug, the device – and the brain.
When you believe that your child already has the power to learn, that their brain is not “broken”, and that your job is to encourage and support your child to realize this truth in their own mind, this how the parent fulfills their primary role as the educator for life. To that end, below are some tips for parents loving a child with learning disabilities:
- Be clear about your expectations for your child. For example, you can expect your child to be a good citizen at home and in the classroom. And if your child has trouble sitting still, there are a number of techniques and tools to help them channel their energy without disturbing others. A worry stone is one example.
- Catch them doing something right. And describe the good behavior.
- Stay focused on the positive, and de-emphasize the negative. Enforce negative consequences for poor choices without anger and condemnation, but rather expressing confidence that they will choose wisely the next time.
- Find good role models for your child.
- Give your child frequent breaks when doing homework. You can use the timer on the smart device, or get a timer that shows how much time has passed and is left for an activity or assignment.
- Make sure your child hydrates, and stretches.
To learn more about the programs available to teach academic skills to your learning disabled child, go to: Bonnie Terry Learning.