Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Strategy #4: The spelling and reading top 10

Strategy #4: When the going gets tough...shift the focus.

Some of you reading this may believe that if your child has an identified weakness in a particular area of learning, one of the best ways to address this weakness is to focus more intently on it. I agree with this to a certain extent. For example, if you or your child's teacher has used a particular strategy to explain a concept to your child and they are still struggling with it, I believe it is then appropriate to try a different approach. However, I don't believe it is healthy to continue to focus on this concept to the point where the child starts to question their own self worth because they begin to view themselves as a failure.

We know that children with learning difficulties, especially dyslexia usually have a poor self image which ultimately affects their learning. If your child is having difficulty learning to read and write, or they are finding it difficult to keep up with the rest of their class, it is very important to shift the focus away from academics so they don't come to believe that this is who they are as a whole person. It is only a small part of who they are and therefore they should not be defined by this.

A poor self image can impede a person's emotional and intellectual development throughout their life. Here's what media mogul Kerry Packer once said about his school life.

“My life was sport. I was academically stupid. My method of
surviving through school and those sorts of things was sport.”

Fortunately for Mr Packer he had the tenacity to over come his learning difficulties to become one of the world's most successful entrepreneurs, however, some students are not so fortunate. Here are some things you can do for your child to shift the focus away from academics.

1. Reward effort not results:

When it's time for the school reports to come home I always read the attitude comments first. If my children are concentrating in class and their teachers are happy that they are putting in all the effort they are capable of I am more than happy with that. Liz Dunoon, author of "Helping children with dyslexia" says, "I always believe a mark of average C or 50-70% pass is exceptional" for her own children with dyslexia, and I have to agree. Your children need to know that you love them unconditionally, regardless of the results shown on their school report.

2. What is your child passionate about?

I'm not talking about saving the world here, but I'm sure some children would say they are really interested in SOMETHING, be it the environment, bugs, dinosaurs, rocks, monster trucks, dance, drama, cooking, soccer, martial arts or athletics.

If your child doesn't know what interests them, and you don't know what they like to do or what they are good at, then find out! There are many and varied activities such as museums or programs set up by local councils in the school holidays that cost minimal amounts of money. Take your kids along and let them experience some success outside of the classroom. It has been proven that if children experience success in one area of their life, they begin to believe that can achieve success in other areas of their life too. Mr Packer is a prime example!

3. Link their passion to books:

After you've discovered what subjects interest them, take them along to the local library and see which sections they gravitate towards. Borrow and read books for pleasure so that they begin to associate reading as a pleasurable activity.

4. Make a positivity poster:
You can call this anything you like, but basically your child places a picture of themselves in the centre of the cardboard and then draws or collages pictures of themselves doing all the things they like and are good at around the picture.

If they'd like some written words, perhaps you could scribe (write) them down so the expressive process is not lost by trying to spell words correctly. Try some of these words to get you started:

The idea is for your child to see there are many things in life that they are successful in. Invite members of your family and friends to write positive comments on small slips of paper that can be added to the poster should your child wish. This is such a positive experience and goes a long way to help your child develop a sense of who they are that is not defined by their academic success.

Until next time,

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