Children, even siblings, can differ greatly in their abilities, the areas where they excel and the areas where they struggle. Yet, many parents (including me) tend to get anxious if their kids do not perform to a standard or conform to standards of expected behavior in the classroom. In the US alone, the Center for Disease Control states that approximately 11% of kids (4-17 years) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. The Dyslexia Research Institute estimates that 10 to 15% of the US population is dyslexic. How can we help our kids, especially those diagnosed with one or more such conditions, learn better taking their individual personalities and learning styles into account?
Smrati Mehta, in Mumbai, India works to help children experiencing difficulty learning in the traditional school system. She has some important advice that all parents can use.
How do you help kids with learning difficulties?
When I take a program with a child, almost 40% of my effort goes towards coaching the parents not to violate the child’s control and responsibility and how to stop being judgmental.
I help kids with various problems ranging across reading, writing, spelling, attention, math and coordination problems, using the wonderful Davis Methods® from the Davis Dyslexia Association International.
Each child is unique and filled with so many possibilities, so each program is a fulfilling and new experience to me. And it is absolute fun to be with these kids. They are brilliant and come up with unique, out-of-the-box ideas.
With Davis training the one thing which is ingrained in us as the basic principal: let your client guide you. The child is enabled to explore his potential in the way he feels safe. This boosts the confidence levels of the child and he/ she feels so elated, with improved self-esteem and new found keys to learning.
What are some things parents can keep in mind to develop a supportive attitude towards their kids' abilities?
Parents have to first acknowledge the fact that their role is to guide and support not to take decisions or take control. What a parent can give best to a child is self-confidence. This can be done by showing respect and trust towards the child’s feelings and interests. If the child needs special help, accept it with dignity. Children read clues very accurately and they learn behaviors. If you feel disgusted, or blame yourself, the child too will feel the same way. Advocate for your child’s need at every level. This is the support a child needs from the parent.
Parents must keep communication channels open with their kids. An environment conducive to learning builds up only if honest communication happens. This essentially means, being open and respectful without being judgmental.
Each child is unique, only parents can help the child to explore his or her real talents. This can be done by:
• Letting the child do what he/she loves.
• Letting your child learn to take responsibility.
• Respecting their views, guiding them to the take right decisions, but not deciding for them.
If these rules are followed, you will help your child blossom.
What trends do you see in India in terms of study pressure put on children? Do you think this pressure results in labels like ADHD?
In my opinion, the pressure comes from parents. These days the child’s performance becomes the indicator of Mom’s smartness and effectiveness. ‘Helicopter moms’ or ‘super moms’, in their super synchronized efforts to help their kids excel do more harm than good. The other day I heard a mom talk about her daughter not performing well in spite of being helped with her schoolwork at home.
She said “I dread what people will say about me. They will say what kind of mother is she?”
And this is a very common feeling…..The point is - parents fail to understand that it is not about them, it is about their child, who happens to be a different individual!
I personally do not believe in labels but I blame the tendency of the human psyche of expecting their children to do better than themselves in life! Parents harbor the belief that they know what’s best for their child. A vicious circle starts when child fails to meet the expectations and standards set by parents and society. And situations become all the more challenging when the child has a different learning style. This is the paradox we suffer. If the child is suffering from asthma, all possible help and care will be provided, but when a child has different learning needs it becomes matter of shame! So the problem keeps compounding in the absence of early intervention. A lot of work is needed towards creating more awareness about learning differences.
Would you suggest that kids with learning difficulties be sent to special schools versus mainstream classrooms?
There isn’t one correct answer. It all depends upon the child in question. Some kids may flourish in special schools. Some will crumble there with the feel of
being cut off from the mainstream.
Tell us a little bit about the Davis Dyslexia Association and yourself
Davis Dyslexia Associations (DDA) are regional affiliates of Davis Dyslexia Association International, established worldwide in more than 45 nations. DDA co-ordinates training, licensing, and events in the regions they serve. Davis programs are drug-free and are customized to the individual’s learning style and needs. Each program is provided on 1 on 1 basis in an environment that is safe and comfortable for the child. The program format is holistic, essentially focusing on creating motivation and responsibility.
I got introduced to Davis Methods, when my son at the age of 7, took the program through a Davis Facilitator. It was a life changing experience for us. I decided to devote all my energies and expertise in taking Davis® closer to home for people in need.
What are some online resources for parents who need help with their children?
- There are many sites which parents can refer to some of the very resourceful sites such as - www.dyslexia.com and http://www.davislearningfoundation.org.uk/ - the websites for the Davis Dyslexia Association International and the Davis Learning Foundation in the UK
- www.ldonline.org for advice and help on Learning Disabilities and ADHD
- Parents and teachers can register on http://www.whytyrannosaurusbutnotif.com/ for a free course to help struggling students.
- It is important for parents to be part of the groups where other parents share their stories, and educators can guide them. I have created one such group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Learningdiversity
Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge with us Smrati. You can find out more about Smrati Mehta and the Davis Dyslexia Association International at
www.dyslexiacorrection.co.in and http://thegiftedsdyslexiacorrection.blogspot.in/