Guest blog post by Jennifer Elia-
If you have a child with special learning needs, you know the frustration for trying to make progress. You are both working so diligently to find a solution and make it over the learning roadblock. At times it seems insurmountable. What do you do when your child’s education get derailed by struggle and you have exhausted your options?
You focus on their strengths and let go of what isn’t working!
The Counterintuitive Success Formula
In a society driven by stats, data, and success the answer to a problem is always try harder. Right? Wrong!
Drilling math facts for two hours instead of one is not the solution. We want to fill gaps with more of what is missing, but instead of filling the valleys, I propose you need to build longer bridges.
When it comes down to it, every person has strengths and weaknesses. Some may be more obvious but it exists in every human being. Special needs children are no different.
Not Different, But Amazingly Unique
In fact, special needs children are different, just each and every person. Our difference is what makes us special–not our high grades, our prestigious job titles, or our award winning talents. What makes us each special is that every one of us is different. Those differences work together to create a pretty amazing world.
Just like a tapestry, we each have a thread of life to share. Sure the crimson thread is more noticeable, but the white and gray threads give the picture definition. The beige adds depth and light. Take out any one color no matter how noticable it is in the complete work and the masterpiece becomes second rate.
Start with What Is Good
Everyone needs some basic knowledge to get through life, there is no denying that. Completely abandoning math or social skills would not be advisable for anyone. However, we are more than what we cannot do!
Just as no one should be defined by a diagnosis, our life should not be defined by our weakest moments, by our biggest struggles, nor by our current flaws. No one is perfect.
Focusing, as is typical, on what needs work creates an environment of defeat instead of success.
You paint beautifully but you still have not learned your times tables. Obviously, you need to paint less and spend your afternoons doing flashcards.
Have you or your child ever been in that situation? There is a passion and a gift that is beautifully blooming, but the glaring deficit is all you can see. STOP!
Start from A Place of Strength
Before building a system to overcome whatever is holding your child hostage in his educational journey, create an environment for him to enjoy what sets him free. It does not have to be academic if the struggle is academic. It does not have to be physical if the struggle is physical. It just has to be his passion and unique gift.
Give your child a taste of success and enjoyment, make that a priority as you bolster the needs and wants. Here are some examples:
- Your child has an unbridled passion for horses (pun intended) but reading a simple sentence is as difficult as emptying the Atlantic with a spoon. So, you take some time to learn more about horses, sign up for riding lessons, and turn science into an equine anatomy study.
- Your child is Miss Personality, her outgoing and loving nature attracts everyone to her, and in her spare time she hosts pretend radio shows for her stuffed animals, however her gross motor skills are far behind age level. So, you set up a podcast channel on Itunes and help her market her first podcast to family and friends.
- Your son is a math genius, his fascination with solving equations as big as your house is mind-blowing, but his interpersonal skills are lacking and he struggles in group settings. So, you employ find an open access class online through Harvard and let him try his hand at being one of the youngest kids in the class.
Abandoning The Struggle for The Strength
None of these actions will erase what is causing your child to struggle. Their needs are still very present, and require assistance and support. However, they will give your child that taste of victory in being who they were meant to be!
On of my favorite quotes is from St Catherine of Siena,”Be who you were meant to be and you will set the world afire!”
Can you imagine the world set afire by your child? Yes, the first child will need Orton Gillingham intervention. Sure, the second child requires physical and occupational therapy. Most definitely, the third child needs social skills and coaching on how to interact with others. However, one of that should ever define any of them.
When life get overwhelming because of special needs, focus on the special, not the need. Taking a short break, whether it be days or months depending upon the situation, and allowing the child to just be who she was meant to be will help diffuse the frustration and allow that special, unique, amazing little person of yours to show the world what she is really made of!
About the author: Jennifer Elia, homeschool mentor, curriculum creator, blogger, and author, is Founder of Aurelius Cabrini Homeschool Resource Center which is dedicated to giving homeschool moms the tools they need to thrive in their home education career. Jennifer provides one-on-one mentoring, personalized and original curriculum plans, and practical advice for those just beginning their homeschool journey, as well as those who just need a little boost. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children whom she has been educating at home for the past 10 years. When Jennifer isn’t busy researching the best curriculum solutions, she enjoys gardening, crafting, and writing. You can find Jennifer on Facebook and Pinterest.
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