Plan Ahead for a Great Year by Boosting Your Child’s Self Esteem
“The amazing thing about being you is that there is something in the world that you are the best at; that no one else can do like you can. You just have to go find it.”
(My 12th grade English teacher)
The ultimate goal for any child is to experience a total fulfillment and maximizing of one’s potential despite any perceived and/or real limitations. Special needs children should be able to communicate their own thoughts, needs, opinions, and wishes with support from educators, family, classmates, and friends. Is it that easy for a child to freely communicate their needs and feel comfortable in their own skin? There are many people involved in the development process of a child, especially those with special needs.
Threats to self-esteem in students with learning disabilities
While there is no menu of characteristics that captures the threats to self-esteem in individuals with learning disabilities (LD), there are a number of traits, frequently observed in people with LD that contribute to feelings of low self-worth. One interesting research finding is that by itself, having the special education classification of specific LD has not been shown to have a negative impact on self-esteem. Rather, there are several factors that seem to impact self-esteem in individuals with LD in negative ways.
The factors below are taken from studies conducted by The National Academy for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). www.ncld.org
Communication style and social cognition
- Seems to be overly egocentric and not interested in the responses of other speakers (when nothing could be farther from the truth),
- Has difficulty judging when it is her/his turn to participate in a conversation,
- May misinterpret feelings and emotions of others and not realize when their behaviors are bothersome or annoying,
- May have problems with visual spatial planning and self-regulation, resulting in difficulties judging how close to stand to someone during conversation, how to assume and maintain a relaxed posture, and when it might be appropriate to touch.
- Not sure how to understand or explain personal strengths and weaknesses to others,
- Is a poor self-observer and has trouble sizing up and reflecting upon what is going right (and wrong) during social interactions.
- Has limited vocabulary or difficulty retrieving the right words for the situation,
- Is weak in verbal pragmatics (fitting the use of language to social situations)—For example, not knowing when (or how) to laugh without offending the listener,
- Has trouble with topic selection and knowing when to stop a conversation,
- Talks around a topic and provides less critical (and more extraneous) information in response to a question,
- Is more likely to repeat rather than clarify when asked to expand upon an explanation,
- Is more likely to use gestures and demonstrations when sharing information.
Self-perceived social status
- Has great difficulty knowing how he/she fits into a peer group, which often results in ‘hanging back’ or being a passive (rather than active) participant in activities,
- Has limited success ‘self-marketing’ and getting noticed in positive ways within a peer group,
- Perceives self as less popular and more frequently rejected or ignored by peers (sometimes resulting in further self-imposed isolation).
Expectations by others
- Is repeatedly confronted with messages of low expectations for academic achievement by teachers and parents,
- Is frequently (albeit not intentionally) the target of spoken and unspoken messages of disappointment and lowered expectation by parents and others,
- Is viewed as having diminished potential for success, even with services and support in school and at home.
Locus of control
- Believes that outcomes are controlled by external influences (luck, chance, fate) rather than as a result of their own internal efforts,
- Assumes a posture of “learned helplessness”, that is to say, they assume that because they struggled with something in the past, there is little they can do to change a negative outcome in the future, so they stop trying and hope for the best.
How can we boost a child’s self-esteem?
- First and foremost, a child must understand what self-esteem is and how he/she is feeling before progress can take place. Help a child draw or write out what high self-esteem looks like compared to low self-esteem. This activity would educate a child on how to achieve high self-esteem.
- Students with learning disabilities need order in their lives (especially). Structure in the form of a consistent daily routine is very important. Encouraging what he/she enjoys doing and feels comfortable doing will greatly build the child’s inner strengths and self-esteem.
- In the classroom, position the student next to a cooperative individual as a “study buddy”. This will lend itself well for seeing a good peer role-model and helps set a child up to become more successful. It may also create a lasting bond/friendship with someone who is a good influence.
- Have the child write down things that he/she CAN DO. He/she should start each sentence with the empowering words, “I CAN…” Words of strength are keys to building self-esteem.
- Teach the child that it takes consistent practice to develop the skills to become proficient at a certain activity. Experts often fail many times before they achieve success. A child would be more likely to persevere if he/she feels the goal is attainable.
- Have the child think for himself/herself and accept responsibility for his/her actions.
For more information on empowering your child and assisting in his/her maturation, decision-making, overall development and becoming super healthy, check out Doug’s official website: www.doughaddad.com
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