There’s no shortcut to success for children with LD
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
A parent patiently guides his child who has fine motor challenges to learn how to tie her shoes independently: "That's right Sally! Make the bunny ear, then loop the lace around the bottom." As those words leave his lips, their sound is overpowered by the toot of the bus driver's horn.
The parent sighs in frustration as he dreads the bus will leave if he continues to teach the lesson. Instead, he chooses to "just" tie his daughter's shoes with the hope he will have another opportunity to empower her independence and enhance her self-confidence. He has had to "take the shortcut" and get it done as the priority has shifted given the circumstances.
As all parents of children with learning disabilities must do to survive, we often do for rather than teach to do to get through another day. As adults, there are countless tasks we must perform in our personal and employment lives — relationships to maintain and functions to fulfill in our jobs.
After decades of advocacy, we have achieved the "Grand Architecture" of educational (the IDEA) and employment equality (Title I of the ADA). But how do we bridge the nuts and bolts of what we do at home and in the classroom to this architecture?
Given years of special education, parent advocacy and transition planning, how does a young adult learn that — upon graduation and in the world of work — she must consider whether she can perform the essential tasks of a job with or without reasonable accommodations?
How do we as parents and teachers prepare our children with "special" learning needs for their responsibility to articulate to employers that they comprehend the essential functions they will have to perform to be qualified for a job and to be able to explain how they will be able to perform them?
Certainly in best practice, we nurture their ability to self-advocate regarding their strengths and accommodations if needed. But do we do an adequate job at the specific task level to nurture their self-awareness of their executive functioning and on-task performance? Are they aware of how they define a learning or social task, make a plan to execute it, initiate that plan, and finally evaluate how that plan worked out?
In an earlier article, I suggested parents have countless moments that afford the opportunity to nurture the independence of their children if we recognize those moments and comprehend the boundary of teaching to do rather than doing for. In addition to focusing on and celebrating authentic success, we can "engineer" a hands-on learner that contemplates a task before beginning, breaks it down, makes a plan, executes it and evaluates the outcome.
How does one do that when the bus driver is tooting his horn? One doesn't. But we can seize the other moments when we hear our children say, "Can I invite my friends over on Saturday? ... I think I'll do my math homework after my snack. ... I'll need more construction paper. ... How will I remember the steps to doing that assignment?. ... That took longer than I expected. ... I did OK, but I'll do better next time." We can help them frame, reframe and rejoice in their authentic success.
In other words, we may break down the long-term task of preparing our children for the world of work and authenticate their distributed practice of sizing up a situation, determining the best way of tackling it and anticipating how they will master it.
Archimedes said, "Give me a place to stand, and with a lever I will move the whole world." As parents, we move heaven and earth every day in our love for our kids whether they are learning to tie their own shoes or being offered employment. And we can leverage time.
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