Explaining Learning Disabilities to Children

I’m often asked how to talk to children about their learning profile. When kids get diagnosed with a learning disability as a result of a good evaluation, parents often struggle with what to say.

In my latest children’s book, “A Light Within My Dyslexia” I end with an afterword that speaks directly to them.

Here’s the excerpt in what I title “Rockets and Rocks.”

Everyone has a learning profile. It means we all have some strengths. Some are obvious and some are hidden. Having a learning profile also means we have areas that don’t come easily for us, and are hard. Put these two things together and call them strengths and weaknesses, or strengths and challenges. I like to think of them as rockets and rocks.

Rockets are the things that help you rise up. They’re parts of you that give you a feeling of strength. Rocks on the other hand, can get in the way. If your rocks, your struggles are big enough, especially when you’re going uphill, we sometimes feel defeated. Our rocks can seem like quite the obstacle. But they can be useful in the long run.

Everyone has some rockets and some rocks. For some kids a rocket might be that you’re good at building or that you have really good understanding of word meanings and a strong vocabulary. It could be anything really, music, art. And your rock could be struggling to easily read or spell words that you totally know the meanings of. Does that make sense? Think about it.

Some people who grow up to be great story tellers and writers struggle with spelling. Some mix up syllables when trying to pronounce a long and complicated word. People can be smart and creative, but they have these rocks too. Rocks make you work a little harder to get over or around them. That can make you stronger. In fact, lots of successful people who have learning differences say they learned to work harder because of their rocks, their school challenges. Learning to work hard has been an important part of their success.

Getting back up after a fall or a stumble is called “resilience.” Scientists who study success tell us that children who develop resilience are happier and accomplish more in their lives. I have noticed that learning to rise up after a fall or challenge has given me more control over my own life. Doesn’t that sound like a good thing?

Other times rocks can just be a pain. There’s no two ways about it. Learning to deal with the frustration of rocks can become a strength. Sometimes, if you look in the right way, a weakness might be covering up strength. For example, some people I know who have a hard time remembering the order of letters when spelling or who have a hard time remembering the sequence of steps to solve a math problem, are good at creative problem-solving. Sequence means going step by step, from A to B to C to D, etc. On the other hand, creative problem-solving means thinking of the problem and the solution in new ways, like going from A to D, or C to G to B. I’ve met kids and adults who aren’t the fastest readers of books, but who are great at “reading people.” Understanding people is a super important skill. You might have messy looking handwriting and be a wonderful painter or builder.

My advice? Work hard on things that are difficult, but remember to spend time on the things you are good at, that you love to do. It’s a balance. So if you have struggles with reading or spelling, if you have dyslexia, or even if you don’t, remember that if you keep looking, you can find the things you are good at. It takes time to discover your core gift, and your “light within.” Sean (the illustrator of this book) and I wish you the best. You or your parents can write to us at sanfordmshapiro@gmail.com

We’d love to hear about your stories and rocket discoveries!

All the best, Sanford

About Sanford

Learning Disabilities specialist and Educational Consultant
This entry was posted in "A Light Within My Dyslexia", Books and Videos, Education Issues and Ideas, LD Support Sites, Learning Disabilities and Mental Health. Bookmark the permalink.

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