While every child has a different approach to learning, those diagnosed with language-based learning differences may need additional support in and outside of the classroom. Currently, 14% of all public schools in the U.S. offer specialized education services, which only covers a fraction of the children who use or need these services to learn important skills—like executive functioning.
Executive functions are a set of cognitive skills that help us regulate our behavior, emotions, and reactions. Working toward goals, overcoming adversity, and self-advocacy are examples of successful executive functions that all children should be coached to achieve.
Whether or not they’re enrolled in a program that supports their academic, emotional, and social needs, and in turn, encourages them to develop stronger executive function skills, every child benefits greatly from additional support at home.
How can you help your child's self-esteem? What do you need to do to help them focus on their homework? What should you do if your child gets frustrated or distracted? Answer these questions and your child can learn essential skills without feeling too much stress.
Affirm Your Child
Many children with learning differences are aware of what sets them apart and this may cause them to lose confidence. That’s why it’s so important to help your child understand that having a learning difference isn’t something to be ashamed of, and a good place to start would be to answer any questions they ask you honestly.
You don't need to go in-depth, giving technical details about the nature of ADHD, auditory processing disorder, or dyslexia. Give them an understanding of how their differences may manifest and impact their process of learning so as to counteract those moments when they may be feeling disheartened or distracted.
For example, they may not read aloud as clearly as their classmates or might feel frustrated when they can’t solve a math problem. In fact, these challenges are also opportunities to identify a new approach or learning style that might suit their needs better.
Recruit your whole family in the effort of affirming your child. If you have other children that do not have learning differences, ask them to practice sensitivity, coach them on what to expect so that you can all work together to create a helpful, nurturing environment for everyone.
Give Them Choices
The more interested your child is in learning, the more they will want to learn. Give your child a little bit of autonomy in their education, even from an early age. Providing choices does more than keep them invested. It lets them practice decision-making and problem-solving skills. They must weigh in their minds the benefits of one option over the other, and touch base with their own emotions.
As your child is learning how to read, give them options. When they are training how to write, let them write about themselves or tell a story they are thinking about. Keep in mind, children with executive functioning disorder may need a little more time to make a choice. Do not rush them. Practicing how to make a decision will jog their working memory and make them feel empowered.
Most children experience difficulty with impulse control, but those with a learning difference like ADHD might seem headstrong or hasty. If you’re concerned that your child is quick to act first and think later, then work with them on impulse control techniques like asking them to wait three seconds before responding to a question or making a decision.
Keep Them Relaxed
For children with learning differences, school can be stressful, which is why it’s so important to ensure that home is a place where they can feel comfortable to be and express themselves. If they have an area where they like to do work, let them put up the decorations they like. Let them keep comfort objects like stuffed animals while they do their homework.
Music may help certain students stay focused. Try picking ambient tunes free of vocals. You can also play background music from their favorite video game or sound effects from a location they like.
Give them a five-minute break between two assignments. This gives their brain a break and lets them know they are transitioning to a new task. But don't extend the break because they may have trouble refocusing. They can go to the bathroom or perform a quick chore, but they should come back as soon as possible.
If your child becomes frustrated, run through some calming exercises with them. This is a great way to practice social emotional learning (SEL), as well. They can practice deep breathing, counting to ten, or squeezing a stress doll.
Create an Organized Workspace
There should be a designated area of your home where your child can do their work. Help them pick the perfect spot and work together to organize a distraction-free but personalized location. Have a desk and a comfortable chair that your child can sit on. The desk should have a lamp, a cup for pens and utensils, and trays for papers. Make a tray for each of your child's classes, including electives, to help them stay organized.
Adjust the utensils on your child's desk to meet their particular needs. Someone with dysgraphia may need a grip on their pen so they hold it better. Someone with dyscalculia may need graphic paper to write problems on.
Help your child create an assignment schedule. Some children may want to hold off on difficult tasks, while others may want to get them done sooner. Let your child take the lead, but itemize everything so they get their work done.
When your child is done for the day, have them put all of their materials away. The desk should be empty except for the lamp and materials they need for all tasks. This sends a mental signal to your child that they can do other things and have achieved what they set out to do.
How to Help Your Child With Learning Differences
Learning differences do not have to mean difficulty for your child. Through affirmation, support, and empathy, your child will gain the confidence they need to continue working on themselves, progressively achieving essential strategies that will help them in life.
Sometimes, all they need is an exercise that validates their uniqueness and skill. Empower your child through decision-making. Let them decide what they want to read or write about. Create a relaxed and organized environment where your child can feel comfortable doing work. Adjust to their particular needs. If they need music, give them music to listen to.
Find a school where your child can connect with others. Eagle Hill School helps children with all language-based learning differences develop their academic, social, and executive functioning skills.
About Eagle Hill School
Eagle Hill School is a private school for students with learning differences located in Greenwich, Connecticut. Their academic program is designed to help students struggling with learning differences like auditory processing disorder, dyscalculia, dyslexia, ADHD, executive functioning disorder, and dysgraphia. Specialized remedial learning programs are taught by experienced teachers who help students navigate through learning challenges, preparing them for bright futures ahead. Contact us to learn more.