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Helping Teens Develop Self-Determination: An Excerpt from Guiding Teens With LD

In an excerpt from Guiding Teens with LD, author Arlyn Roffman, Ph.D. explains how to help your teen develop self-determination.

By Arlyn Roffman, Ph.D.

In her new book, Guiding Teens with Learning Disabilities: Navigating the Transition from High School to Adulthood, Arlyn Roffman, Ph.D., offers parents practical advice for helping teens with learning disabilities (LD) prepare for adulthood and achieve a satisfying quality of life. The scope of her book encompasses post-secondary education, career/vocational planning, daily living skills, and community life. The book was developed in collaboration with Schwab Learning (a former program of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation) and The Princeton Review.

In chapter 1, Dr. Roffman details the steps teens with LD need to take to cultivate the self-determination that is fundamental to successful adjustment to adulthood. In this excerpt, she offers parents advice for helping their teens develop self-efficacy, self-acceptance, and choice-making skills - all of which are necessary components of self-determination.

Developing Self-Efficacy and Self-Acceptance

Reassure your child that people with learning disabilities (LD) are not the only ones who experience failure - that, in fact, we all fall short and face disappointment at times. She needs to know that the key is to keep trying - that there is tremendous power in effort. Hard work does pay off, and through diligence and persistence, your child will be able to achieve many of her goals. Too many individuals with LD attribute their successes to luck-so it is up to parents and teachers to help them develop self-efficacy, the expectation that they will be able to achieve their goals and the understanding that their successes are, in fact, a direct result of their determined efforts.

It is normal for adolescents to be dissatisfied with themselves. One hates her nose; another is embarrassed by her acne; a third bemoans her shyness. In addition to these typical adolescent concerns, teens with LD often despair over their learning problems. Paul Gerber and his colleagues (1992, 481) report that it is very important for people with LD to reframe how they think about their disability, to think about it less negatively and even, if possible, to accept it as a positive element in their lives. Eighteen-year-old Jack is reframing when he declares, "I wouldn't give up my LD even if I had the power to get rid of it. It's part of who I am and makes me strong. Because of my LD, I understand people who struggle in all kinds of ways, and because of my LD, I have learned how to work around all sorts of problems. I consider those bonuses!"

Those who are able to perceive their LD as only a piece of who they are, who are able to compartmentalize their LD will be more self-accepting and better situated to succeed in the adult world (Raskind et al. 2003, 226).

Arlyn Roffman, Ph.D., an expert on transition issues in special education, is a Professor at Lesley University, where she served as founding director of Threshold, a transition program for young adults with learning disabilities, from 1981 to 1996. She has served on the professional advisory boards of several national LD organizations and maintains a private practice in psychology.

Excerpted from GUIDING TEENS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES: NAVIGATING THE TRANSITION FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO ADULTHOOD by Arlyn Roffman Copyright © 2007 by The Princeton Review, Inc. Used by permission of The Princeton Review, Inc., a division of Random House, Inc.