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Success Attributes Among Individuals With Learning Disabilities

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GreatSchools Blog

By Marshall Raskind, Ph.D.

Goal setting was another one of the success attributes. The successful individual set very specific yet flexible goals. Again the idea here is that they could adjust goals to fit certain circumstances and situations. These goals were in such areas as employment and family, spiritual goals, and personal development. And in many cases, they were set, at least tentatively, in adolescence. They also developed a strategy for reaching their goals and really understood the step-by-step process for attaining those goals. I have a quote from about a 30-year-old man, who made this statement, "I always look at every move. Like this particular move doing the video as a stepping stone for the next project. That's how I'm looking at it. As I said, the area I really want to move into is to direct." This person had a very clear picture of where he wanted to go, and how to get there.

They have to have something in mind, they have to be flexible in terms of how they're going to reach that goal, and they have to have an appreciation and understanding of the step-by-step process for reaching that goal. A lot of children with learning disabilities need support and help to be able to do that.

The next success attribute has to do with the presence and use of effective support systems. And I think what I'll do is finish a little bit with the goal setting because it's a nice transition. The successful individuals also had very realistic and attainable goals. And the individuals who often supported them also had set realistic and attainable goals for them. So the people who were around them and helping to guide them also had a sense of realism. And it's a little bit scary when that sense of realism is not there. We had one individual - and I don't mean to make light of it because there's really a sobering side to it as well - but I had one individual who came in and said, "Marshall, I finally figured out what I'm going to do." And I said, "What are you going to do?" He said, "I'm going to be a professional golfer. I just watched this great golf game and I saw the winner win all this money, and this is what I'm going to dedicate my life to." And I said, "Oh, gee, how long have you been golfing?" And he said, "Well, I haven't started yet."

So the whole idea was that he was very intrigued with this goal but was not very realistic about it. And that does concern us.

Both the successful and the unsuccessful individuals receive support from others. We saw that successful individuals eventually move away from that support and they were able to decrease their dependence on others while that was not something that the unsuccessful individuals could do. Many of them had difficulty cutting that cord and remained highly dependent on others.

The successful individuals were more able to do that, starting at an earlier age, as well. And the successful kids also actively sought support from other individuals. They didn't simply wait around hoping that somebody would eventually help them, which is something that many of the unsuccessful individuals did do. They just waited passively.

Marshall H. Raskind, Ph.D., is a learning disability researcher. He is a frequent presenter at international LD conferences and is the author of numerous professional publications on learning disabilities. He is well-known for his research on assistive technology and longitudinal studies tracing LD across the life span.

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