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How Parents Can Help Their Kids Develop Success Attributes

Self-awareness, perseverance and support systems are a few of the success factors parents can nurture in their kids with learning disabilities.

By Marshall Raskind, Ph.D.

In this article, Marshall Raskind, Ph.D., explains how parents can determine if their kids possess the personal attributes needed to become successful and how can kids develop those attributes.

There aren't any specific tests or scientific procedures for determining whether or not your child has particular success attributes. However, I do think there are some questions that parents can ask. And I would say that the more "yes" responses you get to a specific set of questions, the more likelihood that your child would have a particular attribute. So maybe we can go through some of the success attributes, think about them in terms of, "Well, what are some of the questions that could be asked to see if my child has these attributes," and then talk about some of the things that you might be able to do to help develop them or foster them in a child.

So if we look at self-awareness , some of the questions that a parent might ask are:

  • Is my child aware of his or her academic strengths, academic weaknesses, and non-academic strengths and weaknesses?
  • Are they aware of their special talents, abilities, and interests?
  • Do they really understand their learning disability?
  • Do they accept their learning disability?
  • Can they "compartmentalize" their learning disability, that is, can they think of the disability as just one part of who they are, not the defining part of their identity?

The more "yes" responses to those questions, the more likely it is that the child already has a sense of self-awareness. There is not a lot of research regarding the extent to which these attributes can be taught or learned by individuals, but there is some research to suggest that we might be able to do something to promote them. And we do work [to promote success attributes] at various times, although maybe not enough in educational settings and counseling settings.

In regard to self-awareness, you need to think in terms of both general self-awareness and awareness of the learning disability. So under general self-awareness, I think you want to help a child to understand what self-awareness is and the importance of developing awareness of their personal strengths and weaknesses in various areas. Awareness of their feelings, helping them to develop their own definition of success, and to develop those "niche picking" skills that we talked about before. Are they really aware of how their strengths and weaknesses may fit into certain environments? I can relate a little anecdote about an individual who had great difficulty in niche picking: He had terrible spatial relations skills and visual problems, but was determined that he was going to be an airline pilot. So, again, they also need self-awareness specifically in regard to their learning disabilities. So, do they have an understanding of their specific learning disability and how it affects their life? Are they aware of, and have they developed various strategies that they can utilize? Have they come to accept and compartmentalize their learning disability, as well?

Far too often, we're focusing just on self-awareness in regard to school. So we're talking here not just about success attributes as they relate to school success. We're talking ultimately about life success, and that's one of the things we keep wanting to stress. In order to gain the highest level of self-awareness, [we need to] think not just in terms of the school environment but focus on self-awareness in regard to their social and emotional makeup, and physically, socially, in terms of their communication, and even in terms of their philosophy of life and their personal values and ethics. These are all things that are key, we believe, to self-understanding.

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.