By Marshall Raskind, Ph.D.
I think that we should focus on not only academics, but on the success attributes as well. Noting that success attributes were highly predictive of life success - not just school success - we wanted to provide some equal exposure to and equal time to understanding and promoting the development of the success attributes. Now, don't get me wrong here; I am not suggesting in any way that we stop working on academics-reading, writing, and math. Nor am I trying to undermine any of those efforts. I think it's important to recognize that kids with learning disabilities grow up, and we probably need to spend a little bit more time on the development of some of the success attributes because this is important if we're considering life beyond school.
One of the other findings of the study that's not specifically related to the success attributes but did emerge after talking and working with these individuals for so many years is that the stress of having a learning disability tended to be reduced after high school.
That is wonderful news - and maybe not so wonderful, in the sense we see the kind of stress that they're constantly under within the educational setting. But knowing that once they get out of that setting - and this was true even of individuals who went into post-secondary settings where they had more of an opportunity to take the classes they wanted and pursue the things that they wanted to pursue there is a possibility that "Gee, maybe things won't be so bad once I get out, and maybe my life can kind of take a different course." This is something to look forward to for many of these individuals. We'd like to share that finding and hopefully help young people understand that, yeah, there is life beyond school and that life could really be wonderful.
And for parents to know that as well; that things really can change, and that the stress and anxiety and frustration may actually be reduced.
One of the things I would really like parents to hear is that so many of the people we talked to felt such tremendous gratitude and appreciation towards their parents. Now, they may have not necessarily felt that way in childhood and those turbulent adolescent years, or they may not have been able to express it, but they had such great appreciation for all the efforts that their parents made on their behalf. And I think parents really need to know that, they need to hear that. It can be so difficult at times and raising a child who has learning difficulties, so it's important to know that those efforts are going to be appreciated and probably are being appreciated even at the time.
I actually have a couple of quotes that I can share which I think are indicative of some of these feelings. One of the individuals in our study says, "My mom was the one to come in and talk to all the teachers and all the principals. She was always the one to take me around and to stay there with me. Gee, I can't imagine, at times, how stressful that was for her, but I never felt that."
Another individual states, "My father really cared. He wanted me to have the best and he did. He made sure of that. He always gave me the self-confidence and self-esteem that I lacked in myself. He made me feel that I was able to do anything that I wanted to do." And, again, I think it's really important to stress to parents the sacrifices that moms and dads made for the kids in our study and the tremendous efforts that they made helped them carve out a path towards success.
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