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When Trying Harder Doesn't Work - Learning Disabilities and Beyond

Posted by Matthew Turton on Tue, Oct 22, 2013 @ 01:11 PM

boy confused studying books desk unhappy closeup resized 600It is difficult to be positive when a child is struggling in school.  The first assumption when a child is struggling in school normally has to do with effort: This student is not trying hard enough.  Once reaching that conclusion, parents, teachers, and school administrators may take an approach of negative reinforcement and "discipline" to get the "lazy child" to work harder.  

However, if your child suffers a learning disability, pushing her to "try harder" is no different than expecting yourself to enter a body building competition and lift 200 pounds when you have been a couch potato for the last two years—thinking you can left that weight by just "trying hard."  Lifting 200 pounds requires conditioning and correct form for weight lifting.  Likewise, succeeding despite a learning disability requires conditioning the brain into correct form to strengthen shortcomings and facilitate learning.    

Is it a difficult subject or a learning disability?

Laziness is not normally the cause of apathy in school.  Frustration is a bigger cause.  Frustration arises from difficulty in a particular subject area that may be caused by a lack of understanding or a learning disability. 

Give the child the benefit of the doubt.  Is this particular subject difficult?  Is she frustrated because she simply "doesn't get it"?  If a child enjoys and excels in some subjects but not others, tutoring may be necessary to help understanding.  This is especially true if the difficulty is in one subject but other subjects requiring similar skills do not cause the same struggle.  For example, a child may write very good papers in History but draws a blank in English Literature.  A tutor in English Literature may be helpful in this case.

However, if the struggle spans many subjects that require similar skills, the student may have a learning disability.  This student may struggle writing papers no matter the subject and consistently show poor handwriting and misspelled words.  A pattern like this suggests a possible learning disability and changing the pattern requires a different approach. 

Try a different approach instead of trying harder

Returning to the body building example, there is not a human on this planet who can lift 200 pound weights without spending time in a gym.  Likewise, a brain that is wired in such a way to make some tasks difficult or impossible is not going to just fall into line and learn the way it should without conditioning.  

A student suffering a learning disability can "try" all she wants but unless she enters a program to overcome the learning disability, "trying" will only result in more frustration.  Once the specific brain skills responsible for the struggle and frustration are discovered and the student starts educational therapy, it is akin to working out for a body building competition.  Her brain becomes prepared to learn and the areas where the brain has shortcomings become stronger. 

Above all, be encouraging

Even with different brain wiring, many children suffering learning disabilities are still very intelligent and willing to do well.  Even if they have one type of disability other skills may come very easy to them. 

It will seem like an uphill battle some days, but encourage your child in what she is good at and also keep her encouraged throughout the educational therapy process.  Eventually, she will experience the rewards of learning despite the disability, but positive reinforcement throughout the process is crucial. 

The Breakthroughs Program can discover and treat these disabilities.  If your child is struggling in school, just trying harder isn't the answer. To discuss the program further or schedule an assessment, please contact us.

Topics: learning disabilities, parenting, expectations, homework, behaviour

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