Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How can I help my child feel successful despite her differences?

Ms. Dorothy -
My daughter has some physical disabilities that have affected her learning. She’s a bright girl, but it just takes her a little while longer than her peers to catch on to things. Now that she’s getting older, she’s realizing that it takes her longer to take tests and that her grades are not as high as her classmates. How can I let her know that her best is good enough, even though her grades show differently? And on the other hand, I don’t want her to think grades don’t matter, because they do!
- Mom of Special Ed student

First of all, yes, she is amazing just as she is. And yes, it's important that she knows her momma loves her and sees her as perfect.

It is important that you be an advocate for her as well. Having special needs gives you some legal footing for making sure your daughter gets what she needs to be successful in school.  Take advantage of the leverage you have, and make sure she feels as accomplished as her peers do in the eyes of the school.

Something that might help her grow to value her own hard work would be a report card about how she is doing in class.  Not just the academics, but more specifically, an effort grade attached to every subject area or assignment. 

Working with a second set of grades might help her to see herself differently.  With a 1 to 4 effort rubric, she might find more satisfaction with what she accomplishes.  If a 1 means she gave minimal effort, a 2 means there was some effort, a 3 means a grade-level appropriate amount of effort (proficiency benchmark) and a 4 means above average, advanced or exemplary effort, it would be easy for the teacher to grade her for how hard she works.

She has as much right to be proud of her work as an A student who coasts, and getting that kind of a grade from her teacher will mean more to her than hearing it at home because it's "official."  When she gets her report card she can see that, while she may have gotten a C in Math, she got a 4 for effort - which puts her above other students in her grade. 

It is a tactic to help level the playing field, and by asking her support team to write it into her Individual Education Plan, you shouldn't have to negotiate for getting that kind of help from the school year after year.

Keep talking to her about how every person brings gifts to the world, and not all of them are recognized in the same ways.  Getting A's in school might be Mom's thing right now, but certainly Uncles shine in other ways, and so do big sisters.  

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