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Excerpt from 10 Tips for School Success for Adolescents with ADD and/or LD

“You don’t know how hard this is. You don’t understand. You never listen to me. I hate you. I hate school.”

For adolescents with learning problems, school can be very hard. These students face failure every day. They face teasing by the other students. Many of them feel that their teachers don’t like them. Most of them can’t understand why they are having problems. They feel lost and alone.

Society is in danger of losing some of its most gifted and creative students to unexplained or misunderstood learning or attention problems. Parents are extremely concerned about their children’s success in school. They know how important school success is, not only to college entry, but also to a successful and satisfying life.

What can parents of student with LD and/or ADD do to help these students become successful in school?

Here are ten suggestions that parents can use to help their children with LD and/or ADD, break down barriers to learning and become more successful in school and out. The suggestions are based on the latest research dealing with the education of students with LD and ADD. Although many of the suggestions may look simple, and sound like common sense, we need to follow them more systematically if we are to provide our children with the strength to work hard and succeed despite their learning difficulties.

A parent might ask “But aren’t we just coddling him?” A teacher might say “He’s smart enough, he’s just lazy.” These issues could be addressed by asking, “If you buy a pair of glasses for a student who is nearsighted, are you coddling him?” Do you think the nearsighted student could see the chalkboard if he just worked hard enough?” It is important for everyone to understand that students with LD or ADD have ‘real’ problems that cannot be solved with out specialized teaching techniques, strong family support and in some cases, medication.

10 Suggestions for parents to help with school success:

  1. Provide support.

    Parental support forms the base upon which the successful student stands. Very few students with LD and/or ADD are successful without parent support, or without a supportive adult somewhere in their lives—often a beloved teachers. Support begins with the acceptance of each child as an individual with a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. That means that the child with LD and/or ADD is not ‘different’ from others in the family. Each member of the family is strong in some areas and needs help in others. Each person is ‘different” in his or her own way.

    Support means providing respect and understanding as well as ensuring that the student learns the necessary skills to be successful in school.

  2. Become aware of student strengths and interests.

    In order to provide support, parents must really get to know their children. They need to become aware of their child’s strengths and interests, s well as weaknesses. We tend to focus on student weaknesses and areas in which the student needs help. However, it is strengths and interests upon which an individual builds a career and life.

    Utilizing strengths and interests can help the student bypass weaknesses. For example in Language Arts class a student who speaks well but writes poorly can give oral reports instead of written ones. In Science, a student who is ‘good with his hands’ can build a model that illustrates an electrical principle instead of writing about it. In these ways, students can demonstrate what they have learned rather than be penalized for their weaknesses.

  3. Help the student become self-aware.

    Parents should help the student become aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness is very important for maintaining self-esteem. The student needs to understand that he or she is good in some areas, as well as weak in others. Many students with LD and/or ADD thing they are ‘dumb,’ forgetting that although they may have problems with reading, they may be good in math or they may be in great demand to repair their friend’s bicycles. Self-awareness helps the student understand what factors influence his or her learning of new material and how he or she learns best.

Judith Greenbaum, Ph.D. and Geraldine Markel, Ph.D.
ADDA National Attention Deficit Disorder Association
Fall, 1999